Why improved cybersecurity education can help reduce employee 'cyber stress'

More than 80% of Americans said they were routinely stressed out by news of cyber attacks. Here's how to help.

Why your top cybersecurity goal in 2018 should be human-focused
Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • More than 30% of people do not trust social networking apps to protect their data and 29% do not trust mobile payment apps.
  • People are becoming increasingly stressed by the need for security to protect their vital personal information.

Stress permeates every aspect of our daily lives and is now making its way into our digital lives as well. In a survey, Kaspersky Lab found that 81% of Americans and 72% of Canadians suffer from "cyber stress" related to the fear of being hacked or having their personal information stolen.

The survey, commissioned by Kaspersky Lab and conducted by research firm Opinion Matters, drew from 2,515 internet users across the United States and Canada, finding that people were overwhelmingly untrustworthy of activity on the internet and stressed over the best ways to protect their digital profiles. However, that also means that users are thinking even more about security.

"Cybersecurity has quickly become top-of-mind for consumers whose personal information of livelihood could be at risk from a breach or cyberattack--and the uncertainty of when the next breach will strike is stressful," the authors wrote in the report.

According to the report, both consumers and businesses can take proactive steps, like education, to mitigate potential threats and reduce cyber stress.

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With data breaches constantly in the headlines on a weekly basis, the survey found that people are now concerned in general about how safe any activity on the internet truly is. The number of data breaches rose by a whopping 45% last year to 1,579, and hundreds of millions of people had personal information like addresses and social security numbers released into the public sphere.

"Research has shown that it's not the big, acute, one-time challenges that cause the majority of stress-related disease and disorder, but the everyday, nagging, accumulating pressure and tension we feel when we don't have enough capacity to cope with the demands of life," said Heidi Hanna, the executive director of the American Institute of Stress who was quoted in the survey.

Of those surveyed, 75% said they worried about how they would protect all of their devices from cyberattacks and 46% had dealt with a digital security breach in the last five years.

The study had a number of alarming statistics, but one that stood out was the trust users felt with certain industries related to their digital information. More than 20% of people said they did not trust any industry to protect their data and the figure was even higher for people over the age of 55, of which 32% did not believe any industry was particularly invested in protecting users' data.

Of the companies that people trusted the least with their data, social networking sites were the highest at 33%, followed closely by mobile payment apps at 29%. Respondents were also wary of banking apps and messaging apps as well. Companies in these industries must make extra investments in communicating their security strategies to their users.

"Companies who are involved in a breach often face brand abandonment, as people feel let down by an organization they felt safe and connected with, regardless of the actual cause of the disruption," Hanna said in the report.

The survey also covered stress related to password management and issues people have with sharing accounts with others. Almost half of people who responded said they would share most digital information with their partners, and about 25% said they would share theirs with their parents.

But the flipside of this is that 21% of people said they had spied on a partner or ex-partner using their login information, illustrating the risks associated with sharing passwords with anyone.

Kaspersky Lab said more knowledge of security measures is needed to lower stress levels around cyberattacks. Once people understood how to protect themselves, they would be more likely to take advantage of and enjoy the web and all of its benefits.

"Instead of allowing themselves to be plagued by cyber-stress, consumers should feel empowered to learn more about cybersecurity best practices and the tools that will help them secure their data," the report said. "Additionally, businesses in the security community should share their resources and information on the latest digital threats with consumers, opening up a dialogue about how consumers can proactively take control of their own security."

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Image: iStockphoto/mangpor_2004