Millennials are known for their tech-savviness and also for their busy way of life that leaves them little time to check where they click.
Although millennials may not be doing much trick-or-treating during Halloween, there are still several scares that they’ll need to keep an eye on. High on the list of frightening facts is how this generation – my generation, that is, no point in pretending this doesn’t apply to me – deals with cybersecurity. It turns out that a freakishly high percentage of us tends to kick caution to the curb when it comes to protecting our personal information. Understanding why this is such a widespread issue and what can be done to improve it will go a long way in mitigating the danger that technology can sometimes present.
Smarty Pants Millennials
While we aren’t exactly digital natives – if only we were born ten years later – millennials are touted for being a truly tech-savvy bunch, yet, a significant portion can’t decipher a fraudulent message from an authentic one. A recent UK campaign backed by the government showed that only 10% of internet users can spot a fake message, despite nine out of ten claiming they can tell the difference. To be fair, this is partially because we lead a frantic way of life where some do their grocery shopping on the phone and others buy the latest Vans online, leaving barely more than a fraction of a second to decide where to click. Still, these numbers are enough to spook at first glance but understanding how we approach technology can shed some light – really, we are not that bad.
Surfing Online Blindfolded
At a high-level, it boils down to perspective. We have a vastly different approach to technology than our predecessors, in that we tend to be more focused on advantages rather than risks. This is akin to being excited about an overflowing bucket of Halloween candy, disregarding that it was shipped by Freddy Krueger. Such a laser focus can give us an edge when it comes to maximizing the benefits of the digital landscape, but it also means that we can be too lax about protecting our personal data.
Reading this blog, you may be thinking this wouldn’t happen to you, but it happens to the best of us. Even mighty Mark Zuckerberg isn’t immune.
Zuckerberg was hacked in 2016 after reusing the same password for several social media accounts. The password wasn’t the strongest either, (it was “dadada”) which, let’s be honest, is as simple as many of the passwords that you have surely used throughout the years. First Data also supports that Zuckerberg is in good company; an alarming 82% of his generational counterparts are guilty of having the same passwords across various websites and apps.
During Halloween, we might search endlessly for a new costume to wear to each party, but we are clearly not taking the same care when crafting passwords for our accounts. The same report also notes that we commit another password-safety sin: sharing passwords with non-family members (23%) and never changing passwords (20%). Additionally, because we grew up with technology, we tend to feel more comfortable with it, which often creates a false sense of security.
Shortage in the Cybersecurity Army
To top it off, there seems to be a severe lack of interest in cybersecurity as a career among our generation. This means there are – and will continue to be – gaps to fill in the cybersecurity field, while cybercriminals don’t have this job-shortage problem. Millennials currently represent the largest segment of the U.S. population, with 84.3 million people, and by 2040, we are expected to account for an even greater number.
Considering this, it would benefit millennials to educate ourselves on this topic. Still, despite kicking caution to the curb, we do care about security, but our strategies or priorities are different than those of other segments of the population.
Fending Off the Fright
For one, we tend to do more research to find automated solutions that can protect our data and online activities so that we don’t have to do it ourselves. Two big measures we are taking include using the cloud and creating additional passwords. We know that those who work in cybersecurity day in and day out know more than what we can learn during our free time. Thus, rather than ramping up our own cybersecurity knowledge, we are moving our data to cloud services, as we know big security brands can provide better protection than we can ourselves. We are not just choosing random providers; we are doing extensive research to understand which platforms can provide the best protection.
As for passwords, we are the group with the highest number of distinct passwords; between three to five. This sounds promising, but keep in mind that, according to Dashlane, the average online UK consumer has no less than 118 online accounts. Yes, it sounds like a made-up number but think of every account you created since you first started using the internet – back when MSN Messenger was cool – MySpace, Reddit, Craigslist, free 30-day trial accounts, even Napster. It’s all coming back, right?
On the plus side, at least one-third of millennials are also more likely to use password managers to organize credentials and to implement two-factor authentication, which are huge security boosters, than other age groups.
We also stay up-to-date on the latest threats and tend to make informed decisions when choosing which organizations to trust – we usually stick to big, reputable brands.
While our millennial perspective on technology takes a research-driven approach, there’s certainly room for improvement. This involves taking additional measures to protect against incoming threats, ensuring that passwords are not only changed frequently but also complex and exclusive to one account, proceeding with caution when signing up for new services, and generally, playing a more active role in securing personal data.
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