At the IT Security Guru we’re showcasing organisations that are passionate about making cybersecurity a healthier, more mindful industry. This week’s guest has set up a dedicated organisation to do just that! Peter Coroneos, Founder and Executive Chairman at Cybermindz, spoke to the Gurus about the importance of supporting the wellbeing of cybersecurity professionals and why the time is now for change.
Peter is a cybersecurity veteran, with years of experience across the cyber and technology sectors. His resume is broad, extensive and impressive, currently serving as a global ambassador for Paris-based not-for-profit Cybersecurity Advisors Network, with over a decade of experience as CEO of Australia’s Internet Industry Association (1997-2010), and a pioneer for the development of the 2010 icode scheme (a scheme embraced by the Federal Government in Australia and adapted for the US government). In recent years, however, Coroneos has turned his attention to the mental health of cybersecurity professionals. In 2022, he established Cybermindz, a dedicated not-for-profit mental health initiative. Cybermindz launches in the UK this week.
“The existence of Cybermindz is testimony to a very real problem. A problem you wish didn’t exist, but it does. It’s because of that very suffering that we’re here,” Coroneos said, regarding the founding of the organisation. It’s well documented that cybersecurity is a thankless industry, with professionals increasingly more often reporting signs of burnout and stress. Coroneos notes that the relentless threat environment posed by unseen attackers causes the neurology of cybersecurity professionals to adapt into an unhealthy state of ‘hypervigilance’. He notes that we’re not adapted, according to environmental biology, to combat virtual threats. Traditionally, our attackers would have been in front of us and visible. Therefore, there’s a disconnect in the way our brains approach these threats. Burnout, in this case, is the product of the failure of the human neurology to adapt to these modern threats.
The Cybermindz program directly addresses the risk of burnout and skills loss in existing cyber teams. The organisation aims to equip leaders “with the necessary coping skills and support to ensure they remain happy, effective and resilient in the face of an escalating threat environment. Our mission is to support the performance of cyber teams and related professionals, improve skills retention and enhance the health, wellbeing, productivity and cohesion of our most critical human assets, and those who work with them.” Cybermindz is peer-informed and will operate at scale to transform the human face of cybersecurity.
Coroneos knows the importance of wellbeing support for cybersecurity professionals first-hand: “We’re all cyber people ourselves; we are the industry. It’s painful to witness the human toll on people you really care about. The people who defend us but aren’t recognised. They take the brunt, so society doesn’t need to suffer. This plays out on health and relationships though.”
Peter is also an accredited Integrative Restoration (iRest) teacher and practitioner of this and related disciplines since 1977. iRest is at the heart of Cybermindz offerings, with virtual and in person sessions available for organisations. But what is it? According to the Cybermindz website, iRest is “a simple 10-step protocol that is easy to learn and can be practiced anytime, anywhere. Its positive effects are supported by scientific trials and military based research.”
“iRest can be practiced in short sessions of 10 or 20 minutes, to induce deep relaxation and leave you feeling refreshed and alert. It can also be used before bed, to ease your body and mind into restful sleep, even if you work shifts or are sleep deprived.”
Additionally, Cybermindz offers organisations the chance to take part in a two-hour explorative masterclass on the neuroscience of burnout, along with courses spanning from 8-weeks to 36-months. They pride themselves on offering support for organisations that’s easy to implement and builds resilience. Being remote, they open themselves up for scaling.
But why now? Coroneos says: “we’re fighting an asymmetrical war. We never know if we’re safe. Organisations and security professionals are in a pincer between the bad actors and pressures from their own organisations.” When it comes to cybersecurity, Cybermindz have identified 15 unique factors to cybersecurity that lead to burnout and stress for professionals, including success invisibility, under resourcing, ‘remotification’, relentlessness, and understaffing.
To coincide with the UK launch of the non-profit, this week Cybermindz are hosting a virtual summit on the topic of UK mental health in cybersecurity leadership. The event will bring together cyber leaders and practitioners to explore what a solution to the burnout and mental health crisis in cybersecurity might look like. The summit is designed to explore a constructive way forward. The iRest protocol will also be demonstrated.
The event runs from 10am-12pm on Thursday 21st September 2023. You can register for free here: UK Mental Health in Cybersecurity Leadership Summit + UK launch of Cybermindz | Humanitix
Do you know an organisation that’s doing incredible things for employee wellbeing? Email me at [email protected].