Millennial Kids Will Change Everything … Once Again

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The establishment always views the young as being irresponsible and a threat to the status quo but Generation Y may have much to teach us, says Eric Doyle

We are constantly being warned about Generation Y, millennial kids, the digital generation – the massive influx of young, square-eyed computer and games console users with blister-hardened texting fingers who are starting to flood the bottom end of the employment market.

Business will never be the same again as the irresponsible “yoof” of today bring their lack of discipline and lackadaisical attitudes towards security into the nation’s enterprises.

Genghis Khan With An iPad

The swathe of destruction that Genghis Khan’s hordes wrought across the Eurasian continent will be nothing compared to this. Every IT department will be snowed under with requests for connectivity from the iPad-wielding, smartphone-toting hoodies and support calls will flood in because the computer did not respond to a session of arm-waving or screen touching.

It’s the same as every generation grows up. When the Baby Boomers of the 50’s and 60’s entered work, the Establishment threw up its hands in horror as a wave of beatnicks and teddy boys were followed by mods and rockers, and then hippies and skinheads. A new generation of self aware, self-obsessed kids who had never done a day’s National Service in the forces and had no idea what discipline meant.

It did affect the way business was done. The stuffy, regimented offices of employees without forenames were replaced by the Johns, Micks, Sues and Janes in their open-plan booths. Old Smithers, the office head, was replaced by the rash young call-me-Dave and Smithers’ fabric of society was fraying at the edges.

Then came Generation X, the blank generation punks, with their lack of ambition – and that gave way to the power-dressers who worshipped money, fame and sharp practices. Every new wave was broken on the rocks of conformity but, little by little, the constant battering also shaped the landscape.

The new generation is upon us and, like all of the fearsome ranks before them, is likely to give as much as they take. They all do what we did but in a different way.

We, the new establishment, hear that Facebook, Twitter and the glorification of celebrity are rotting the youngsters’ brains when, in actual fact , it is preparing them for the new world of business that they will help forge.

We are told that social media are stripping them of any sense of “security” and “privacy” – that is evident – but most seem to learn how to manipulate the new media with no more penalties than the normal social disgraces of rash youth.

Growing Up In Public

If anything, the new “growing up in public” is liable to have a hardening effect on the young executives of tomorrow. They will have learnt that the unguarded moment is a public event will haunt them forever. We are already seeing the outrage that innocent gaffes are wreaking on the older users of social media who lack the StreetView wisdom of their younger counterparts.

The problems that arise from giving your personal authentication details away will be a lesson that many will have learnt before they enter the world of work. At least they already have a better idea of what security means, unlike the current workforce who are learning from bitter experience as they sit at their desks.

The only issue is whether these new workers will treat their business security credentials with respect. In many ways, I hope not because too much is left to chance in business today. The almost total reliance on password and username security just isn’t good enough and the industry needs a short, sharp jolt of reality.

How many hacks of the Sony and RSA Security kind do we need before we learn that “secure” systems are insecure and that social (network) engineering is an insidious practice that we all can be taken-in by?

The first lesson the millennial generation will teach us is that security has to be imposed and invested in because reliance on personal responsibility is not enough. It’s not attitude that is the weak point now but human nature and our individual traits of greed, honesty and curiosity that will cause a company’s downfall.

The Rashness Of Youth

The new kids will also learn a harsh lesson that the stream of digital fumblings of childhood may come back and hurt them. At the Security B-Sides conference in April, Stephen Bonner, Barclays head of Information Risk Management, gave a light-hearted talk on “How Not To Get Hired For A Security Job” in which he made some serious points.

On the subject of social media, he said, “We all know that Human Resources are not supposed to look at the Internet for information about job applicants, but most of them do.”

We are entering an age that takes social interaction into a new area. It’s not just the school and university graduates who need to learn the consequences of confiding in strangers. We all have some growing-up to do.

In fact, it is probably today’s employees that need to learn some privacy lessons fast because the new intake have been there, done that and bought the scorched T-shirt. Just as politicians have been brought down by revelations of their younger days, at some point we are likely to find ourselves saying, “Yes, but I didn’t inhale”.

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