Young people to IT security: 'What, me worry?'

There's a new generation gap: Millennials want to use their own digital tools at work, regardless of corporate guidelines

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I've seen surveys in which young people say they'd prefer not to eat to not being able to use their iPhones.That's obviously youthful hyperbole, but if you restrict them too much, they'll refuse to work for you. Additionally, if they sign on, they'll be out the door in a hurry when you won't let them use their iPad or Galaxy.

Interestingly, only 10 percent of the employees surveyed said that tablets and so on are prohibited. I wouldn't extrapolate from that number to conclude that 90 percent of global businesses allow tablets, but it is a sign that many -- perhaps more than we think -- have let them in the door.

About one-third of the young workers said their companies do not allow the use of social networking sites and tools. That problem extends beyond the happiness of those employees. Like it or not, social networking is a critical communications and marketing tool; companies that don't understand it are handicapping themselves.

Of those who were aware of IT policies, 7 of every 10 employees worldwide admitted to breaking policy with varying regularity. Among many reasons, the most common was the belief that employees were not doing anything wrong (33 percent); 1 in 5 cited the need to access unauthorized programs and applications to get their job done, while 19 percent admitted the policies are not enforced.

I'm a believer in personal responsibility; if a policy is there for a reason, it should be respected, even if nobody is watching. But when a law is flouted with such regularity, there's either something wrong with the law or someone has failed to do a decent job explaining its importance.

It would be tempting for us graybeards to dismiss the study, saying that young people are always a pain. Or you could sniff and say that Cisco is simply trying to scare businesses into buying more security. That may or may not be true, but if IT management understands that the consumerization of IT is real, it'll put aside its middle-aged preconceptions and get with the program -- the new program, that is.

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