Protecting the Mental Health of Cybersecurity Leaders

By Ram Movva, CEO, Securin [ Join Cybersecurity Insiders ]
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Last year was a brutal year in the cybersecurity field. Technologies like generative AI introduced new attack vectors to already outsized attack surfaces, and security teams were overwhelmed with sheer amounts of data while dealing with outdated legacy systems. Top to bottom, security leaders have their work cut out for them.

Cyberattacks nearly tripled last year according to Verizon’s 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report. The increase in sheer volume has created an alarming concern about the mental health of cybersecurity leaders and their teams as they bear the brunt and responsibility of protecting organizations from a seemingly never-ending onslaught of attacks.

In this high-pressure environment, leaders need to address the growing stress and toll that security professionals face and identify solutions to alleviate the burden of the job.

What’s Causing Mental Health Problems?

The cybersecurity workforce continues to face a shortage of trained talent and skilled security professionals. In a recent World Economic Forum study, 78% of cyber executives reported that their workers lack the in-house skills to fully achieve their cybersecurity objectives. Even more concerning is that 57% of respondents from an ISC2 report believe that the limited amount of experienced cybersecurity staff is putting organizations at moderate to extreme risk of experiencing a cyberattack.

Along with the shrinking talent pool, threats and vulnerabilities are also on the rise and have almost doubled since 2017. Even federal agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are falling behind on catching the growing number of common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs), leaving organizations with a vital gap in security intelligence and even more vulnerable to breaches and attacks.

With the average breach costing organizations $4.45 million in expenses, cybersecurity leaders are burdened with not just protecting sensitive and proprietary data but also financial resources, too. With added regulatory pressures and cybersecurity disclosures by the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission), their role and any shortcomings are more visible and scrutinized than ever before.

The combination of these factors amounts to an incredible pressure to remain vigilant 24/7, leading to prolonged stress and a negative toll on mental health.

How That Affects Cybersecurity Teams

For C-suite leaders, it is imperative to recognize the role mental health plays when leading a business. Executives must be sharp, agile, and ready to take on new challenges at a moment’s notice. Yet all too often, mental well-being takes a backseat for security teams.

The challenges of combating cyber threats are increasing as the number of threats continues to grow. With tighter budgets and smaller cybersecurity teams, leaders are forced to work longer hours and more days, building up and leading to increased stress.

CISOs, CIOs and other cybersecurity executives have a particularly vulnerable position where they are the face of defenses, security applications, and attack surface management. Any breach or attack immediately falls onto them. With increasing scrutiny from other leadership and regulatory bodies like the SEC, security managers and leaders need solutions to distribute the burden and alleviate stress from their already high-stakes position.

Strategies for Supporting Security Leaders’ Mental Well-Being

There are many ways to go about lightening the load on security leaders, but the biggest one is by partnering with external experts to effectively support their in-house team. The collaboration with trusted and successful cybersecurity vendors supports established security practices and distributes workloads more evenly. By working in tandem, security managers can remain fresh and more vigilant while overseeing the cybersecurity operations of an organization.

By taking advantage of external partnerships, leaders also reduce the risk of costly remediation efforts. Rather than trying to clean house after systems are exploited, security leaders can take control of protecting their assets, saving data and financial resources.

Additionally, third-party vendors can offer more specialized and up to date security measures. With solutions like automated penetration testing, advanced vulnerability intelligence, and continuous attack surface management, security leaders have an around the clock, holistic awareness of their attack surface and security posture. With a proactive partnership, there is less of a chance of risks going under the radar. The need for 24/7 security can be split, and in-house teams are free to develop preemptive security measures rather than dealing solely with threats.

What’s Next

Mental health is health. Cybersecurity workers have an incredibly stressful and high-stakes job that can seem relentless at times. There are new risks and vulnerabilities every day, and it can seem like there is a never-ending slew of new cyber threats knocking at your door.

It is important for organizations to take care of and support cybersecurity leaders and their teams. Talk to them. Figure out what they need and how you can help them. By providing the right tools and solutions, executives can save their cyber team’s mental health from chronic stress, negative physiological responses, and burnout, keeping them fresh and ready for anything to come.

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