In-depth

What IT security lessons can teenagers teach the enterprise?

Davey Winder looks a little closer to home to see how the enterprise can learn from his teenage son's approach to security...

Kids using tablets and smartphones

I've been involved in IT security for twenty years now, and you'd think - as a result - my teenage son would be mindful of such matters. But you couldn't be more wrong. 

My lad has absolutely no security smarts, despite my efforts, and his mistakes are all too often mirrored in the corporate world. The consequences, however, are a tad more serious than someone posting embarrassing messages on Facebook. Let me explain.

Data sharing is the main problem I have with my teen. He signs into his social media accounts on someone else's device, and forgets to logout when he passes it back.

He thinks nothing of leaving the family laptop running for 15 minutes or more while his social media accounts remaing logged in.

Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in his mates, his girlfriend and me posting stupid things under his name using his account. Worse still, he also uses the same password for his social media, laptop, and his Xbox account.

In this, he's not alone. New consumer-focused research from Kaspersky Lab suggests 32 per cent of people take absolutely no precautions when letting others use their devices and 92 per cent store sensitive information on them.

Those numbers also sound about right for the business sector. At the smaller end of the enterprise scale, device sharing is pretty common and adequate security measures are not. As you move up the curve towards larger enterprises, things improve as far as device security goes, but the sensitive data issue remains.

It's all tied into the whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) problem, of course, and how to control what data is allowed where, who can access it and when.

Although the BYOD has been done to death, there remains a problem whereby shadow IT exists within the enterprise and a data-centric approach to security is not in place to help mitigate the threat.

How does this tie into my teenage son's device misuse? Well, unless you get to grips with securing data itself, then users of devices will remain the weak link in your strategic security chain.

You cannot control who uses a personal device once it is out of the workplace, and you cannot control what users do with it.

If you don't get serious about data security, rather than device security, you are heading for a fall. My son, on the other hand, is a lost cause. Luckily, he has no data of any value whatsoever. I know, I've seen his Facebook feed.

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