Generation Y

Rodgers: Young people should remain aware of cyber security, reform habits accordingly

Just like a newborn to first-time parents, millennials are the test-dummy generation to technology.

As the first people to grow up with the Internet — and a connection to the entire world — at our fingertips, a world of opportunities and innovation is available to us.

But this digital age brings unforeseen risks, raising questions about cyber security. It’s almost scary to think about the free-for-all currently shaping the Web.

An Oct. 16 article by USA Today reported on a study conducted by defense contractor Raytheon Company and described how young people are very aware of the risks of the Internet such as hacking and identity theft, but don’t care to change their habits or the current security landscape of the Internet. The article explains how “the incoming workforce is lax about cyber risks.”

The Raytheon survey also revealed areas where millennials jeopardize their online safety and privacy. From the 1,000 participants, 66 percent of young adults have connected to a public Wi-Fi network in the past month and 48 percent have used a storage device that wasn’t their own in the past three months.

Senior organizational sciences major at George Washington University Jared Benoff explained how the afterthought of Internet security has affected millennials. “As digital natives, no one told us about privacy or online security,” Benoff said. “We’re sort of the test generation and we’re learning the implications. Some people have learned this the hard way.”

Millennials have specifically had negative social cyber security experiences online, with online interactions in the forms of cyber-bullying.

Recall the story of Ryan Halligan that dates back to Oct. 7, 2003 when he tragically took his own life after being harassed and bullied online by his middle school classmates. Also remember the case of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who sadly committed suicide by falling to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Clementi experienced a severe form of cyber-bullying after his roommate and floor mate recorded his personal interactions with a male companion in his own dorm room, and encouraged their Twitter followers to join in on the intrusive viewing.

Both of these heartbreaking stories reveal some of the loopholes and breaches in intrusion and security the online world can bring. Yet with both instances, the landscape of personal online protection has remained unchanged.

Fast forward to today, and we battle new forms of cyber security seen in “revenge porn,” the newly introduced privacy policy by Google and “Catfishing,” or lying about your identity online for the sake of companionship.

As these online protection questions are raised more and more, we have to begin to question the role we can play in preventing such instances from occurring and ending these negative trends.

Fortunately, the answer to what seems like an uphill battle and impossible feat may lie somewhere in the growing, yet often perceived as unattractive profession of cyber security.

But most millennials are uninformed about such opportunities and seem to think that the field of cyber security is too intimidating.

USA Today reports that the field of cyber security is expected to have a 22 percent increase in jobs by the year 2020. Yet even with this increase, this generation “isn’t very interested in filling cyber security jobs.”

The challenges our world faces with Internet security will not be alleviated any time soon if this generation does not begin to take these issues seriously and tackle them with innovation.

In such a changing interconnected world, we should have foresight and be ready to confront cyber security with just as much as much creativity as the next big app or social media site.

Nina Rodgers is a sophomore sociology major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at nmrodger@syr.edu.

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