Millennials, currently the largest living generation, account for a third of the U.S. labor force. In seven years, it is estimated that millennials will surpass Gen X and Baby Boomers in the workplace by making up 75 percent of those employed. It’s no secret this generation is highly connected and digitally savvy, having grown up with technologies that continue to emerge and improve at lightning-fast speeds.
A whopping 92 percent of these adults, now ages approximately 21 to 36, own and use smartphones, which means many of those employed take their work on the go via their mobile devices. Having the ability to access information wherever and whenever the employee desires has been shown to boost productivity and engagement. However, this freedom does come with significant risks.
With the rise of co-working spaces, a BYOD culture and increasingly flexible work styles throughout offices in the U.S., new threats regarding business security and privacy have emerged involving this growing generation of workers.
Research shows insiders pose the greatest security threat to an organization. For millennial employees in particular, outdated technologies and software can create a massive risk for multiple reasons. Aside from older equipment and apps failing to work correctly or maintaining compatibility with emerging security protection software, savvy employees simply choose not to use them if they can find a faster, more efficient and intuitive alternative — particularly if their own personal device can be used.
It’s common for employees to sidestep security policies and procedures and choose to share corporate information through unapproved devices and file-sharing services. If a policy instated by the IT department makes doing their job too difficult, too slow or too convoluted, the danger of a millennial employee using personal apps and processes can pose a major data security threat that makes companies vulnerable to attacks.
In fact, the following industries are the most susceptible to data breaches and cyber attacks:
According to research from the Ponemon Institute, 88 percent of surveyed IT security practitioners said the inability to hire and retain staff well versed in security measures is a leading cause of threats to their enterprise’s data. A lack of proper, modern technologies used in a work setting was reported by 64 percent of respondents as the biggest threat.
Ensuring millennial workers do not post a security risk to your organization first begins with enacting and enforcing a strict security policy that clearly outlines approved procedures, devices and apps for secure file sharing for work — along with repercussions for failing to adhere to this policy. Reducing insider risk starts with compliance from anyone in the organization who can access and share sensitive data.
The second step is using up-to-date, user-friendly equipment and a secure FTP alternative for business to store and share company information. Millennials pose the greatest perceived risk to sensitive company information because of their use of unapproved apps and devices, as well as neglecting to follow an organization’s security policies if they would rather use a faster, cleaner or more efficient alternative they are comfortable with.
This generation is used to sharing and accessing files from any device in the cloud on a regular basis. The cloud allows savvy users to easily locate personal files, such as photos, videos, text messages and emails, seamlessly from their smartphones, laptops and desktops. It is intuitive for the largest generation of employees to live and work in this manner, which is why the need for a cloud-based secure file sharing for work software is key.
While millennials are certainly not the only demographic capable of exposing or sharing sensitive business information to unauthorized individuals, their tendency to take their work outside of the office and access files from personal, unapproved devices make them a notable risk. In fact, the primary types of insider risks include human error (i.e. accidentally sharing a private file with the wrong recipient), malicious intent (i.e. leaking passwords or selling company information to competitors) and classic identity theft — one of the key ways this can be accomplished by hackers is accessing data from an employee’s social media networks. While this particular type of attack isn’t performed intentionally from an insider with a malicious agenda, with 78.6 million millennials currently active on social media, it is still a cause for concern.
If your organization falls in the healthcare, manufacturing, finance, government or transportation industry, there should be an absolute sense of urgency to ensure a secure FTP alternative for business is being utilized for all proprietary information, contact records, financials and other internal documents and files. Even those outside of these industries — such as educational institutions, retailers and even tech startups — should reevaluate their workplace policies, approved devices and authorized file-sharing software to keep themselves protected.
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