Generational Cybersecurity: What it is and why it matters.

Cybersecurity - April 04, 2023
Christopher Rence Editor

Early cybersecurity education is needed to create more informed citizens.


The importance of organizational cybersecurity is well understood. There is broad understanding that we need to protect our companies and infrastructure from cyber threats. The impact of cyber-attacks on businesses can be significant, with the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. costing $9.44M

A cyber-attack can lead to:

  • Financial losses: Cyber-attacks can result in significant financial losses for businesses, including the costs of repairing systems, recovering data, and paying legal fees.
  • Disruption of operations: Cyber-attacks can disrupt business operations, leading to lost productivity, delays in service, and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Damage to reputation: Cyber-attacks can damage a business’s reputation, particularly if customer data is compromised or if there is a prolonged outage. This can lead to a loss of trust and a decline in business.
  • Legal and regulatory consequences: Cyber-attacks can result in legal and regulatory consequences for businesses, particularly if they fail to protect customer data or if they violate privacy laws.
  • Loss of intellectual property: Cyber-attacks can result in the theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets and proprietary information. This can give competitors an advantage and undermine a business’s competitiveness.


But to keep our businesses safe, we need to start educating people early in life. The reality is that employees are one of the most vulnerable entry points for a cyber-attack on a business. By starting to build cyber-literacy early, we can create more educated citizens, which leads to more aware employees.

What is Generational Cybersecurity?

Generational cybersecurity is a term I coined for educating people on how to identify and protect themselves against threats throughout each stage of their life. The reality is that we all have a role to play in helping keep our society safe. Educators, parents, employers, and legislators need to be doing more to build an understanding and awareness of how cyber-criminals operate and what steps individuals can take to stay safe throughout their lives.

Start early by educating children on how to identify cyber-threats

Children are among the most vulnerable to cyber-attacks. And the consequences can be long-lasting. Some of the potential impacts of cyber-attacks on children include:


  • Identity theft: If a child’s personal information is compromised in a cyber-attack, it can be used to commit identity theft. This can have long-term consequences for their credit history and financial well-being.
  • Exposure to inappropriate content: Children may be exposed to inappropriate content as a result of a cyber-attack, such as malware or phishing emails that contain links to adult or violent content.
  • Cyberbullying: Cyber-attacks can be used to target children with cyberbullying, which can have serious emotional and psychological consequences.
  • Online predators: Cyber-attacks can be used by online predators to gain access to personal information or to target children for grooming or exploitation.
  • Damage to reputation: Cyber-attacks can damage a child’s reputation, particularly if they are victimized by cyberbullying or if their personal information is shared online.
  • Psychological effects: Cyber-attacks can have a significant psychological impact on children, including anxiety, depression, and fear of using technology.


It’s important for parents, educators, and other caregivers to be aware of these risks and to take steps to protect children online. This includes educating children about safe online behavior, setting appropriate boundaries and guidelines for online activities, and monitoring their online activities to ensure their safety. Additionally, businesses and organizations that collect and store children’s personal information have a responsibility to take appropriate measures to protect that information from cyber-attacks.


Early education leads to more informed employees

The truth is the actions that lead to the exploitation of children are essentially the same as those that put our businesses at risk. By starting cybersecurity literacy early, we will not only help individuals protect themselves throughout their lives, but we’ll also create more informed employees that will lead to less vulnerable companies.

Common VulnerabilityRisks to ChildrenRisks to Employees
Clicking suspicious links

Children may be more likely to click on links in emails or social media messages without verifying the source. These links can lead to phishing scams or malware downloads.


Phishing emails are a common way for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive information. Employees who click on links or open attachments in phishing emails can inadvertently give attackers access to their accounts or the company’s network.


Using weak passwordsChildren may use simple, easy-to-guess passwords or they may share their passwords with friends. This can make it easier for cyber criminals to access their accounts and steal personal information.

Employees who use weak passwords or reuse passwords across multiple accounts can make it easier for cybercriminals to gain access to their accounts or the company’s network.


Sharing personal / sensitive information

Children may be more willing to share personal information online, such as their name, age, address, and school. This information can be used by cybercriminals to steal identities or commit other crimes.


Employees who share sensitive information, either intentionally or accidentally, can put the company at risk of data breaches or other cybersecurity incidents.


Not keeping software and devices up to date

Children may not be aware of the importance of keeping their devices and software up to date with the latest security patches. This can make their devices more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.


Employees who do not keep their software up to date, including operating systems and applications, can leave the company’s network vulnerable to cyber threats
Using public Wi-Fi and connecting to unsecured networks

Children may use public Wi-Fi networks without realizing the security risks. These networks can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which can compromise their personal information.


Employees who connect to unsecured networks, such as public Wi-Fi networks, can put the company’s data at risk of interception by cybercriminals.


Using personal devices for work purposes

Employees who use personal devices for work purposes, particularly if those devices are not secure, can put the company’s data and network at risk.


Sharing inappropriate content

Children may share inappropriate or explicit content online, which can have serious consequences for their reputation and future opportunities.


Interacting with strangers online

Children may be more likely to interact with strangers online, which can put them at risk of online predators and cyberbullying.


Employees can have a false sense of trust, which can expose companies to social engineering scams.


The U.S. is on the right path to starting cybersecurity education early, but there is more work to be done. In recent years, the U.S. has taken several steps to increase cybersecurity awareness and education, including the establishment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE). The government has also launched numerous initiatives to improve cybersecurity education in schools and universities and to promote cybersecurity best practices among businesses and individuals.


However, despite these efforts, the U.S. still faces significant cybersecurity challenges. Many businesses and individuals lack the knowledge and resources to effectively protect themselves against cyber threats, which can lead to devastating data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents. Countries such as Israel and Singapore are often cited as models of effective cybersecurity policies and practices. The U.S. can learn from these countries as it continues to develop its cybersecurity capabilities. Providing cybersecurity education in schools can have a significant impact on their cybersecurity awareness and improve overall online safety by instilling:


  • Improved knowledge: Cybersecurity education can provide students with a solid foundation of knowledge about cybersecurity risks and best practices. This knowledge can help students better understand how to protect their personal information and devices from cyber threats.
  • Safer online behavior: With better knowledge about cybersecurity risks and best practices, students can make more informed decisions about their online behavior. They will be more likely to use strong passwords, avoid phishing scams, and keep their devices and software up to date, among other things.
  • Better protection of personal information: Students who receive cybersecurity education will be more aware of the importance of protecting their personal information, and they will be better equipped to do so. They will know how to identify and avoid online scams, protect their online accounts, and manage their privacy settings on social media platforms.
  • Increased preparation for future careers: Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, and providing students with cybersecurity education can prepare them for future careers in this field. This can help to address the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals and help to fill the skills gap in this area.


Overall, providing cybersecurity education to high school students can have a positive impact on their online safety and security, as well as prepare them for future careers in cybersecurity. It can also contribute to a more secure and resilient digital infrastructure for all. It’s time for all of us to advocate for basic cybersecurity training in our schools. Minnesota Technology Association makes it easy for everyday citizens to join the cause. Click to read more about their 2023 legislative priorities and how you can help support this important issue today.

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