Careers & People

6/14/2018
03:10 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Demystifying Mental Health in the Infosec Community

Security experts talk about burnout, diversity, mental health, and legal issues in a new Community track at Black Hat USA.

Security experts at different companies find common ground in facing the same technical issues: too many alerts, not enough talent, and advanced attackers breaching basic defenses. But many also face the same nontechnical issues: burnout, mental health problems, legal problems, diversity, inclusion, attribution, work-life balance, substance abuse, and career challenges.

This year's Black Hat USA conference, which will take place Aug. 4 to 9 in Las Vegas, welcomes the addition of a new Community track created to shed light on these nontechnical topics. The idea is to open up a discussion of relevant issues affecting the infosec community alongside the usual technical talks.

In an industry as tiny and tight-knit as cyber, acknowledging nontechnical problems is just as important as unpuzzling technical ones. You (usually) see an alert when your systems are breached, but you rarely get the same red flag when a colleague is struggling with a mental condition.

Joe Slowik, adversary hunter at Dragos, says he was planning to submit another topic for his Black Hat talk before deciding to address the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in cybersecurity during a session entitled "Demystifying PTSD in the Cybersecurity Environment."

He changed his mind after reading the article "Cybersecurity PTSD Affects Many Security Professionals." Its author had swapped "PTSD" for "Job Fatigue" following upset among readers, acknowledging the term was inappropriate. The crux of the article is about how the industrywide skills shortage puts pressure on security professionals, who suffer job fatigue due to long hours, high stress, and growing workloads as threats become more complex and companies can't afford to address them all.

Infosec pros are no strangers to stress, but for those who live with PTSD, use of the term seemed wrong. Slowik, who served in Afghanistan and suffered from medical trauma, is among those who feel that way. "We dance around topics like these without really understanding or addressing them," he explains. "Flippant references to the subject in the community struck me as an ill-informed moment."

The number of diagnosed cases of PTSD is increasing as a result of military service, sexual trauma, and other harrowing experiences, he says. At some point, you or someone you know may live with the condition. In his talk, Slowik will share the story of how PTSD has influenced his life and career in cybersecurity, which he describes as a "cognitive haven."

His idea is to provide a perspective on what the condition looks like and give people a better idea of how they can help co-workers, friends, and others across the security community who struggle. By keeping matters "light," he hopes to give people an opportunity to discuss these subjects while addressing how infosec pros can support PTSD survivors.

There are good and bad ways to approach the subject, he points out. When remarks come from people who understand, that's one thing. When they come from a place of ignorance, however, there's an opportunity to educate the speaker on mental conditions and their effects.

Slowik's Black Hat talk is one of many addressing the issue of mental health in the security community. Christian Dameff and Jay Radcliffe will address the serious and important topic of mental health risk factors during their session "Mental Health Hacks: Fighting Burnout Depression and Suicide in the Hacker Community."

Dameff, a hacker who works as an emergency medicine physician, and Radcliffe, a security researcher who has lived with mental health conditions, will discuss the pressures of high-stress jobs, abnormal sleep schedules, social depersonalization, and other risk factors contributing to substance abuse and suicide. Their idea is also to get rid of the stigma and talk about topics that people are reluctant to mention but are broadly important.

The Community track is packed with sessions related to how security professionals live and work. Other topics include cognitive stress, law and policy, autism, sexual harassment and assault, hiring and retaining female security engineers, and addiction.

Related Content:

 

Top industry experts will offer a range of information and insight on who the bad guys are – and why they might be targeting your enterprise. Click for more information

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
CD17
100%
0%
CD17,
User Rank: Author
6/19/2018 | 3:34:42 PM
Mental health
I'm happy to see issues of mental health getting more daylight. It's such an important topic, especially for a community like security that can be corrosive over time, dealing with bad things day after day. Burnout is a real problem. I'll be interested to hear how this track goes.
White House Cybersecurity Strategy at a Crossroads
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  7/17/2018
The Fundamental Flaw in Security Awareness Programs
Ira Winkler, CISSP, President, Secure Mentem,  7/19/2018
Number of Retailers Impacted by Breaches Doubles
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  7/19/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Surviving the IT Security Skills Shortage
Surviving the IT Security Skills Shortage
Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand -- and short supply. Find out what Dark Reading discovered during their 2017 Security Staffing Survey and get some strategies for getting through the drought. Download the report today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-14492
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-21
Tenda AC7 through V15.03.06.44_CN, AC9 through V15.03.05.19(6318)_CN, and AC10 through V15.03.06.23_CN devices have a Stack-based Buffer Overflow via a long limitSpeed or limitSpeedup parameter to an unspecified /goform URI.
CVE-2018-3770
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
A path traversal exists in markdown-pdf version <9.0.0 that allows a user to insert a malicious html code that can result in reading the local files.
CVE-2018-3771
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
An XSS in statics-server <= 0.0.9 can be used via injected iframe in the filename when statics-server displays directory index in the browser.
CVE-2018-5065
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader 2018.011.20040 and earlier, 2017.011.30080 and earlier, and 2015.006.30418 and earlier versions have a Use-after-free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user.
CVE-2018-5066
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader 2018.011.20040 and earlier, 2017.011.30080 and earlier, and 2015.006.30418 and earlier versions have an Out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to information disclosure.