6 Drivers of Mental and Emotional Stress in Infosec

Pressure comes in many forms but often with the same impact: stress and burnout within the security community.

Kelly Sheridan, Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

July 2, 2018

7 Slides

Every year, thousands of cybersecurity pros descend on Las Vegas for Black Hat USA, where they learn the latest in security research, hone new skills, and connect with the infosec industry. Most sessions at the conference cover what you'd expect: malware, network defense, platform security, cryptography, and reverse engineering, to name a few.

But not all proposals to present at Black Hat dig into bits and bytes. Rather, they "engender and embody the softer issues" affecting security pros and are often hard to talk about: mental health, addiction, burnout, sexual harassment, and legal obstacles, says Ping Look, member of the Black Hat Review Board.

"Every year we get submissions that don't really belong," says Look, who is also program manager on the Detection and Reaction Team (DART) within Microsoft's Enterprise Cybersecurity Group.

In response, Black Hat is compiling these submissions into a new Community track designed to put the spotlight on these and other relevant topics related to how people live and work.

"This track deals with the human side of things," Look says. Many of these problems are not being addressed in the workplace and are poorly understood by employers. The idea behind Community sessions is to bring common but undiscussed issues into conversation.

"If the conversation is occurring, it's occurring in small collectives, small groups," adds Russ Rodgers, senior cyber consultant at Microsoft. "I don't think it's industrywide yet."

Many of the issues the Community track will bring to light next month aren't new or specific to security, both experts agree. The rise of the Internet has made the world bigger and smaller, and it's driving the prevalence of mental-health issues we're just now starting to recognize and give a bigger spotlight.

"This emerging science in how digital, just being online too much, being isolated, and yet siloing yourself is now having a deep, profound impact on the community," Look says. The instant gratification of the Internet has caused a divide between younger and older generations, and the disparity in their mindsets is one of several issues driving stress within the industry.

Here, we discuss a few more factors driving mental and emotional stress within the security community. Have you noticed these issues in your workplace and/or have any factors to add to this list? Feel free to share your thoughts and continue the conversation in the comments.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan was formerly a Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focused 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 services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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