Security Risks of 'Generation Xbox'

By Larry Walsh  |  Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 15:03 PM

Someone, I can't remember who, dubbed the newest generation of IT and knowledge workers at "Generation Xbox." I remember laughing because I couldn't tell to which generation I belonged or what to call this new breed. Born in the late '60s, I was definitely a product of the Baby Boomers. However, I was too old to be a part of Gen X. There were attempts to call the new generation behind us "Gen Y," but that just seemed wrong. Generation Xbox, the first generation to grow up on the Internet, is apt.

What I hear from business and IT executives is Generation Xbox is problematic to the enterprise. They have a sense of entitlement to apps and devices, regardless of their source, for both their work and personal lives. And they want ubiquitous access to information and resources, and the ability to take and share data, regardless of its classification. Social networking, myriad collaboration tools, multi-gig portable media and always-on connectivity spells a security nightmare for security pros.

Not necessarily. I was surprised to discover that Generation Xbox is far more risk aware than many may perceive. While they may exhibit cavalier characteristics, a new survey by Symantec and Applied Research-West shows they understand the risks that exists to data and believe they are equipped to deal with threats.

This is amazing, since the same group readily admits that they install unauthorized software on their machines, store corporate data on personal computers and portable media, and will use corporate machines for both personal and work uses interchangeable.

Likewise, CIOs and IT executives who participated in the survey found that Generation Xbox is no more difficult to work with than their older counterparts. In fact, they adopt new technologies and techniques faster than the previous generation.

Is there some logic behind greater exposure reduces risk? There are some statistical theories in communicable diseases and finance that say the more risk you're exposed to, the lower the likelihood of compromise. I'm not sure if I buy those theories, but Generation Xbox is demonstrating that ubiquitous, communal data sharing and collaboration doesn't necessarily open the enterprise to compromise.

Ironically, though, both Generation Xbox and the old farts concur on one point: All this collaboration software and access isn't necessarily producing tangible benefits. Only a handful report productivity increases resulting from these tools, but they are working more.