Born in 1983, Edward Snowden is sort of the harbinger of that generation of people we affectionately call Millennials, and if you’re in the business of cybersecurity, Insider-threat Snowden’s a pretty apt poster-boy for the folks in also known as Generation Y, the Me Generation.
Speaking generally, Millennials’ minds are stretched to think both globally and locally. They’re better educated than the Generation X’ers preceding them, but thanks to the recession, they get paid less for more. Their loyalties tend to friends and high-minded, socially progressive liberal ideals before institutions. They embrace change, because they’re steeped in an exponentially increasing pace of cyber-change. They’re all about tech, because they’ve grown up with tech, and tech’s grown up with them. Tech’s their community and how they commune—with the ‘rents (parents), with their friends, with the whole wide world around them.
Remember, Millennials thrive in the social media world. So it’s not surprising that, according to a report, well-over half of them won’t work for you if you don’t promise them “that there are no restrictions on access to their social media platforms.” And a third of them report they use social media at work (the other two-thirds lied and said they didn’t). Wi-Fi is in the air. Wi-Fi is their air. So they’re not inclined to avoid the more risky public Wi-Fi, and they’ll download third-party apps quicker than you can build a firewall to keep them out.
WHAT IT MEANS
You’ve got to love them. No, seriously, you have to love them. You have to love them and embrace them. And not just for their intrinsic beauty. They’re the largest generation on the planet. It’s theirs now. By 2020, Millennials will represent about 50 percent of the workforce. By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce.
Here’s what all that means to you and your cybersecurity penchant. “As millennials become an increasingly significant component of the federal government workforce,” writes Homeland Security Today’s Amanda Vicinanzo, a Millennial herself, “it is imperative that federal agencies adjust existing cybersecurity policies and protocols to accommodate the generational shift.” Amanda’s referring to the findings of a recent Forcepoint survey report, “The Rising Tide of Millennials: A Tsunami of Security Risks for the Federal Government?” The report makes vivid the ways that in the federal government, Millennials are shaping cybersecurity policies, because Millennials are not going to shape themselves around antiquated policies that contravene their very nature. They start suffocating.
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO
You’ve got to bend. We non-Millennials can stick our head in the sand and act like we’re going to force inflexible policies and mentalities down their throats, but that will fail. It always does.
According to Vicinanzo, “In response, federal agencies need to design real-world security protocols and policies tailored to the millennial workforce.” She notes that “The report also recommended implementing an insider threat program that balances privacy and visibility, and introducing flexible work schedules and data access on mobile devices.”
So the right approach is, as I suggested, to love them and embrace them and welcome them. The most successful, cyber-secure institutions are going to be the forward thinking ones that build cyber-environments in which Millennials and the Whatever Generation following them can swim safely among the sharks in our world.