Cyber security debate shifts from technology to psychology

By Peter Gothard
01 Jun 2012 View Comments

This week's Westminster UK Cyber Security Strategy eForum had a running theme of challenging the industry to tackle the so-called "human behaviour" element of cyber security, and included a pointed critique of "Generation Y" as the primary offenders.

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In a debate on the need to understand the psychology of users, chairman and founder of security and compliance firm The Security Company, Martin Smith, argued that the more technology-savvy members of Generation Y are the worst offenders when it comes to failing to recognise security risks on the internet. Smith said that his generation needed to focus on better educating its children of the risks.

"You [Generation Y] behave differently. You have different values, and therefore we have to control you," said Smith. "Educate you, manage you differently. And we haven't moved on to accept that.

"I am Generation X. I am ignorant of computers," Smith added. "But you guys, the younger ones, you are digital natives. It is your first language. For me, for the rest of us in this room, computing is always going to be a second language, and therefore we're always going to be looking to you guys.

"You're different to us," Smith continued, "You thrive on immediate feedback. We don't. You're very idealistic. My kids are. You're confident in your ability to succeed. Much more than my generation. You're not willing to sacrifice as much for your job as baby boomers, and if you don't feel that your work is in line with your values, you don't succeed; you don't try."

Smith concluded that, due to these apparent differences in outlook, Generation X had "lost control" of the internet, and had to encourage Generation Y to wake up to the danger it faces online.

"We have to bring you with us. You also need to realise the risks, and the fact that the internet is such a playground for you, but it exposes you to so many long-term risks. There is no hiding place on the internet."

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