How safe is Federal IT? Millennials more likely to trade caution for digital productivity

According to security firm Forcepoint, millennial's behaviour poses significant risk to federal IT systems
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Studies from Austin, Tx. based global cybersecurity firm Forcepoint reveal a range of attitudes and risky behaviours showing that the new generation is more likely to trade caution for digital productivity.

The company, a joint venture of Raytheon Company and Vista Equity Partners gathered information from more than 670 survey respondents which identified how members of the millennial generation use technology.

The survey revealed how these behaviours - if left unaddressed - can significantly jeopardize the security of the U.S. federal government's IT systems.

Since April 2016, millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the largest generation in the US.

As hundreds of thousands of security-conscious, cautious baby boomers retire, quick action is needed. The survey showed that millennials (born between 1977 and 1994) are more likely to abandon caution for digital expediency.

Millennials currently comprise about 25 percent of federal employees and are expected to represent nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

Federal cybersecurity officers face a millennial workforce who believe they are sufficiently educated and confident in security knowledge. However, the survey's data reveals that many do not utilize safe behaviours when it comes to technology and the workplace.

Millennials' regular use of unprotected public Wi-Fi, sharing of passwords and a belief that cybersecurity is solely the IT department's responsibility present the most urgent security challenges for the government.

70 percent regularly connect to unprotected Wi-Fi according to the survey. 42 percent use the same password across all apps.

Many millennials acknowledged they use personal devices for both work and play. Almost 25 percent download company files and third party apps to personal devices to increase productivity without notifying IT. 32 percent download unauthorised apps to their devices.

Although millennials claim to understand and use strong passwords, the survey revealed they frequently use the same password for multiple systems and apps and share them with others even after having personally experienced a breach.

To put the survey in context, Forcepoint additionally surveyed a group of federal security officers. These were individually interviewed on how they are adapting their cybersecurity efforts.

Surveyed officials reported a wide array of observations and changes reflecting the millennial rise. Security officers said that current changes primarily relate to flexible scheduling and accessing information on mobile devices.

The survey showed that nothing new is being done specifically to address incoming millennials from a fundamental security protocol and control perspective

Federal organizations are largely making changes individually, agency by agency. These steps include re-tooling security awareness programs that emphasize secure productivity.

The programs can help employees recognize the dangerous trade-offs of circumventing policies and updating BYOD programs with tools allowing for greater visibility by monitoring applications' reach and data flows.

Ed Hammersla, Forcepoint's Chief Strategy Officer and Federal Division President said: "Beyond the security of the apps and devices employees bring to federal networks, agencies should also look at employee motivations, taking into account both productivity gains and potential security risks."

"The data resulting from the survey highlights important attitudes and risk factors that can help agencies adapt cybersecurity programs with millennials in mind, fully capitalizing on their creativity and energy while preventing them from becoming accidental insider threats.""

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