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Report: Seventy Percent of Young Workers Ignore Technology Rules

December 15, 2011

Seven out of 10 young employees frequently ignore IT policies, and one in four is a victim of identity theft before the age of 30, according to a study by Cisco.

The final set of findings from the three-part Cisco Connected World Technology Report reveals startling attitudes toward IT policies and growing security threats posed by the next generation of employees entering the workforce — a demographic that grew up with the Internet and has an increasingly on-demand lifestyle that mixes personal and business activity in the workplace.

The Cisco Connected World Technology Report is an international study that examines the next generation of workers’ demands and behavior involving network access, mobile device freedom, social media, and work lifestyles. The findings are key in explaining how this next-generation workforce’s behavior heightens personal and corporate risk amid a complex threat landscape, a correlation that is spotlighted in more depth in the Cisco 2011 Annual Security Report.

The latest findings from the Cisco Connected World Technology Report reveal growing concerns for employers.

The desire for on-demand access to information is so ingrained in the incoming generation of employees that many young professionals take extreme measures to access the Internet, even if it compromises their company or their own security. Such behavior includes secretly using neighbors’ wireless connections, sitting in front of businesses to access free Wi-Fi networks, and borrowing other people’s devices without supervision.

Considering that at least one of every three employees (36%) responded negatively when asked if they respect their IT departments, balancing IT policy compliance with young employees’ desires for more flexible access to social media, devices, and remote access is testing the limits of traditional corporate cultures. At the same time, these employee demands are placing greater pressure on recruiters, hiring managers, IT departments, and corporate cultures to allow more flexibility in the hope the next wave of talent can provide an edge over competitors.

The findings will be presented by Cisco’s chief information officer and chief security officer during a free Internet TV broadcast at

Key Findings

The second annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report surveys more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries that represent the largest or fastest growing economies. It was commissioned to understand how companies must balance business needs and risk management with the next generation of employees’ technology expectations and behavior.

Risky behavior’s impact on identity theft rates

Perhaps as a direct result of loosening privacy boundaries, about one in four college students (24%) and employees (23%) experiences identity theft before the age of 30. When applied to a broader pool of people, two of five college students said they know of friends or family members who have experienced identity theft. The following findings provide insight into the frequency of identity theft among this generation.

Security and online privacy
One in three (33%) college students globally does not mind sharing personal information online, believes privacy boundaries are loosening, or does not think about privacy, providing foreshadowing for how the next generation of the global workforce will address information online — perhaps for business as well as personal activities.

Adhering to IT policies
Of those who were aware of IT policies, seven of every 10 (70%) employees worldwide admitted to breaking policy with varying regularity. Among many reasons, the most common was the belief that employees were not doing anything wrong (33%). One in five (22%) cited the need to access unauthorized programs and applications to get their job done, while 19% admitted the policies are not enforced. Some (18%) said they do not have time to think about policies when they are working, and others either said adhering to the policies is not convenient (16%), they forget to do so (15%), or their bosses aren’t watching them (14%).
Two of three (67%) respondents said IT policies need to be modified to address real-life demands for more work flexibility.
Companies restrict many devices and social media applications. Of these, young employees said online gaming (37%) was the most commonly restricted application. Apple iPods (15%) were the most commonly restricted device.
One in 10 (10%) employees globally said IT policies prohibit the use of iPads and tablets, signaling a growing challenge for IT teams as tablet popularity increases. Three of 10 employees (31%) said social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were prohibited as well.
Three of five employees (61%) believe they are not responsible for protecting information and devices, believing instead that IT and/or service providers are accountable.

Risky behavior: ‘Borrowing’ wireless connections from neighbors and stores
In the old days, neighbors would ask for eggs or sugar. Now they are asking for Internet access. Almost one in four college students (23%) has asked a neighbor for access to a computer or the Internet, and almost one in five (19%) admitted accessing a neighbor’s wireless connection without permission. About one in five college students globally (19%) admitted standing outside retail outlets to use free wireless connections. About one in 10 (9%) has asked to use a stranger’s mobile phone. Overall, two of three employees worldwide (64%) said they had done at least one of these actions.


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