Cybermindz.org, a not-for-profit organisation focused on providing mental health solutions for cybersecurity professionals, announced on 7th February 2024, the launch of the CISOSupport program. This innovative initiative is tailored towards providing mental support for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and other leaders in the cybersecurity sector who are often confronted with a high risk of job burnout.
The role of a CISO necessitates an around-the-clock commitment to ensure the safety of digital systems and assets. Meanwhile, globally organised threat actors continuously challenge cybersecurity professionals, leading to a significant psychological toll on individuals at the helm of cyber leadership. The CISOSupport program aims to provide a solution to this pressing issue by offering much-needed support beyond conventional measures, addressing factors leading to CISO burnout, such as emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and the loss of self-confidence that stem from the endless battle against invisible, well-resourced adversaries.
Cybermindz Founder Peter Coroneos discussed the inception of the groundbreaking preventative and restorative program, highlighting the growing evidence of burnout rates amongst cybersecurity leaders surpassing those of healthcare workers on the front line, with some studies indicating intended resignations from such roles of over 40% in the next two years. “There is a growing body of anecdotal and hard evidence showing the toll cyber leadership pressures are having on the individuals and their families", he stated.
Piloting this initiative in 2023, the organisation monitored 180 cybersecurity professionals participating in 12 group programs for eight weeks. At the end of this period, participants reported an average stress reduction of 27.3% across various metrics, a 30.7% increase in coping abilities, and a 50.8% decrease in feelings of being overwhelmed by challenges.
"Following the insights gained from these programs," Mr Coroneos continued, "we decided to create something specific for leaders who are bearing the biggest burden". The program claims to be the first of its kind, combining methodologies with extensive research and application within the military and proving effective in the field of cybersecurity. Initially, the program will roll out in Australia, followed by launches in the US and the UK, where Cybermindz established its presence in 2022 and 2023.
Dr Andrew Reeves, Director of Organisational and Behavioural Research at Cybermindz expanded on the urgency of the CISOSupport program. "Research by Cybermindz and the University of Adelaide is demonstrating that CISOs bear the brunt of ever increasing pressures and unrealistic expectations coming from diverse vectors".The study reveals that intense stress often leads to sleep disruptions, direct impacts on personal lives, and dwindling hopes for the future. Therefore, CISOSupport aims to fulfil this pressing need with CISO's specific needs in mind, derived from well-established methods in military settings.
The program promises yearly confidential one-on-one mentorship with experienced mental health trainers who are well-versed in cybersecurity language and culture. It employs the revolutionary Integrative Restoration (iRest) Dyad approach, a robust neuroscience-based framework which focuses on building resilience and mental clarity. The program is promised to be underpinned by proven metrics, ensuring trackable improvements in mental well-being for participants.