Millennials 'sloppy' over cyber security

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Younger employees have grown up in a digital, connected world, but has this made them over-confident?

A new study by T-Systems certainly suggests so, indicating that while many consider themselves very clued up on cyber security, they aren't actually taking many of the recommended safety measures.

This suggests that a large number of younger employees could be leaving their home and work computers wide open to attack and putting sensitive data at risk.

According to the T-Systems study, 49 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds consider themselves very knowledgeable about cyber security, along with 50 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds.

By contrast, just 21 per cent of over-55s believe they know a lot about this issue.

However, the report found that while 65 per cent of over-55s take some sensible precautions, just 52 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds are doing the same, along with 61 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds.

So while younger generations might feel they are more clued up about cyber security, it seems they're actually doing less than their older counterparts to protect themselves from this threat.

For instance, while 39 per cent of over-55s are changing their personal email passwords every few months, just 26 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds are taking this step, along with 28 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds.

Similarly, only 13 per cent of over-55s were found to use the same password for their email and social media accounts and other online services, whereas 34 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds are repeating passwords across the board, as are 29 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34.

Figures also showed a similar pattern when it came to using the same password for work and personal devices.

Just ten per cent of over-55s are doing this, compared with 18 per cent of 22 to 24-year-olds and 16 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds.

So why are so many people failing to adhere to best practice recommendations when it comes to staying safe online?

And could employers be in a position to help?

Perhaps, as the study shows that nearly one in three people have never had any cyber security education at work.

Commenting on the findings, Scott Cairns of T-Systems said they show that while no age group is "exemplary" when it comes to cyber security, younger people are "perhaps surprisingly" less security conscious than their middle-aged and baby boomer colleagues.

"Our research strongly suggests the problem lies with an overconfidence that comes from their very familiarity with electronic devices and the digital world," he observed.

"Generation X and baby boomer employees, compared to those in their 20s and early 30s, are often more cautious about their knowledge of IT and seem much more willing to tread carefully and follow cyber security protocols."

At the same time, bosses might often be assuming that younger and more technologically literate members of staff know how to stay safe online and are taking all the right precautions without being prompted.

However, the findings certainly suggest that knowing how to use technology is a world away from being able to use it safely.

While certain people might seem confident using technology, bosses can't simply assume that they possess adequate security knowledge.

With that in mind, make a point of delivering regular and up-to-date cyber security education.

At the same time, make sure your IT infrastructure is agile, perhaps by leasing rather than buying technology outright.

By ensuring you are able to update your hardware and software periodically, you can adapt your defences in the face of this changing and ever-evolving threat.