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by Senior Editor

Does Your Generation Pose an Office Security Risk?

Aug 08, 20086 mins
Data and Information SecurityIdentity Management SolutionsIT Leadership

From Baby Boom to Echo Boom: Why your birthday could mean your boss needs to watch out for you

Whether you were born in the swinging sixties or are part of the slacker generation, some security experts say generational social influences can give you bad habits and make you an office liability.

The workplace is now comprised largely of three distinct generations; The Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — also known as Millennials or the Echo Boom. CSOonline looked at three areas of security that experts are concerned about when it comes to employee behavior. Read on to find out why your generation might be engaging in some risky conduct that could set your company up for a security breach.

Generation Y, or Millennials

Generation Y is the youngest generation of today’s workers. If you were born after 1980, your probably grew up with play dates, lots of supervision from parents and the Internet. 9/11 was a defining moment in your lives, and it influences your perception of security. IT security: When it comes to IT security, this is where your boss might have cause to be concerned about you. You IM with friends, log onto Facebook and download iTunes — all during office hours on the company’s computer. Web 2.0 technologies, such as Facebook and YouTube, while at work.phishing scams or malicious code attacks. That puts your company’s precious data at risk.

“For Millennials, there is more blurring of the lines between work and home,” said Samir Kapuria, a managing director with Symantec Advisory Consulting Services.

In fact, a recent Symantec survey found 66 percent of Millennials said they use

The problem? These kinds of Web 2.0 technologies are a huge target for

Physical Security: Want to avoid uncomfortable confrontations in the workplace? Respect your elders. That’s the advice of Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions, a Massachusetts-based consultancy that regularly advises corporations on generational differences. Millennials are showing up with a completely different style of collaborating and listening and that frustrates older workers, she said. Texting in a meeting and answering your cell phone while talking to your boss isn’t usually appropriate. Keeping this in mind can help diffuse a potentially explosive situation, said Matuson.

ID and Access: Millennials are also known for having being impatient and having a short attention span, according to Jack Dowling, the president of JD security Consultants LLC in Pennsylvania. That can cause problem when its time to implement a new system for building access and security.

Waiting in line can sometimes be an issue in a security system, depending on how entry control works. Impatient users may view this as a waste of time and try to gain access through an exit door and bypass the security protocol for entry, said. DowlingThe good news is Millennials are often eager to please. Your motivation to receive positive feedback and praise means you are likely to comply with a system, as long as you know the rules.

Generation X, at one point known as the slacker generation, is the group born between 1965 and 1982. Gen X is the MTV generation; kids who came of age during the Reagan-era and the Cold War. If you are a Gen Xer, when asked about the death of Kennedy, you’re more likely to remember that fateful plane crash involving JFK Jr. instead of his Dad.

IT security: Gen Xers tend to be comfortable with technology and know how to use it properly. Technology has been part of your life all along and many Xers were part of the first tech companies that revolutionized the industry. Gen X was also on the job when the dot-com bubble burst.

“Gen Xers were the original latch-key kids,” said Matuson.

Consequently, the independence this generation experienced as kids has led them to be adaptable. Unlike their younger Millennial counter parts, Gen Xers tend to keep work and home life separate and may be less likely to use corporate computers for personal use.

Physical Security: Sandwiched in the middle, Gen Xers tend to share values with both Gen Y and Boomers. But Gen Xers often want to be left alone to do their work. They can get annoyed when micro-managed, according to Matuson.

ID and Access: This is an area where the boss might need to watch you. While Gen Xers have grown past their slacker years to become successful workplace leaders, they still have a lot of their independent streak, said Dowling. That can be a problem when it comes to building security and access. Gen Xers may be more likely to do compromising things, like share security codes and cards.

“They like to reject the rules. The have their own way of doing things,” said Dowling. “They tend to look for ways around the system, may not realize the security value and are probably less likely to comply.”

Baby Boomer

You are part of the Baby Boom generation if you were born between 1946 and 1964 — a time when the US birthrate spiked dramatically. Some defining events of your young life include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the debate over communism and the Beatles invasion. Characteristically, you are known as loyal, dependable and can often be a workaholic.

IT security: When it comes to technology at work, you may feel like a fish out of water. This lack of comfort, and your potential gap in knowledge when it comes to using technology, can mean your company’s sensitive data is at risk. Make sure you know how to use a system.

“Gen X/Y/Z employees often understand the nuances of the new technologies they bring, whereas Boomers may be equipped with the same technology but not as familiar with all of the functionality,” said Aaron Wilson, chief technology officer in the Managed Security Services division of Science Applications International Corp. “This can be dangerous from a security standpoint.”

Physical security: What happened to the good-old days when kids respected their elders? For many Boomers, the kids are the boss now and that’s causing plenty of tension in offices around the world. Managers are especially concerned about Boomers, who may feel disrespected.

“Some of my more mature clients think younger people are from another planet and don’t have any respect for their elders,” according to Matuson. She advises older workers to have patience in order to avoid a potentially explosive, or even violent, situation. Remember that younger workers have a different listening and learning style.

“Millennials may be thinking: “What’s the big deal? Just because I’m texting, doesn’t mean I’m not listening,'” said Matuson.

ID and access: Building access and security systems are not a problem for you, according to the experts we spoke with. That’s because your loyal, reliable characteristics shine through here and you are probably going to follow directions to keep your office secure.

“A new system comes into place and they have an understanding that it is there for a reason. They are going to use it and use it the right way,” said Dowling.