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Gen Z and Millennials Don’t Want to Be the Weakest Links in Workplace Digital Security

Younger workers worry that they're especially vulnerable to new hacker tactics, according to a recent survey from EY.

By Kit Eaton, Inc. (TNS)

You may think that younger generations, who’ve grown up TikTokking, with tech in almost every corner of their daily lives, would race to embrace AI technology. But real-world data shows a complex picture: While one report suggests Gen Z’s AI work chops could displace millennials in the office, different studies say Gen Z may be more wary of AI tech than older groups, and slower at adopting AI skills.

Now another piece of analysis has added an unsettling wrinkle to the story: Gen Z and millennials worry that they may fall victim to AI-powered cyberattacks. The data shows they may be your company’s digital weak spots.

News site Digiday explored the results of a new survey by EY, the multinational professional services company, that asked 1,000 U.S. workers about cybersecurity. In one sense, the data showed that people are quite aware of the risks that hackers and other cybercriminals pose to businesses: About 53 percent of those surveyed said they worried that their company could be a target. More concerning, though, about a third of respondents expressed worry that they themselves could make a mistake that would allow an attack to begin.

This nervousness is particularly marked among Gen Z workers. The EY survey shows that Gen Z staff have lost confidence in their ability to spot phishing attacks, with just 31 percent “very confident” that they can spot the threats—down from 40 percent in 2022. Phishing is one of the most common types of cyberattacks, possibly because it works. Phishing relies on social engineering to fool someone into letting an attacker into a computer, like clicking on a questionable link, or opening an infected file attached to a fake email.

Very worryingly, EY’s data shows that some 72 percent of Gen Z workers admit that they’ve clicked on “suspicious” links at work—higher than other generations—which could have exposed their work computers to a hacker. This suggests that Gen Z workers’ worries that they are a security weak link may have some substance. They may be so enmeshed in their digital lives both inside and outside of work that their mindset differs from more world-weary older staff, who’ve been exposed to many more years of hacking awareness training.

The advent of AI’s being used for bad ends is unsettling employees: 85 percent say they think cyberattacks are now much more sophisticated because of AI. That’s backed up by recent instances of malicious AI use, including a President Biden voice clone trick that misled potential voters in New Hampshire early this year, and another complex, layered attack that included AI and phishing that resulted in a multinational company being scammed out of around $25 million.

Worries about cyberthreats and AI translate directly into increased wariness among Gen Z and millennial staff about the possibility of losing their jobs if they were to accidentally let hackers in. About two-thirds of respondents have serious concerns about the negative consequences of possible cybersecurity mishaps.

What does this mean for your business? It’s quite simple: Keep your staff well-trained and aware of cutting-edge hacking risks, including AI-powered ones like deepfake voice calls, and make sure everyone knows your security procedures if they suspect they’ve been targeted. You might also want to point out that AI really is useful tech, and reassure your youngest employees that you won’t blame them if they make a mistake.


(c) 2024 Mansueto Ventures LLC; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.