Top Security Threats Facing Generation Z

Sharon Holland

Who are Gen Z?

Last year Gen Z became the largest generation, constituting 32 percent of the global population. But what is Generation Z? Definitions vary but are thought to be those born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. Pew Research pins this down to 1997 onwards, with Forbes citing Generation Alpha as 2010-2025.

And what is so special about Gen Z? They had access to the internet from an early age and don’t remember a time without mobile phones.

What are the top cybersecurity threats to Gen Z?

Perhaps surprisingly the biggest risk to Gen Z is Gen Z themselves!

This is the first generation to grow up where so much of everyday life is digital, and they don’t remember a time without the internet. Therefore you’d expect them to be more aware of dangers online, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Emily Schechter from Google’s Chrome Security Team said that 78% of their research participants aged 16 and 24 admitted to using one password for multiple accounts. Only 60% of baby boomers admit to the same lack of password security.

Meanwhile, 42% of Gen Z office workers confessed that they have lost a device that was linked to their business email account.

Does Gen Z’s lack of concern arise from the confidence of having grown up in a digital world? They certainly have confidence – more than 70% said that they wouldn’t fall for a phishing scam (even though only 44% actually knew what a phishing scam was).

Careless Yet Wary

Strangely, they are also the most suspicious generation, with Gen Z office workers the most concerned about the hacking of internet connected devices including game consoles, wearables, security cameras, and smart TVs.

Yet researchers found that they are unwittingly posting confidential company insights on social media that pose a security risk to their companies.

According to another study, older generations are concerned about online anonymity and ensuring their personal information is kept private. In sharp contrast is Generation Z who have always been online; with their personal information for all to see – it’s their natural state of being.

It’s a Definite Choice

Gen Z don’t just accept their digital presence, they search and desire that state. Millennials and Gen Z are over 25% more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to opt for a predictive internet. Research has shown that 50% of Gen Z would even stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. So they are prepared to sacrifice security to achieve higher levels of personalization.

So What Are The Other Risks?

So after the Gen Z attitude to security, what are the next biggest risks to this digital generation?

A recent report listed “Phishing & social engineering, Ransomware/Malware and lack of awareness/accidents remain the top three threats reported by both HE and FE”. (A lot of Gen Z are still in education). Many university students are at risk from phishing scams because many top universities are not following best practices to block fraudulent emails, according to Proofpoint. And I would argue that ‘lack of awareness’ could equally be a case of a relaxed attitude to security.

Overall it means that for Gen Z, lax security, phishing, and ransomware are still their biggest cybersecurity threats – pretty much like everyone else.

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