Millennials Need to Care More about Internet Security

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and so we thought it would be a good time to look at how the most plugged-in sector of our population, millennials, are taking steps to ensure their online security.

The National Cyber Security Alliance just released a survey which provides both good and bad news about young adults and cybersecurity. The survey included feedback from more than 3,000 millennials, aged 18 to 26, in nine countries.

Millennials think a lot about cybersecurity

First, the good news: a lot of young people think a lot about cybersecurity and have access to cybersecurity programs.

The survey found the following:

  • 83% of millennials said it’s “important”, “very important”, or “extremely important” to strengthen cybersecurity awareness programs in schools.
  • 70% reported that they received cybersecurity training in how to use technology safely, ethically, and productively, which is a 15% increase over the past four years.
  • 43% thought that cyberattacks shaped the 2016 elections, highlighting their understanding of how important and influential cyberattacks can be.

But they don’t take steps to ensure they are safe

Unfortunately, while millennials may think a lot about cyberattacks and have been trained adequately to know the risks and how to protect themselves, the same survey showed that not enough are taking steps to protect themselves online.

  • Over half of respondents don’t update their software/apps quickly, nor do they use two-step authentication.
  • 63% click on dangerous links without knowing if they are legitimate.
  • 60% share personal information online.
  • 54% use the same password across important accounts.
  • 42% said they had shared passwords with non-family members in the past year, an almost 100% increase since 2013.

They love public WiFi (and aren’t using a VPN!)

Perhaps most shockingly, nearly 77% of millennials connected to public WiFi in the past month (up from 66% in 2013) and few are using a VPN to protect themselves, meaning that everything they do online, from surfing the Internet, buying things online, and accessing personal and financial accounts can be seen by anyone on the same network.

What all of us can do to increase our online security

All of us, millennials and non-millennials alike, have a part to play to make sure our part of cyberspace is secure. Our individual actions have a collective impact and make the Internet more secure for everyone. If we all do our part, together we can create a more secure and safe digital world.

Below are some general tips for increasing our online security:

  • Use complex, strong passwords for all of our online accounts, change them frequently, and do not share them with anyone.
  • Keep your computer, mobile phone, browser, and security software optimized by installing updates.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post line and maximize your privacy settings on Facebook and other social websites to avoid sharing your private information with too many people.
  • Be cautious about what you receive and read online. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Use a VPN like Private WiFi to encrypt all of your personal data. This encryption protects all your Internet communication from being intercepted by others in WiFi hotspots.

All of us, millennials and old fogies alike, can and should do more to protect ourselves online. Cyberattacks are becoming more and more frequent, meaning that it really is up to us to protect ourselves online. So let’s use National Cyber Security Awareness Month to reevaluate our online security and take the necessary steps to ensure we are always being safe when we go online.

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Jared Howe

Jared Howe is PRIVATE WiFi’s Senior Manager, Product Marketing Communications. Working in high tech for over 15 years, Jared currently lives in Seattle with his wife, daughter, and their two cats.