Workplace Pressure is too much for CISOs

CISOs in the UK and US are facing burnout as they struggle to deal with the rise of cyber-threats, insufficient budgets and a lack of engagement from the board, according to Nominet. The DNS security provider commissioned Osterman Research to poll more than 400 bosses in security for the sake of the report, Life Inside the Perimeter: Understanding the Modern CISO.

Workplace Pressure

The report discovered that the stresses that come with the modern role are becoming too much. The strain is increasingly taking over the CISOs’ personal and professional lives. 91 per cent of the respondents say they suffer from either moderate or extreme stress. 60 per cent say that they rarely disconnect from their job, even though 88 per cent is already working over 40 hours per week.

Part of this stress is due to the pressure of keeping threats down. 60 per cent of respondents admitted to finding malware that has been lurking for an unknown period of time. 32 per cent said that they would either receive an official warning or completely lose their job if a breach were to occur.

High Expectations

However, a large part of the stress that the CISOs feel they are under seems to come from the attitudes of the board. Only 52 per cent executive teams value the security team from a revenue and brand protection standpoint. Almost a fifth (18 per cent) claimed board members are either indifferent or view them as an inconvenience.

These findings seem to be quite similar to a Trend Micro study from 2018.  The study found that 43 per cent of global organisations view security as an afterthought in IoT projects. Only 38 per cent would consult with the CISO when it comes to sending out a solution.

65 per cent of the CISOs polled by Nominet claimed that this lack of engagement with the board to be a big obstacle. It may also explain why only 43 per cent claimed to have an insufficient budget for fighting off current threats. Due to this, the pressure is becoming too much for many.

Mental and Physical Health

27 per cent of CISOs polled said that stress if affecting their mental or physical health. 23 per cent said the role is getting in the way of personal relationships. What’s more, 17 per cent admit that they had turned to medication or alcohol to deal with workplace stress.

“CISOs around the world are facing mounting pressures amid a rapidly shifting cyber landscape. Criminals are forever finding ways to exploit vulnerabilities, and do not discriminate against the businesses they attack. Everyone is a target,” argued Nominet CEO, Russell Haworth.

“It’s no surprise that CISOs are facing burnout. Many lack support from within their organizations, and senior business leaders need to face the facts: the threats are real, and CISOs need to be given the resources and support to tackle them. If not, the board must face the consequences.”

Last month, the new first CISO of NHS Digital resigned only three months into the job for personal reasons.

Join us for Whitehall Media’s 6th annual GovSec conference

This event aims to enable governments to function effectively, safely and securely through improved IT and information security. The all-day conference explores how public sector organisations and professionals can make sense of securing their functions in a rapidly changing environment.