Recession or stress?

Issue 2/3 2023 Cyber Security, News

Anna Collard.

In 2023 there have been so many lay-offs in the technology industry that TechCrunch labelled it a ‘reckoning’ in its extensive list released late April. To date, across numerous organisations that include Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Dropbox and Zoom, to name but a few, there have been nearly 169 000 lay-offs. Meta is expected to lay off 10 000 people in the next few months and Disney 7000 people.

And yet, in cybersecurity there are still more ‘jobs open than people to fill them’. According to Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist at KnowBe4 Africa, the biggest challenge facing the cybersecurity profession right now is not the sudden loss of a job, but the long-term impact of skills shortages and stress.

“The cybersecurity skills shortage has meant that fewer roles in this profession have been affected by the lay-offs,” she says. “However, there is ongoing job security anxiety for people in the technology industry, regardless of their roles. Cybersecurity professionals are juggling high-demand jobs that are intensely stressful, and they rarely switch off. Security is a 24/7 job where nobody notices the hard work done until something goes wrong.”

A fact echoed by a recent report on the state of SecOps and automation, which found that 93% of security professionals said their alerts had doubled over the past five years. 56% handle around 1000 alerts a day; 83% have alert fatigue. Cybersecurity personnel are batting down the defences and battling it out on a daily basis but, as Collard points out, the moment they slip up, it becomes a blame game, which can make this an intensely toxic environment.

This is reflected in the Tines State of Mental Health in Cybersecurity 2022 report, which reiterated this reality. Around 27% of professionals believed their mental health had declined over the past year, 66% experience stress at work, 64% say their work affects their mental health and 58% are on medication to manage their mental well-being. Only half are in good physical health, with a mere 42% getting a much-needed eight hours of sleep a night.

“This shifts the conversation from plugging the gaps to making cybersecurity significantly healthier for those entering into the profession,” says Collard. “The holes left by limited access to skilled people are not going to be filled if security remains a space where stress goes to thrive. Amidst the recession and the economic crisis, cybersecurity roles remain empty, which says that the problem may not exclusively be lack of skills development.”

Cybersecurity is a fascinating industry and for those who love a challenge and thrive on problem solving, it is a space where they can shine. But not if that is at the expense of their health. There are plenty of stories, told around the cybersecurity campfire, of a CISO having a heart attack in the middle of a security incident, or shortly after. The Tines survey found that nearly 30% of cybersecurity professionals believed their mental health was getting worse.

“Cybersecurity is fun,” says Collard. “It is interesting and dynamic. But these benefits are often overshadowed by that sense of dread that something is about to go horribly wrong. Incidents are unexpected, stressful and often leave teams exhausted, and there is no time to rest before the next incident hits. Cybercriminals are very well rewarded for their diligence when it comes to exploiting every vulnerability they can find. Cybersecurity teams have to chase these vulnerabilities and threats to ensure nothing is left to chance.”

To minimise the risk of losing talented security people, companies need to look beyond the gaps and skills and into providing truly holistic support to their security professionals. This goes beyond upskilling. Now, security teams need mental wellness support that kicks the toxic blame-game dynamic out of the door.

“If you want to attract more people into cybersecurity, you need to put controls in place that minimise the stress and emphasise the value of your people,” concludes Collard.

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Insights from the 2023 Cloud Security Report
News Cyber Security
Increased costs, compliance requirements, hybrid and multi-cloud complexities, reduced visibility, and a lack of skilled practitioners cause organisations to slow or adjust their cloud adoption strategies.

New algorithm for OT cybersecurity risk management
Industrial (Industry) Cyber Security News Commercial (Industry)
OTORIO’s new risk management model and attack graph analysis algorithm technology, calculates OT cybersecurity threats and provides risk mitigation actions, prioritised according to actual exposure and potential impact on operations.

Robots: a security opportunity or a threat?
Editor's Choice News Conferences & Events
Professor Martin Gill, Director of Perpetuity Research & Consultancy International and the School of Criminal Justice at the University of South Africa (UNISA), will be holding a Global Thought Leadership Security webinar on 22 June 2023 to discuss the contentious issue of robots operating in the security industry.

UNISA sponsors Securex seminars
Editor's Choice News Conferences & Events
As part of UNISA’s 150-year birthday celebrations, UNISA has sponsored the Securex Theatre Seminar Programme, which will include a number of prominent industry specialists, academics and security practitioners focusing on a number of themes.

Veeam finds 93% of cyberattacks target backup storage
Cyber Security
Veeam unveils the results of its 2023 Ransomware Trends Report, showing cyber insurance is becoming too expensive and 21% of organisations are unable to recover their data after paying the ransom.

Cybersecurity providers must first protect themselves
Cyber Security
In a joint advisory released by cybersecurity agencies across the United States, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, managed security service providers (MSSPs) have been warned of a sharp increase in cyberattacks targeting their systems.

Sustainability School opens for enrolment
Education (Industry) News Security Services & Risk Management
Three-part programme, first developed for Schneider Electric employees, is now available for free for companies worldwide. Attendees learn how to future-proof their businesses and accelerate their decarbonisation journeys.

Accenture Technology Vision 2023
Editor's Choice News
New report states that generative AI is expected to usher in a ‘bold new future’ for business, merging physical and digital worlds, transforming the way people work and live.

Cyber attackers used over 500 tools and tactics in 2022
Cyber Security News
The most common root causes of attacks were unpatched vulnerabilities and compromised credentials, while ransomware continues to be the most common ‘end game’ and attacker dwell time is shrinking – for better or worse.

Economists divided on global economic recovery
Editor's Choice News
Growth outlook has strengthened in all regions, but chief economists are divided on the likelihood of a global recession in 2023; experts are concerned about trade-off between managing inflation and maintaining financial stability, with 76% anticipating central banks to struggle to bring down inflation.