Concern for cybersecurity workforce mental health is rising

On National Stress Awareness Day 2022, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to consider that healthcare cybersecurity professionals experience higher-than-normal stress and may face elevated mental health risks.

There is the stress caused by a continuous threat of attacks that currently weighs significantly on the entire cyber security workforce.

Preliminary findings from research into burnout among cyber professionals by Australian mental wellbeing support organization Cybermindz, announced this week, indicate a worrying trend, says Dr Andrew Reeves, the organisation’s director of research and behavior of Cybermindz, which lead study.

He explained in the research update that on the key burnout metric of professional effectiveness, the cyber professionals surveyed so far scored significantly worse than the general population.

“We also compared their burnout rates on this metric with another highly burned-out industry: that of frontline healthcare workers, and found that cyber professionals scored considerably lower than even this group on this metric,” he added.

The cascading effect of cyber work stress

Such a deterioration in the mental health of cyber workers – which protects the operation of essential services such as water, energy, telecommunications, health care, financial services, food distribution and transportation – affect entire populations, suggests the organization.

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“Most of our critical systems are now exposed to cyber risk – it is not difficult to see that a reduction in our national cyber capability due to psychological burnout can have downstream effects on the population” , said Cybermindz founder and industry veteran Peter Coroneos.

“The pandemic, floods and fires have shown us that the systems we rely on are not to be taken for granted. Cyber ​​attacks are an everyday occurrence and, unlike natural disasters, there is no not a conceivable end point in sight,” he said in the announcement.

Coroneos did not mince words as he defined the stressors that cyber security professionals experience:

  • A single failure through a cyber breach that can affect millions of people makes headlines.
  • The rapidly evolving and relentless attack environment challenges the sense of job accomplishment among the cyber workforce.
  • Cyber ​​professionals live with the idea that the successful attack that could end their careers could be just around the corner.
  • While largely mission-driven, cyber professionals are not impervious to the sense of desperation that can be caused by a continuous threat of attack.
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“We must build a strong and resilient cyber workforce. If they fall, we all fall,” he urged in the research update.

Resignations increase with ransomware

Mimecast’s latest global State of Ransomware survey of 1,100 cybersecurity decision makers conducted in July also indicates the severity of these concerns.

As ransomware continued to grow in 2022, burnout and resignation rates are on the rise, according to the company’s blog last week.

“Of the many consequences of this state of siege, the cybersecurity professionals we surveyed cited a strong human toll, including everything from burnout and absenteeism to staff defections and diminished confidence in the ability to their organizations to defend against attacks. Fully a third said they planned to leave their role in the next two years due to stress,” wrote Dr Kiri Addison, chief data scientist for threat intelligence and overwatch on Mimecast.

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About 54% of Mimecast respondents reported a negative impact on their mental health.

Such metrics can predict intentions to resign.

“I think we have seen the first indication of a cohort of professionals who question their own effectiveness and conclude that their efforts are in vain. When good people leave the industry, we lose so much knowledge and expertise. So it increases the pressure on those who As a psychological driver of burnout, it is something we should be concerned about,” concluded Reeves.

While routine cyber incident response training is necessary to keep patients safe, it can also strengthen healthcare cybersecurity professionals, according to CISOs we spoke with Health IT News last month in a discussion on building cybersecurity ‘muscle memory.’

Regularly conducting healthcare cybersecurity incident response training exercises can build confidence in knowing what to do, they said.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.


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