Digital dependence leads to negligent security habits among younger generations

With the world stuck at home for months on end in 2020, digital consumerism skyrocketed. The average consumer dependency on digital entertainment reached the highest point than ever before, and according to a report released by IBM, will continue to stay higher than in the preceding years. The report reviewed more than 20,000 people internationally to gauge consumer behavior during the pandemic. IBM found that the average consumer's “digital dependency” rose sharply. Users adopted new services and applications to ease remote working, provide entertainment, and train in new skills both offline and on.

However, the sudden demand for contactless service options and entertainment causes some concern in the cybersecurity world. Users were likely to neglect security in favor of quick access to convenient services. Organizations are burdened with more concerns regarding security and how to assist their new user base in avoiding scams. Often, poor security habits at home will lead to poor habits in the workplace, from re-using passwords, to unsecure password managers, or good old sticky-note encryption.

Key Findings

  • Across all countries, users created as many as 15 new online accounts during the pandemic. Younger generations were the top account creators across various categories than any other generation.
  • Over 82% of worldwide respondents are re-using the same credentials that they created for other accounts. Younger respondents are most likely to re-use the same passwords.
  • 63% of global respondents accessed COVID-19-related services via digital channels, including apps, mobile, text messages, and emails.
  • Many would still prefer online services, despite security concerns. The study found that over 44% of global respondents and 51% of millennials would prefer online orders and services than going out, even if there were security concerns.
  • Almost half (44%) of the respondents do not wish to deactivate or delete their new accounts created during the pandemic even after the easing of pandemic restrictions.

The IBM report stresses how these billions of new accounts and users reusing passwords could result in an increase of successful cybercrimes in the years to come. 

As consumers depend further on digital services and their convenience, they may be more willing to use more convenient but less secure emerging technologies in different settings, from digital identification to telehealth.

How can organizations adapt to this changing landscape?

Organizations need to consider the side effects of the consumer's reliance on convenience. With users’ credentials becoming less reliable companies must adapt, even beyond implementing multifactor authentication. Companies are moving towards zero-trust networks and using advanced analytics and AI to now predict possible attack vectors.

  • Adopt zero-trust approach- With potential threats ever-increasing, organizations should consider adapting to zero-trust security measures, which operate under the presupposition that a verified identity or a network may already be compromised. Therefore, it repeatedly authenticates the conditions for connection between users, resources, and data to determine authorization and access.
  • Data protection and privacy- Having more digital consumers means more sensitive data on the move. Given that breaches cost companies millions of dollars, they must ensure strong data security controls are in place to avoid any cybercriminals from monitoring or intercepting data. Companies must also implement some level of a privacy policy to maintain consumer trust.
  • Modernizing consumer identity and access management (CIAM)- Companies that want to continue leading digital channels for consumer consumption, offering a seamless and secure process is crucial. Organizations can begin with investing in a modernized CIAM strategy that can help organizations increase consumer’s digital engagement.
  • Put security to test- With the increased usage and reliance on digital platforms, companies should perform regular Penetration Test or Security Risk Assessment periodically, and after any network changes, to verify their cybersecurity posture.

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