Why Millennials Don't Worry That Much About Online Security

Studies show that the first generation to be born fully immersed in the digital world has very little to fear from it.

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By Peter Daisyme

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Security is something many of us hold dear. Most of us want to be sure that the sites we surf and buy from offer things like https encryption, keeping our personal information secure from identity thieves or even just keeping to the basics of privacy. It may seem hard to believe that there are actually computer and mobile users out there that are not worried about what type of online security is working behind the scenes. And, this is even in light of stories about hackers and stories that periodically pop up about personal data theft from retailers like what happened to Target two holiday seasons ago.

This group probably even thinks the rest of us are just paranoid and don't necessarily understand the online environment that they have grown up with. This group is known as millennials. A September 2015 news release from Symantec released findings that noted millennials (the under-35 set), now referred to as digital natives, just aren't as concerned about online security and privacy as previous generations. Although Norton commissioned an online quantitative survey through Edelman Berland of 1,000 millennial consumers in Australia, the findings are reflective of the attitudes around the world within this group.

Related: 5 Ways Millennials Are Like No Generation Before Them

1. Surveys reveal shocking beliefs and actions by millennials.

As the survey noted, "Millennials use online platforms more than any other age group. They own a tablet, laptop and at least one smartphone and increasingly use all devices simultaneously. They are savvy with social media and are always connected, sharing more information online than any other age group."

Yet, they seem to be willing to gamble the most with their privacy and security out of any of the other generations. Here are some of the shocking findings from this survey:

  • One in four (28 percent) admitted sharing virtually everything that happened in their day-to-day life online.
  • A third believe it is easy to remove information that has been posted online, and almost half are using social media sites with low-privacy settings.
  • The survey also found that cybercrime continues to be an increasing problem for millennials with 55 percent reporting they have been affected by a computer virus, 26 percent by a phishing scam, 16 percent by online identity theft and 14 percent by ransomware attacks.

A survey from 2013 done by the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future did note that millennials are more willing to share information, including personal information and their GPS location, than other groups, but they still show some signs of concern about their personal data and Web history. This survey noted:

  • Millennials were more likely (56 percent) to share their location in order to receive coupons from nearby businesses versus those over 35 (42 percent).
  • 25 percent said they would give away their personal information to get more relevant information versus 19 percent of those 35 and over.
  • Over half said they would share information with a company if they got something in return versus 40 percent of those 35 and over.

This illustrates the millennials understanding that information has become a valuable commodity, and they want something out of it if they are going to share anything about themselves.

Yet, there are still concerns with how millennials use the Internet, according to further research by a 2015 study by Software Advice:

  • 85 percent admitted to re-using credentials across sites and services.
  • 16 percent accept social-media invites from strangers on a regular basis.
  • 48 percent use personal devices to access work files.
  • Millennials are less interested in receiving security training through gamification than other groups.

Related: Millennials: Death to the Cubicle!

2. Reasons for the lack of fear and concern.

It's surprising in some ways that this group would be almost more trusting of the online environment than say older generations who lack the same technology skills and experience. Yet, millennials have already been identified as being greater risk takers than other generations as seen by the way they have approached developing new businesses, working and living, in general.

It may well be that this group actually worries less, because they assume that the available technology innovations, including fingerprint biometric security solutions found on numerous smartphones, have their back at all times. As Jeff Cole, Director of the Center of the Digital Future at USC noted, "From very early ages, millennials were just very comfortable really using technology as their bridge to the world, and therefore (have) very little to fear from it."

While there are many more technology solutions that increase the strength of online security, millennials somehow think it's an impenetrable fortress. They do not consider that the ability to share means that their friends could share their photos or location information with their friends who may not be as trustworthy.

In fact, it is this group that is driving the trend toward a deeper connection between devices, appliances and ourselves through the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT). We are becoming linked to our homes through smart devices that control our houses as well as our cars and pretty much the rest of our lives.

This push to an even further connection between the online world and ourselves shows the true lack of concern millennials have for security, because the implications of breaching a home network, taking control of a person's car and other potential security risks are present and need to be addressed with greater security controls.

3. Ways to stay safe.

Whether you are worried or not about your own online security, it's best to keep these tips in mind to maximize your safety:

  • Use the latest patches and security updates available.
  • Create strong and different passwords for each site you use.
  • Utilize security software.
  • Be aware of the current scams out there.
  • Turn off location settings on your smartphone.
  • Understand privacy policies and mobile security options.
  • Think about what you share on social media before posting it, including where you are and what you are doing.
  • Back up your information regularly.
  • Don't give any personal information away online.

Maybe millennials just know something the rest of us don't in terms of the comfort level they have with working, living and connecting online. Despite how they feel, the reality is that online security needs to be continually addressed by everyone that uses the Internet and connected devices, as well as by the organizations set to create new security solutions.

Related: 7 Things Every Twentysomething Entrepreneur Must Know

Peter Daisyme

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-founder of Hostt

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Hostt, specializing in helping businesses host their website for free for life. Previously, he was co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, which was acquired in 2012.

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