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Who has the best cybersecurity habits?

NetworkTigers discusses whether younger or older employers and employees have the best cybersecurity habits.

Your workplace may dictate important cybersecurity habits, such as how often you change your passwords, how often you update your software, and how seriously you take data privacy. Employers can help influence their teams to protect personal and company data or let best practices fall by the wayside. However, do older or younger employers advocate for the best cybersecurity habits when it comes to a work environment? Surprising new data reveals that while younger employers are more familiar with the Internet of Things, older employers may encourage more robust cybersecurity practices and engage in safer Internet habits themselves. 

Cyber-fluency and different generations

Conventional wisdom suggests that younger employers and employees would have the best cybersecurity habits. After all, at least 95% of American adults aged 18 to 49 have a smartphone, compared to only 61% of American adults aged 65 or older. According to a Pew Research Poll, 86% of Millennials report using social media, and nearly 100% report using the Internet. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation trail behind younger Americans when it comes to multiple markers of online data fluency, such as internet usage, smartphone ownership, use of social media, and broadband service at home. 

However, this digital comfort may also be linked to worse data privacy habits at home and in the workplace. Even as more businesses prioritize cybersecurity, personal habits, especially among younger employers, can jeopardize company data protection and privacy investments. 

Younger employers admit to worse cybersecurity habits

In a global survey of over 6,500 workers, the under-40 crowd makes more common cybersecurity mistakes that put their accounts and information at risk. Reusing passwords or choosing easy-to-guess login information is one cybersecurity weakness that those under 40 admit to doing at much higher rates than those over 40. Of those surveyed, 38% of office workers under 40 admit using the same passwords across multiple devices. Just 28% of those over 40 say that they do the same. Additionally, 34% of the younger crowd at work reports that they regularly use their birthdates as passwords. Only 19% of respondents over 40 say they use their birthdates in their login information. 

Sharing devices is another common cybersecurity threat that exposes passwords, identifying information, and other secure data to unverified or shady sites across the Internet. Of the office workers surveyed, 34% of those under 40 report sharing a work device like a smartphone, tablet, or laptop with their family or friends. Only 19% of over-40-year-old workers say that they share a work device. 

Finally, phishing is one of the most significant risks facing companies across the globe today. A study from IRONSCALES shows that 81% of companies have experienced increased phishing attacks since March 2020. The FBI’s Internet Crime Center reports that phishing, including smishing and vishing via text and video, is the number one prevalent cyber threat in the US, with 323,972 reported victims in 2021 (up 34% from previous years). However, 13% of younger workers say they click on phishing links, compared to only 8% of Baby Boomer-and-above workers. More concerningly, 23% of younger workers did not escalate the last phishing attempt they received to tech support or company IT since the chronically online generation reports that they did not believe it was important to do so. 

Understanding the data

Anyone can fall for an online scam. It’s important to note that while younger employers and employees seem to have higher rates of clicking on phishing links, they may also be more likely to spot and self-report phishing due to greater online literacy than their older counterparts. The younger generation’s weak password usage and a more flippant approach to device-sharing are more problematic. Younger generations are not immune to cyber scams, hacks, and phishing attempts despite their greater comfort with the Internet. As studies reveal that Gen Z is more than three times as likely to fall for an online scam and twice as likely to have a social media account hacked, companies need to double down on teaching cybersecurity hygiene and reinforcing the importance of best practices.  

Employee-employer habits have a significant impact on cybersecurity

Cybersecurity company Ivanti found in a study that one in three employees do not believe that their actions have the power to impact their company’s cybersecurity. This assumption could not be more wrong. Human error is one of the most significant risk factors for a successful phishing attack. Employees not investing in their company’s cybersecurity health often directly cause successful hacks, leaks, and ransomware threats. Employers, especially younger ones, need to be aware that their actions and education about best cybersecurity practices can catalyze change. Practicing what they preach can help their companies stay safe in an increasingly dangerous cyber world. 

Gabrielle West
Gabrielle West
Gabrielle West is an experienced tech and travel writer currently based in New York City. Her work has appeared on Ladders, Ultrahuman, and more.

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Who has the best cybersecurity habits?