Are today's young people Generation I (for insecure)?

19 Sep 2012
Man listening to music on PC

Davey Winder discovers a worrying attitude to security among 18 to 25-year-olds

Check Point, the firm behind ZoneAlarm, published a report revealing interesting variations in how security is perceived and applied by different age groups. This Generation Gap in Computer Security report looked at attitudes of Generation Y (18 to 25-year-olds) versus baby boomers (56 to 65-year-olds) and its results were surprising.

Generation Y users were surer of themselves concerning IT security than baby boomers, but had experienced more security problems over the past couple of years than the latter. In fact, the research suggests 78% of younger users don't follow best practices when it comes to computer security, while baby boomers are twice as likely to install and use security software.

This could prove more problematic for the UK than the other regions covered, since it was here that reported security breaches over the past two years peaked at 67%, compared to 57% in Australia and 50% in Canada, Germany and the USA.

Perhaps the problems for Generation Y users are due to poor prioritisation, since they value entertainment and community above security – only 31% of them placed security at the top of their list compared to 58% of 56 to 65-year-olds. Combine this with overconfidence when it comes to their perception of risk, and you're asking for trouble, especially if you throw in cost. Some 45% of Generation Y users think security software is too expensive, and are far less likely to use antivirus and third-party firewalls, for example.

Of course, there are free security suites available that perform very well in a domestic setting, and would almost certainly lead to a lowering of those infection rates were these people to use them.

Assuming a Windows 7 platform – more specifically Windows 7 64-bit, which is pretty well the norm in both the domestic and small-business circles I frequent nowadays – it's easy enough to ward off malware and phishing attacks by installing Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender, together with keeping everything you use properly patched and updated. That goes a long way towards mitigating most threats, for most people, and it costs nothing. Using Gmail as a spam filter helps keep most of the archived malware attachments off your PC as well.

It’s even possible to defend against oft-used DNS redirects that send your browser off to a drive-by exploit site, should something nasty sneak past your initial defences. Both OpenDNS and Google Public DNS are free DNS services that can bolster your security. For example, OpenDNS offers a phishing filter and domain blocking with typo correction.

This kind of secured DNS, with free options that are perfectly adequate for most users, simply requires you to type the relevant DNS server addresses (208.67.222.222 and 8.8.8.8 respectively) into the DHCP server settings dialog of your router and let it deal with everything connected to the network.