Young people do care about cyber security

The prevailing view that young people are careless of information security has been challenged by a new UK survey that reveals two-thirds believe security is the number one priority when buying a new internet-connected device.

US and UK join forces for cyber 'war games'
US and UK join forces for cyber 'war games'

The survey of more than 1,200 16to 24-year-olds by youth insights consultancy Voxburner found that almost 90 percent of them are concerned about the security of the data they share. And the study, which asked young people's views of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other connected devices, finds more than a third feel that the benefits of new technologies such as IoT do not outweigh the risks.

Analysing the findings, Voxburner says: “There is a popular belief that young people are frivolous with their data and don't have any concerns about privacy, but 67 percent of 16 to 24s say that security is their number one priority when buying an internet-connected product.”

Among those surveyed, Claire, 18, from Medway, says: “I certainly have concerns about data privacy and in some cases I will avoid whatever I am doing if I am not willing to share my information with the company.”

Sean, aged 24 and from Dublin, adds: “The internet can be useful, but we don't always need to be connected to everything. Think carefully if the internet would really improve the functionality or experience or whether it's just internet for internet's sake. And above all, protect my privacy.”

Voxburner's head of insight, Luke Mitchell, believes 16 to 24 year olds have changed their attitude to cyber security from being trusting to being unsettled by factors such as stalker stories, cyber bullying and the Edward Snowden revelations.

He told SCMgazineUK.com via email: “Many observers would say that young people are too careless and open with their personal data, but young people today – rightly to a degree – regard themselves as advanced technology users who are experienced enough to recognise threats.”

But he said: “Because they have good digital literacy and awareness of technology developments, they are beginning to realise the dangers of their data being exposed to so many different platforms and players.

“While they have so far been fairly trustful in the digital environment, particularly of recognised brands (asked if Google is evil, 86 percent of our youth panel have told us ‘no', and 53 percent also disagreed with the statement ‘I believe technology will increasingly be used for evil rather than good') new innovations are potentially moving them out of their comfort zone.

“There is the media back-drop of stalker stories and cyber bullying, Edward Snowden and dark TV like Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror that is starting to unsettle them.”

However, security expert Mark James, technical director at ESET UK, does not believe the new attitude will necessarily provide UK organisations with a new generation of security-savvy employees.

He told SCMagazineUK.com via email: “It's encouraging to see a growing awareness of the importance of maintaining privacy and security amongst young people, but it's important to distinguish between their work and personal lives.

“Whilst they are often the most tech-savvy when it comes to personal brand, when it comes to transferring that same shrewdness to their business lives, they are arguably some of the most unreliable.”

James explained: “In recent research by ESET into the attitudes of Gen-Y professionals, 50 percent believed it is nearly always their organisation's responsibility to ensure the safety of data; 38 percent are also unaware of, or don't believe, their company has an IT security policy, and 30 percent of those aware of its existence don't know what it is.

“IT security teams need to engage with younger employees in the creation of policies that suit the needs of both parties.”

Luke Mitchell at Voxburner also admitted that young people's new caution does not yet extend to their mobile phones.

He told us: “Interestingly our research has shown that while most have protected their laptops, they currently perceive very little threat to their mobiles and few are using security software on their smartphones.”

When it comes to the Internet of Things, 80 percent of the respondents are interested in the concept. But while three-quarters are excited by the prospect of IoT, 16 percent feel scared and 9 percent even say they feel threatened.

Voxburner questioned 1,244 UK 16 to 24 year olds last month for the study, ‘Are young people wild about the Internet of Things', both online and through phone interviews.

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