Raytheon study highlights strengths, deficiencies of Millennials

Study finds cybersecurity practices of a generation that grew up with the Internet embedded in their lifestyles are strong in some senses, weak in others

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For those that grew up with it, the Internet is simply a part of everyday life. While this instills a certain level of comfort and familiarity in these users known as Millennials, it also makes them inherently vulnerable to cyberattacks, if the results of a recent Raytheon study are to be believed.

[Even the tech-savvy are prone to compromise]

The study, which surveyed 1,000 users aged 18 to 26 in early September, found that Millennials' trust in the internet has not only left them susceptible to attacks, but has also resulted in a general lack of knowledge with regards to good cybersecurity practices. 66 percent of respondents, for example, said that they had connected to a public, no-password-required Wi-Fi network within the past month.

The general issue, however, does not appear to be recklessness, but rather comfort. For instance, 23 percent of the users admitted to having shared an online password with a non-family member within the past year, while 48 percent have plugged in a storage device given to them by someone else within the past three months.

Proceeding with caution

When it comes to social network activity and interacting with others online, however, Millennials appear to be a little more cynical, or at the very least not quite as trusting. With the survey revealing that 30 percent of respondents have met someone online who lied about some aspect of their identity (including fake photos, lying about their jobs or education, etc.), it's not too surprising.

Similarly, many of the respondents expressed some sort of skepticism over whether or not peoples' online identities could be trusted. Of those surveyed, 47 percent said that they believe social profiles are never accurate or only sometimes accurate.

That cautious outlook was also reflected in how survey members viewed the security of their own personal information. Responses to certain statements like, "I am confident I know most of the personal information about me that is publicly available on the Internet," or, "I am confident that only the people I want to see public information about me on the Internet are the ones that see it," were generally negative. A mere 20 percent and 32 percent of respondents, respectively, agreed with these statements.

[Want to protect your corporate data and manage Millennials? Better rethink that social media policy]

Getting smarter

Perhaps because of that lack of trust, it appears that at least some Millennials are interested in learning how to protect themselves and are taking the necessary steps to do so. There are some conflicting attitudes, however, as 86 percent of the respondents believe it's important to increase cybersecurity awareness programs in the workforce and formal education programs, but only 24 percent expressed interest in pursuing a career in cybersecurity. Of course, part of the problem here could be that many Millennials simply don't know that it's an option; 82 percent said that no high school teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned to them the idea of a career in cybersecurity.

Nevertheless, there appears to be interest on the part of Millennials in protection, even if it isn't on a professional level. 82 percent of respondents said that their laptop or desktop was protected by either a password or some other kind of security measures, while 61 percent and 30 percent said that their mobile phone or tablet, respectively, were protected.

Millennials appear to have somewhat responsible online activity as well. For example, 44 percent of respondents saying that they read the privacy policy of an app while installing it. Additionally, 12 percent asked someone to delete a post that contained information about them, while 39 percent deleted a post that they had second thoughts about.

In terms of online accounts, however, there seemed to be less diligent behavior; only 29 percent of respondents had changed their passwords for their social media and online bank accounts in the last month. Perhaps more alarming, however, is that 20 percent had never changed their online bank account password at all. Bearing such statistics in mind, it would appear that there is still more work to be done in instilling the proper habits and practices among Millennials for secure online behavior.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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