Dealing with the Stress of an Infosec Job

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IT security professionals are in great demand, as the need to protect and defend information systems environments from data leaks and/or malicious attacks is becoming essential to the survival and prosperity of all organizations. A recent spur in attacks to government systems as well as renowned private companies has brought back to light how important it is to employ good IT security teams and have proper security defense systems in place. Using only a computer, in fact, a savvy hacker can wreak havoc to an entire business and cripple an organization of any size.

IT security managers have oversight and control of an environment that is very complex to safeguard. They work in fast-paced environments with irregular hours and overtime; this affects their personal life in many ways. Stress due to the many demands of their job is often the main complaint for many IT professionals. Some even report health-related issues, such as high blood pressure.

To achieve the desired security level, information systems professionals must always be on the lookout for possible vulnerabilities. Monitoring systems constantly, not only through intrusion detection and protection systems, but also through spot-checking and periodic verifications is important. It might be easy to think that with all the technology now available to screen network traffic and identify problems, IT security professionals are simply guardians ready to act upon the sound of an alarm.

There is no doubt technology has relieved professionals of the need to manually perform some tedious tasks and has provided them with more tools and techniques to do their job, but technology has also armed malicious hackers with more tools and tactics to disguise their actions. IT and Information security professionals alike are still required to be on their toes 24/7 while studying and creatively analyzing the large amount of data that new, advanced technological tools provide.

In addition, security professionals must make sure, in order to protect the integrity of on-premise infrastructure, that non-IT staff is fully trained on cybersecurity principles. Any defense measure would be useless if the entire staff is not cyber-aware. A good security program has everybody involved by staying current with new technologies and understanding the common types of threats or attacks that can affect business operations.

Many data breaches are caused by simple human error, and any incident could permanently damage a company’s reputation in the eyes of potential customers. Humans are often the weakest link and that means the system administrator has the responsibility to enforce compliance and educate end-users.

"In today’s highly-connected, computerized world, even off-time is filled with electronic equipment and technical systems"

At the same time, IT professionals need to respond to business managers and deal with shrinking budgets while still being asked to provide same-level if not better service. Also keeping professionals on the edge is the constant need to keep up-to-date with current security standards and certifications, as well as the latest threats and malicious trends.

IT managers are under mounting pressure to do a diverse set of administrative tasks: from logging and certifying users to creating standard operating procedures. As a result, hours spent on the job increase while much-needed decompression time away from work disappears. Stressed by unrealistic deadlines, users’ demands, sudden outages and project specification changes, many IT specialists quit and switch career altogether.

Spending time away from work-related issues and concerns is essential for any professional in any line of work. What makes things harder for an IT expert is the fact that in today’s highly-connected, computerized world, even off-time is filled with electronic equipment and technical systems: tablets, smartphones, and wearable tech gadgets for fitness, music, health and social networking. Consequently, they get virtually no break from their work world.

Much of the stress linked to IT security jobs is caused by the unpredictability of certain issues. Although nothing can be done to forecast outages or attacks, having good plans in place, for at least the most common of situations, can ease stress before, during and after a problem occurs. With advanced planning, network security administrators can identify a threat and quickly react to protect the systems. In case of a successful attack, specific disaster recovery plans can help minimize the impact on the business or organization’s work as well as minimize IT managers’ stress.

Establishing a good communication plan with management and end-users can also relieve stress when implementing new policies and procedures. All that might be needed to prevent confrontations and questions later on is a thorough explanation of the necessary changes in procedures and how those changes can help protect the organization. By opening the communication lines, infosec professionals can involve end-users in the protection of resources and build trust in the IT security department.

About the Author

Daniel Brecht has been writing for the web since 2007. His interests include computers, mobile devices and cybersecurity standards. He has enjoyed writing on a variety of topics ranging from cloud computing to application development, web development and e-commerce. Brecht has several years of experience as an information technician in the military and as an education counselor. Brecht holds a graduate certificate in information assurance and a Master of Science in information technology

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