Recent research found that over 90 percent of cybersecurity professionals feel stressed – does that reflect what you’ve seen and experienced in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity professionals are under constant pressure to protect their organizations from cyber threats, and this pressure can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. In my career, I have personally had trouble sleeping, feeling anxious, and had difficulty concentrating due to stress. I have also seen colleagues experience similar symptoms, and some have even left the industry due to burnout.
Apart from the relentless pressure of cyberthreats, what else might be contributing to high stress levels in cybersecurity?
There are several factors that can contribute to high-stress levels in the cybersecurity sector, including, high workloads, long hours, staff and skills shortages, and more.
Cybersecurity professionals are often responsible for protecting large and complex networks from a constantly evolving threat landscape. This can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed and overworked. Many have to work long and sometimes unpredictable hours to respond to incidents and threats. This can disrupt their work-life balance and lead to fatigue and stress.
There is a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals – the latest data shows the cybersecurity workforce gap has reached a record high of 4 million. This can put additional pressure on existing staff, as they are expected to do more with less.
The impact of the gap is compounded by a lack of skills. The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult for cybersecurity professionals to keep up with the latest threats and technologies. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and stress.
Last, but not least, attacker behavior can be a significant cause of stress. Cyber attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized. This can make it difficult for cybersecurity professionals to stay ahead of the curve, and it can lead to a sense of helplessness and frustration. Some attackers deliberately launch attacks during the night or at weekends. Being woken up at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning to deal with a rapidly escalating ransomware incident will inevitably have an impact on stress and anxiety levels.
Do cybersecurity professionals find it easy to talk about these issues?
I don’t think they do. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health in the workplace, and cybersecurity professionals may be particularly reluctant to talk about their struggles due to the nature of their work. They may be concerned that they will be perceived as being weak or vulnerable, or that it could impact their career.
Is this an industry issue or an employer issue?
Both. The industry can foster a more supportive and inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health challenges. They can do this by providing mental health training for managers and employees, and by offering employee assistance programs and other resources. Individual employers also have a role to play. They can encourage a healthy work-life balance and provide opportunities for staff to develop the skills they need.
It is important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. Everyone experiences mental health challenges from time to time, and it is important to seek help when needed. There is no shame in having a mental health condition, and there are many effective treatments available.
This wasn’t your first PukaUp ride – any lasting thoughts or memories you’d like to share?
This year’s ride felt a bit like a family reunion – lots of friendly faces from previous years, as well as new people to talk to and share this amazing experience with.
Day 1 blessed us with some good cycling weather, cool temperatures, and 90 kilometers worth of tailwinds. It ended with a tough 10 km climb followed by a fun descent to take us back into Lorne.
Day 2 was a tough day in the office. We started off with an 8km climb, and took in some amazing scenery and even some unsealed roads. We followed the Amies Gran Fond route, which has a fun descent down to Skene’s Creek on the Great Ocean Road. This is where it became a bit more challenging. We had 40km left to get back to our base and had a solid and gusty headwind the whole way back to Lorne. We had some impressively strong riders that stayed on the front for 30km+ whilst the rest of us tried to hang on and tried not to look like we were suffering.
Needless to say, the hotel was a welcome sight. Hats off to my colleague Brendan Hassen for putting in a massive effort and making it back under his own steam.
Day 3 couldn’t have been better regarding weather, route, and overall conditions. We left a little later in the morning to complete an out and back on the Great Ocean Road to Skene’s Creek covering a total of 80 km. The wind was light, the sun was out, and it was a beautiful ride.
There was a lot of support between the riders and encouragement for those feeling the effect of 240km+ from the two previous days—lots of smiles, photos and reflections on the previous days.
The PukaUp event is all about making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and having honest, authentic conversations with people. I can’t wait to do it again next year.