Young professionals more willing to break IT rules: Cisco

Young professionals and college students are far more willing to go to extreme measures and break IT policies, reflecting all sorts of possible trends, according to new research from Cisco Security.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN BRUNO, CALIF. -- Cisco Security is publishing the third and final chapter of its Connected World Technology report, and the results might be uneasy for many IT managers and CIOs at large businesses.

Previous chapters, published in September and November of this year, revealed some startling figures about young professionals (under the age of 30) and college students, including that nearly half of college students prefer Internet to friends and dating as well as the notion that mobile devices are valued higher than bigger salaries.

This time, the focus is on how members of Generation Y view and respect IT policies. The biggest takeaway is that, for the most part, these demographics have little regard for most IT policies today.

Specifically, at least 70 percent of employees seven out of 10 young employees (70 percent) admitted to breaking policy with varying regularity. Furthermore, 80 percent of employees said that their companies' IT policies on social media and device usage are outdated -- or weren't sure if such a policy existed at all.

Cisco threat research manager Scott Olechowski posited that these numbers are startling not only because they reveal many trends that will affect businesses and enterprises moving forward, but also just because these employees were so willing to admit that they're breaking policies.

Here are the most common reasons as to why employees break IT policies, according to Cisco's latest report:

  • 22 percent cite the need to access unauthorized programs and apps just to get their job done
  • 18 percent admitted the policies are not enforced
  • 18 percent don't have the time to think about policies when they are working
  • 16 percent said it's not convenient
  • 15 percent forget
  • 14 percent do it when their bosses aren't watching them

Additionally, 30 percent of respondents said that social networking sites were completely prohibited (i.e. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter), making many survey participants feel out of step with their peers at other organizations.

"One of the underlying things that we saw are that the expectations of this younger workforce are different," Olechowski said, arguing that these kinds of policies are going to become a deciding factor in where people choose to work over time.

"You're making yourself less competitive over time to these generations," warned Olechowski.

While one could argue that younger generations usually ignore rules inherently anyway, Cisco senior security researcher Mary Landesman posited that there are other factors at play here that could explain the views and actions of Generation Y when it comes to technology and social media.

"This was the first generation weened on computers," added Landesman. "I think for the younger generation it's a necessary extension of their lives."

At the same time, Olechowski explained that we need to look at these policies and ask if they make sense, along with examining technologies that better help enforce IT regulations.

The survey results become even more disconcerting regarding the lack of concern for personal information online.

More than half (56 percent) of young professionals have allowed other to use their computers without their supervision, and even 86 percent of college students have done the same.

Furthermore, 61 percent of employees believe they're not responsible for protecting information on devices, while 16 percent of college students admitted to leaving personal belongings and devices unattended in public.

"Someone could be doing something nefarious on that machine, unsupervised," Olechowski remarked.

Even worse, one out of three college students revealed that they do not think about privacy nor do they mind sharing personal data online. These respondents also said that they believe that privacy boundaries are loosening.

Yet, one in four experience identity theft before the age of 30, while at least two our of five college students know of friends or family members who have experienced identity theft.

"To us, there is a disconnect here that people are sharing so much but they're seeing grave consequences," Olechowski said.

While these findings definitely reveal characteristics about these demographics in regards to technology and other serious matters, Olechowski reiterated that the findings from this report signal the beginning of major trends ahead for security and enterprises overall.

For reference, the Cisco Connected World Report is based upon the responses of more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries.

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