Gen Z, millennials are ‘weak link’ as AI fuels new cyberattack workplace threats

This story was first published by Digiday sibling WorkLife

New research from EY reveals a growing cybersecurity anxiety among U.S. employees, with younger generations particularly vulnerable to sophisticated AI-powered attacks. 

Experts emphasize the need for engaging and tailored training programs and a culture of cyber awareness to combat evolving threats.

A survey of 1,000 workers in the U.S. by EY paints an alarming picture of the cybersecurity landscape. More than half (53%) of employees fear their organization will be targeted by cybercriminals, with about one-third (34%) worried their own actions could be the weak link. This anxiety is particularly acute among Gen Z and millennials, who feel less equipped to navigate the increasingly complex world of cyber threats compared to their older counterparts.

“The risk landscape has become incredibly complex,” says Jim Guinn II, EY Americas Cybersecurity leader. “Geopolitical tensions, constantly evolving regulations, and the rapid integration of new technologies, especially AI, all contribute to this challenge.” The study found that 85% of employees believe AI has made cyberattacks more sophisticated, with 78% expressing concerns about its use in malicious activities.

The EY survey highlights a stark generational divide in cybersecurity preparedness. Gen Z, despite being digital natives, are losing confidence in their ability to identify phishing attempts, one of the most common cyberattack tactics. Only 31% feel very confident in spotting these threats, a significant drop from 40% in 2022. This vulnerability is further emphasized by the fact that 72% admit to clicking on suspicious links at work, a figure significantly higher than other generations.

This lack of awareness translates into heightened anxiety. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z and millennial employees fear losing their jobs if they were to compromise their organization’s security. This apprehension is compounded by a lack of clarity regarding reporting protocols for suspected cyberattacks, with younger generations significantly less likely to understand their company’s procedures.

Despite these concerns, the data provides a silver lining. Gen Z, while less confident in their abilities, are increasingly knowledgeable about cybersecurity. This presents a crucial opportunity for organizations to invest in upskilling and training programs tailored to their experiences as digital natives.

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