Younger workers and data security

Is there a low-tech solution to high-tech theft prevention?

Ever had to examine one problem from two completely different viewpoints? I got to do that after speaking to the Mystery Writers of America Southwest chapter in a session called "Technology goes bad" on Saturday, then on Tuesday talking to Symantec about protecting data. Saturday I told writers how to help characters steal data, then Tuesday I considered how to stop them.

Even more fun, many of the tools people use to steal data are part of everyday life for younger employees called Millennials. Smart phones, portable music players and social network addiction make for happy Millennials, but sad security officers.

There are almost as many Millennials - born between 1980 and 2000 - as there are Baby Boomers. Call them the Internet Generation, Echo Boomers or whippersnappers, there's a bunch of them now hitting the job market.

Fortune Magazine called the Millennials "the most high-maintenance, but also most high-performing workforce in the history of the world." And they're driving big companies with strict security guidelines crazy with their demands to use Facebook and Instant Messaging, download any new program they see on the Web, and sneer at anything not Web-enabled.

During the Symantec call, in which the company was updating journalists about efforts to integrate Altiris network management into more Symantec product lines, the problem of Millennials came up. It's one thing to have products that help you stop an employee from copying data to her iPod (and Symantec does), but another to mesh old-line security people with young "let's all share everything and talk about it on MySpace" employees.

Symantec says the small business market is important to them, and it is working to make sure smaller companies can afford more security products. Yet few small businesses will pay even discounted prices to get the level of security management necessary to completely lock down user computers.

So how do you keep a fired employee from copying all your sales contacts right before they leave? One way is to act like the big companies and escort fired employees from the premises immediately. Pay them for two weeks, but send the person home.

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