Young workers, Web 2.0 technologies pose security challenges

How the Millennial workforce plus Web 2.0 technologies equals increased corporate security risks

Young workers tap into Web 2.0 technologies and personal computing devices more frequently at work than their older counterparts, and while being savvy with such tools offers some benefit, the work habits of Millennials could force IT to revamp corporate security policies or remain vulnerable to data loss, security breach and legal woes.

A recent survey reveals the disconnect between younger workers' technology habits, older employees' behavior on the job and IT decision-makers' attitudes toward adjusting existing corporate policies to safeguard environments from the risks posed with Web 2.0 technologies. In the Symantec Security Response Weblog, Samir Kapuria, managing director of the Symantec Advisory Consulting Services, part of Symantec Global Services, shared results of a survey Symantec commissioned with Applied Research-West. The study polled 600 individuals in three groups of 200 apiece: IT decision-makers, Millennial workers (those born after 1980) and older workers (those born before 1980).

The results show younger workers embrace newer technologies at the workplace but the corporate environment is not up to speed in terms of securing itself from the risks and vulnerabilities introduced by social computing and Web 2.0 tools. For instance, about two-thirds of Millennial workers polled admitted they "regularly access" Facebook and MySpace, while just 13 per cent of older workers did. And three-quarters of younger employees access Web-mail accounts at work, compared to 54 per cent of the others. Close to half of the Millennials surveyed said they use instant-messaging programs on the corporate network, and 22 per cent of the veteran crowd admitted to the same.

Other disparities prevailed in the use of streaming video, photo sharing and iTunes. Close to 40 per cent of younger workers use streaming video in the office, 37 per cent share photos, and one-third reported they access iTunes. Symantec reported that 20 per cent fewer older workers said they use those technologies at the office.

When it comes to devices, 45 per cent of Millennials limit themselves to using company-issued devices or software, while 70 per cent of other workers adhered to company standards. Close to 70 per cent of younger workers also said they use "whatever application, device or technology they want, regardless of source or corporate IT policies," Symantec reports. Less than one-third of other workers said the same. Three-fourths of Millennials polled in this survey have downloaded software at work for personal use, compared with the one-quarter of older workers who admit to that practice.

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