Young people need better cyber security education in order to protect their entire digital life, PwC’s director of cyber security has warned.

Asam Malik reflected with BusinessCloud on a government survey which found that people aged 16-25 are the worst age group in the UK at keeping secure and unique passwords.

“The survey didn’t surprise me,” Malik said. “People pick up good cyber security practice and password management through their employer because they’re expected to do that. Then they adopt that mindset when it comes to their personal life and their personal information.

“However, young people who are potentially not in employment won’t necessarily have that awareness. If a young person is using the same password for every site, that is basically a passport to their entire digital life.

“When [hackers] get a password they will test the same password across multiple platforms. That makes it possible to take over a person’s digital identity and then use that to apply for credit cards, loans and worse.”

Once your online accounts have been breached it’s already too late, he said – and victims might not even realise it has happened.

“If you have had your details breached it might be months or even years before you become aware of it. We’ve seen [cyberciminals] apply for loans, and the first time you’re aware of it is when the default comes through,” Malik said. 

To start practising better password management Malik offered this simple advice: “Make passwords unique and meaningful to yourself and make sure that you are changing your passwords on a regular basis.”

Whilst workplaces are a great training ground for password management, Malik also suggests that young people live in a culture in which sharing personal information is second nature.  

“[Young people] share a wealth of information about where they’re going, where they’re eating, which companies they work with and which products they’ve bought. There is an awful lot of information about younger people in the public domain,” he said.

Malik suggests that the root cause of this potential problem is a lack of effective educational awareness.  

“It just becomes noise,” he explained. “When you log on to certain websites there is often a warning about security but people want to click through it as fast possible. They see it so often that they ignore it.”