Top Stories
Pin It

Younger generations’ trusting relationship with technology could create security threats for organizations

By Francis Dinha


Millennials represented 35 per cent of the labour force in 2017, and the share of Gen Zers is growing every day. Since these generations grew up immersed in technology, they tend to be far more tech savvy than their older counterparts, especially in the workplace.

It would be fair to assume these groups are also more aware of the associated cybersecurity risks. However, according to the latest cyber hygiene study from OpenVPN, that logic doesn’t play out in practice. A full half of 18–23-year-olds surveyed admit to using the same password on one or two accounts, compared to only 26 per cent of Baby Boomers. Millennials, having grown up with technology, simply tend to trust it more. Baby Boomers don’t have that trust.

With that in mind, it’s clear millennial cyber carelessness is a huge liability for employers. Organizations must dedicate significant resources to cybersecurity training to mitigate the risks created by these bad habits.


How Millennials harm cybersecurity

Millennials may have become close with technology during their childhoods, but that relationship didn’t always go hand-in-hand with lessons about the downsides of the internet. Here are some areas where younger employees can make safer cybersecurity choices.

  • Ignorant link-clicking: Since far more millennials own smartphones (92 per cent) than Baby Boomers (67 per cent), they’re ready to look up information at the drop of a hat. This access also leads to careless clicking on potentially malicious links. Whether via email or a quick search, more than half (57 per cent) of millennial employees admit to clicking links without ever checking where they lead.
  • Careless passwords: All internet users have been guilty of falling back on an easy-to-remember password. However, the arrival of alternatives such as biometric passwords and password manager apps ushers in a new era of security. The trick lies in getting younger professionals on board with these measures: Only 40 per cent of millennials use biometric passwords, compared with 65 per cent of Baby Boomers.
  • Dangerous conveniences. Voice assistants have shot to popularity in the past two years and millennials haven’t been slow to embrace these previously unimaginable capabilities. In 2017, 43 per cent of millennials reported making a purchase on a voice assistant in the past year. Despite the exciting conveniences, nearly a quarter of employees suspect their voice assistants are easy targets for hackers – and only three per cent take their fears seriously enough to ditch their devices.


Safe practices and positive reinforcement

Employers have both the responsibility and capability to train employees in safe practices, but they must start early – and revisit often.

Any new employees should be subjected to thorough cybersecurity training as a part of their required onboarding, especially as the share of millennials on staff grows. If they’re immediately made aware that stringent cybersecurity habits are a part of company culture, they’ll be much more likely to adhere.

Ensure that the organization’s internal cybersecurity messaging isn’t a one-and-done session – and training shouldn’t be limited to new hires. An organization’s learning and development policy should include cybersecurity refresher courses at least bi-annually. Employees can be reminded of best practices, while also learning about new developments in the cybersecurity space.

While millennials’ digital fluency may have given way to high rates of cybersecurity malpractice, these bad habits don’t have to continue if employers take the right steps. Pivoting organizational culture around cybersecurity takes work, but the time and resources are well worth the investment. When smart cybersecurity behaviours become habit for millennials – as well as employees of all ages – the organization will reap the benefits of a more secure and productive future.


Francis Dinha is co-founder and CEO of OpenVPN.




Pin It