Since before they knew how to walk, Gen Z – or the mobile-born generation – has had a wealth of information, quite literally, at their fingertips. Their lives are exponentially hyper-connected with social media, music, ride sharing, shopping, and more, all through their mobile devices. But Gen Z’s haste to be on the cutting edge of technology and trends can often leave them arrogant to the security implications. They prioritize personalization over privacy and willingly share personal data so they can have a more predictive and personalized experience, without the same sense of security awareness as that of previous generations. Through increased data sharing, and the modern-day usage of social media, the mobile-born could be naively exposing themselves, and loved ones, to security issues they don’t fully realize or understand.
Apps such as Snapchat and Facebook constantly know where consumers are located through default settings, geotagging photos, and videos, “checking in” to reap promotional rewards or to just show off their latest experiences. This may not seem pressing, but in actuality, it tells people where you are at any given moment and, depending on your privacy settings, this information could get out to audiences that it wasn’t intended for. If you posted a picture while at home, you are likely taking a GPS location snapshot and potentially letting your home address get into the wrong hands. The metadata within your photo can now be used by cybercriminals to track where you live, opening up your home and devices to a slew of cybersecurity concerns. Geotagging can be fun and beneficial, but issues arise when user data is distributed unknowingly.
Furthermore, past generations have learned the hard way that once something is on the internet, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. We’ve gotten into the habit of oversharing our experiences online – whether mere photos of friends, our pets, birthday celebrations or the address of your favorite spot to hang out on the weekends, you may be giving the keys to all of your data. How does this seemingly harmless series of posts affect personal security? A combination of the information being shared on these social media sites can also be utilized to crack common passwords.
Another common theme among Gen Z is poor password hygiene. There is more importance placed on ease and convenience rather than data security. Passwords are often the weakest entry point for hackers and, according to a recent McAfee survey, nearly a quarter of people currently use passwords that are 10 or more years old. While Post-Millennials may not have passwords that old, they still display poor password hygiene by reusing the same credentials among multiple online sites and granting login access to third-party applications through networking platforms like Facebook.
If a cybercriminal cracks one password, they now have the skeleton key to the rest of your digital life. Passwords are our data’s first defense when it comes to cybercriminals, so by differentiating passwords across several accounts or using a password manager, Gen Z-ers can make sure the proper precautions are in place and better defend against unwanted access.
The mobile-born generation has a totally new outlook on digital experiences and their connection to the online world. They expect to have free, authentic, and secure Internet provided to them at all times, without having to take the necessary security precautions themselves. The internet isn’t just a tool for these digital natives, but rather a way of life and with that expectation, they will connect to public Wi-Fi networks without a second thought toward who’s hosting it and if it’s secure.
If they head to the library or a coffee shop to do homework or stream a video while out to lunch, they’re likely connecting to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. Connecting to public Wi-Fi can be an easy data/money-saving trick for those on a family shared data plan, but it may be one that puts your data at risk. Much like all individuals have a social security number, all devices have a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address being tracked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This allows a device to communicate with the network, but if it’s doing so insecurely, it can act as a watering hole for cybercriminals to eavesdrop, steal personal information, and potentially infect devices with malware.
Educating the Next Generation
Whether it’s ignorant use of social media, poor password protection or careless connection to the internet, the iGeneration does not show the same level of security knowledge or experience as previous generations. Maybe they just don’t know about the various threats out there, or they don’t have the proper education to be using their devices and the internet safely, but it’s our duty to educate our kids about the implications of cybercriminals, privacy breaches, and data exploits to ensure proper cyber hygiene for years to come.
Consider these tips when setting ground rules for keeping you and your family safe:
- Parental Controls. While these may be a nuisance sometimes, they are also a necessity in keeping you and your children safe from malicious sites. Consider using McAfee Secure Home Platform to ensure your family’s security while in the home.
- Turn off geolocation. In ‘Settings’ on your device, you can select which apps are allowed to use your location. Make sure only the ones you know you can trust are selected.
- Restrict access to your information. If you go into your browser, you can adjust your privacy settings to delete information from your browsing history (i.e. cookies, history, saved passwords, or banking information).
- Install a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A personal VPN extends a private network across a public Wi-Fi network to help secure and encrypt your data and keep your connections safe. Software like McAfee Safe Connect can help protect your data at home and on the go.
- Talk with your children. Understanding that their personal information is invaluable is the first step towards creating and maintaining safe online habits.