It is just about time for high school seniors and returning college students to pack up and head off to college. Every year Beloit College puts out a “mindset list” that documents what they call the “cultural touchstones” of the incoming freshman class. It basically lays out what common experiences the current crop of 18 year olds have had that drive their frame of reference for all future experiences and learning.
Since in four years these kids will be our incoming employees, here’s my take on their top 10 “security touchstones” that will drive their security frame of reference:
- They have always had email and never trusted an email address – spam and viruses were always part of their email experience.
- They have never used a directory to find a way to communicate with someone else. They have always used “ring of trust” – depending on friends to connect them to the friends of friends.
- Outside of their real world friends, the next biggest ring o’ trust is via search engines – they trust search engines the way prior generations trusted telephone books.
- They grew up with Error 404 and cell phones – they are used to short outages of critical services. The Internet (and cable TV) are their standards for reliability, not landline dial-tone or even electric service.
- When they change jobs, their cellphone number and their Facebook page stay constant. They own their primary identity, not their employers.
- They prefer texting to video and audio, as it allows them to multi-task.
- When they do use video and audio, they have never been subject to pricing that charges by the minute or by the distance – they grew up in a flat rate world, or in a world of Skype where talking is free.
- They have been conditioned to believe that content is free and that if they wait a while, DRM goes away.
- In college, the vast majority of them encounter Network Access Control – the university kicks them off the college network if they don’t take basic security protections.
- The same percentage of them fall for scams and malware in online social networks as the percentage of their parents who fell for email scams and the percentage of their grandparents who fell for real world scams. Despite the changes, they are still just human beings after all.
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