The number of cyberattacks that affect businesses large and small continues to grow each year. It's estimated that, by 2025, cybercrime will cost companies worldwide $10.5 trillion, up from $3 million in 2015. Cyberthreats grow at the speed of technology. As businesses develop longer and more complex supply chains, increase IoT device usage, and utilize technology for remote work, IT security professionals are forced to accomplish more with less. In the same way cybersecurity professionals leverage technology to detect and respond to threats, cybercriminals develop more ways to spread and use illegal services and products. Various dark web markets exist for cybercriminals to sell leaked information, buy illegal products, and even invest in as-a-service cybercrime. At the same time, the cybersecurity talent shortage has entered its sixth year with no signs of relief.
In an industry already spread thin, the global pandemic introduced a deluge of new problems. While businesses closed their doors due to restrictions and adopted remote work structures to stay afloat, hackers increased their efforts to exploit business network vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals recognized the opportunities provided by remote work, phishing attacks that capitalized on pandemic fears, and vulnerabilities presented by new technology. Security professionals were forced to take on more tasks to keep up and faced increasingly stressful situations on a daily basis.
By nature, cybersecurity is a stressful profession. IT security teams are lean and pile a heavy workload on each individual. For companies in every industry, cyberattacks are no longer a question of if, but when. Security professionals face hundreds of false alerts daily and always have more work than can be completed. As a result, prioritizing risk is a pivotal part of the job. With the number of breaches soaring yearly, there is more pressure than ever before on security teams to keep businesses secure. Simply put, the job conditions of the cybersecurity industry are a pressure pot with all the ingredients that lead to burnout.
Under perfect conditions, it's a profession that must be carefully balanced to avoid burnout, and modern cybersecurity conditions are far from perfect. More than a third of cybersecurity professionals are considering quitting their jobs in the next six months due to burnout caused by high-stress levels and heavy workloads. The effects of such a loss in the industry will not only further burden the industry, but affect all individuals who depend on these professionals to protect sensitive data and keep modern enterprises running in an era fraught with cybercrime.
Table of Contents
The Dangers of Burnout
Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three core dimensions.
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance and feelings of negativity toward one's job
- Reduced professional efficacy
So, what do these symptoms look like in the world of cybersecurity? Job stress keeps 51% of cybersecurity professionals up at night. Most cybersecurity professionals work over 41 hours a week and some work up to 90. 65% agree that the pandemic made security processes more difficult.
The Effects of Burnout Have a Critical Effect on Performance
Human error is one of the biggest causes of data breaches in organizations. The risk of falling victim to such an attack is heightened considerably when employees are facing stress and fatigue. Cognitive function and memory are directly impacted by stress and fatigue, making it difficult to focus on the core aspects of cybersecurity tasks. Under this tremendous level of exhaustion, the adoption of new technologies adds to the load by creating ever-changing and unclear job expectations.
For professionals pushing forward under these intense conditions, it's impossible to function at top level. In a deluge of false alarms and log information, it becomes less clear what actions are a tiny fraction different in the way that represents a threat. When burnout reaches its inevitable climax, security professionals are too exhausted and indifferent to recognize real threats facing organizations. They no longer see the importance of their role in preventing cybercrime. Perhaps, most worrisome, they no longer want to work in the industry at all.
Burnout Leads to Turnover in an Already Overworked Industry
There are currently about 435,000 cybersecurity job openings in the US. The unemployment rate in the industry is 0%. Among professionals currently working in the industry, 51% experienced extreme stress or burnout in 2021, and 65% considered leaving their job because of job stress. Only 33% would recommend such a career to others and the same number would also likely discourage people from entering the industry.
As burnout leads to turnover, remaining security professionals get more work added to an already full schedule. For those managing work stress, burnout becomes inevitable, creating a cycle that leaves the industry bare. While this is a critical concern for cybersecurity professionals, it's also a problem for the many individuals and organizations depending on these professionals. Ransomware is expected to affect more than 8 million users or 10% of all internet users in 2022. With the talent shortage at current levels, 67% of security professionals say they don't have enough talent on their team, and 17% say it feels like each person is doing the workload of three. If turnover in the industry increases to meet the levels of burnout, organizations worldwide will have little protection against a constantly growing cybercrime wave.
In the same way cybercriminals had a clear understanding of the vulnerabilities presented by the pandemic, they're aware of burnout currently affecting the security industry. This knowledge puts criminals in a position to launch more attacks in an effort to reach their objectives. If the number of cybersecurity professionals dwindles, cybercrime will increase in response and more organizations will suffer from catastrophic attacks.
The Causes of Cybersecurity Burnout
The cybersecurity profession naturally includes all the factors that could lead to occupational burnout. Long hours, a high-stress environment, work overload, and critical responsibilities simply go along with the job. As technology advances faster than ever before and work environments have been upended by the pandemic, demands on security professionals are only increasing. Consider how these recent changes fueled burnout in the cybersecurity industry.
Launching a cyberattack has never been easier. From technology growth to global internet communication and cybercrime products and services packaged and sold by professionals, it's easy for inexperienced would-be hackers to launch a successful attack. The cybercrime economy is the 15th largest economy in the world. Ransomware attacks in 2021 saw a 130% increase over those in 2020 and cryptojacking increased 400% in the same time period. Recent major attacks like those launched on SolarWinds, Colonial Pipeline, and JBS Foods make it clear how damaging a catastrophic infrastructure attack could be. As cybercrime grows, businesses have faced pandemic losses and crippling inflation, forcing them to tighten spending. Instead of increasing cybersecurity spending, lean teams are forced to take on more responsibilities with fewer employees and tools.
Expanding Attack Surface
New technology comes with new vulnerabilities. IoT growth, the increase of remote work, and growing supply chain dependence mean that cybersecurity professionals must protect a much larger network surface to prevent attacks.
It's estimated there will be 3 times more networked devices on Earth than humans by 2023. A recent report revealed there are around 35.82 billion IoT devices installed worldwide, and by 2025, it will reach 75.44 billion. IoT devices often lack the security features of other devices, making them a desirable target for threat actors.
While companies are reopening to in-office work. Full-time on-site work is not expected to be the norm for many. 59% of employees say that a hybrid work model is the preferred location for the future, and 53% anticipate this will actually happen. Security controls and practices are typically weaker when employees work remotely. This can range from the use of personal devices to cutting corners on security protocols to increase production. Whether employees use their own devices or company devices, networks typically expand with remote work, adding to the attack surface protected by security experts.
Lack of Appreciation
Cybersecurity is a necessary component of daily business for modern enterprises. Yet, the requirements of maintaining a secure network can affect production and make everyday tasks more cumbersome. As a result, IT security teams are pressured to limit security protocols and restrictions. Since security restrictions affect end users, 80% of IT teams experience pushback when enforcing an organization's security policy. Even worse, 80% of IT teams said that IT security has become a thankless task, and 91% felt pressure to compromise security for business continuity. Such an attitude adds stress to the profession and breeds apathy when it comes to organizational protection.
Long Hours and Heavy Workloads
Cybersecurity is a 24/7 industry. Yet, humans aren't built to work 24/7. When attacks occur, cybersecurity professionals are placed in high-stress situations and forced to work long hours until the problem is resolved. Pulling an all-nighter isn't uncommon, and is often even applauded in the industry. Unfortunately, the working environment in these situations is so demanding that the mental health of those involved can suffer for months after the incident.
Balancing Cybersecurity Burnout with Managed Detection and Response
There is no immediate solution to the talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry. Even if thousands of industry hopefuls were to rush toward the industry today, training these individuals would take significant time and effort. When the current burden is having such a severe effect on seasoned industry professionals, recruits will need extensive care when onboarding to avoid turnover.
When it comes to addressing cybersecurity burnout, the best solution is to lighten the load on your IT security team. While it's true that many organizations can't source the talent to increase in-house cybersecurity and IT teams, there are other ways to increase headcount and technology to protect your network.
For many companies, managed detection and response (MDR) could be the answer to helping your team win the battle against cybersecurity burnout. MDR is a group of services provided by a remotely delivered modern security center with functions that allow organizations to rapidly detect, analyze, investigate, and actively respond to cybersecurity threats. To be classified as MDR, services must include both professional expertise and security tools provided in a fast-to-deploy turnkey service.
In an industry plagued with thousands of disjointed tools and services, this might seem like another cybersecurity tool that adds more requirements to an already overbalanced workload. However, MDR has some important distinctions. It's important to note that MDR isn't a tool. It's a collection of services tailored to your organization and installed by your provider. Furthermore, MDR has the crucial requirement of including ongoing assistance through routine and emergency communication with off-site security professionals. MDR stands out in a sea of tools and services as a single solution to cybersecurity burnout with these features.
Remote SOC to Address Staff Limitations
Heavy workloads and long hours are a chronic hazard for IT security professionals. Long before the pandemic, the industry was plagued with understaffed teams facing a constantly growing workload. With the right tools on hand, automation plays an important part in detecting and mitigating threats. However, humans are a critical part of cybersecurity. If they weren't, cybersecurity professionals could kick back and watch machines take on all types of cybersecurity threats.
When it comes to addressing the talent shortage, the off-site SOC is one of the most important parts of the MDR puzzle. The team works as an extension of your existing security personnel to create around-the-clock supervision for an entire organizational network. Expert analysts who work as a part of your MDR solution are designed to work as an extension of your team. They can provide a variety of services based on your needs which may include:
- Installation and optimization of software and tools
- Testing to reduce false alarms
- Applications of updates and patches
- Emergency response for real threats and attacks
- 24/7 monitoring of your network to identify threats while your team sleeps, eats, and takes vacations
In other words, the off-site SOC that works as a part of your MDR services can instantly increase your IT security headcount to address the talent shortage within your organization.
A Turnkey Solution Prevents Increasing Workloads
There is no shortage of tools available in the cybersecurity industry. In fact, there are likely thousands of different types of tools and software that can be used to address a variety of security issues for specific network components. Unfortunately, more tools can lead to more work for IT security specialists. When multiple tools are deployed to address various threats or network components, these tools must be overseen by IT professionals. Without integration capabilities, tools can perform redundant tasks or even inhibit network performance. Furthermore, many cybersecurity tools require precise optimization to complete the intended task without generating a deluge of false alerts.
MDR is required to be a turnkey solution that can be deployed quickly and provide rapid time to value. This means your MDR provider will use a predefined technology stack designed by the company or curated from existing solutions. Pieced together security solutions require your security experts to compare tools, make purchases, and optimize new software for the best results. MDR eliminates adding new burdens to overworked professionals with a turnkey solution that includes installing and deploying specific tools designed to provide a complete cybersecurity solution for your organization.
Elimination of Repetitive Manual Tasks with SIEM Automation
It's no secret that complete visibility into your network is key to providing adequate protection. However, thorough log collection generates thousands of entries each day. Even with the use of automated tools to provide alerts for suspicious activities, analysts must still pore over a significant amount of data each day. When your MDR solution includes SIEM log management that automatically categorizes and applies context to huge amounts of data, the manual task load for your internal IT team is lightened considerably.
At BitLyft, we use some of the top SIEM tools designed to combat advanced threats with an analytics-based approach for the modern hybrid enterprise. The system includes data enrichment that adds context to the data provided by log collection. This contextual information can provide essential details like user identity and access privileges to automatically prioritize the most dangerous alerts. The information collected by your SIEM is made visible to your internal IT team and external SOC with user-friendly dashboards that provide real-time visibility into your network.
When your SIEM software is installed and optimized by your MDR provider, the process of adding new technology is streamlined for your IT staff. With rapid time to value and technology to reduce the manual labor of data analysis, you can finally lighten the workload for your internal IT professionals.
Endpoint Detection to Tackle the Expanding Attack Surface
Pandemic restrictions fast-tracked the implementation of remote work into a variety of industries that would have taken years, or even decades, to adopt the technology under normal circumstances. When forced to adapt, remote work proved to be more effective than many professionals thought possible. More importantly, many employees thrived with the new level of work/life balance offered by the arrangement. As employees face going back to the office, many are determined to maintain a hybrid schedule where remote work will remain part of the new normal.
Along with the remote devices implemented by remote work is the growing number of IoT devices that increase convenience and productivity in every industry. Remote devices and increased cloud migration mean that networks are growing exponentially and require new protections to avoid endpoint attacks.
Every device that connects to your network presents a risk, and MDR addresses those risks with endpoint detection. Since modern sophisticated attacks are designed to exploit low-level devices and move discreetly through networks, endpoint security is critical. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) deployed by your MDR provider is integrated with your SIEM to provide complete visibility into your entire network.
UEBA to Proactively Address Increased Attacks
User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) is a type of artificial intelligence that learns typical behavior that occurs within your network to automatically detect abnormal (suspicious) behavior. By building a complete profile of every entity and user in your network, UEBA can recognize discreet attacks that are in process and provide proactive responses to the threat. The result is a reduction of false alerts and the ability to detect insider threats that are typically logged as authorized activity.
24/7 Response to Reduce Work Hours
No individual can be expected to work 24/7. Yet, the stressful nature of cybersecurity means that professionals are often in emergency mode at all times. This "always-on" mentality is a direct contributor to burnout. The technology stack provided by your MDR can finally provide effective relief for your IT team's inability to sleep at night. Security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) brings together the alerts provided through log collection and the actions that need to be taken to immediately protect your network.
This means that when attacks occur during off-hours, alerts launch a series of events that work to define the severity of the threat, contain active threats, and conduct actions to mitigate and repair damage. These automated responses reduce dwell time and minimize the damage that can be accomplished by sophisticated threats launched during off-hours.
MDR from BitLyft Offers the Most Comprehensive Solution to Cybersecurity Burnout
MDR from BitLyft is a single turnkey solution for managed detection and response that goes above and beyond traditional MDR services. With fully integrated features like EDR and UEBA included in the SIEM system, your IT security team gets a streamlined solution without extra working parts and added tasks to perform. By providing our customers with direct access to the dedicated cybersecurity professionals in your off-site SOC who know your environment and unique organizational goals, you get a true extension of your internal team and a way to increase cybersecurity headcount in a competitive hiring market. To learn more about the benefits of MDR provided by BitLyft, download our MDR buyers guide.