Avoiding Cyber Fatigue in Four Easy Steps

By Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal, Guide Holdings, LLC

coffee cup by an IT worker's screen indicating cyber fatigueCyber alert fatigue. In the cybersecurity space, it is inevitable. Every day, there will be a new disclosure, a new hack, a new catchy title for the latest twist on an old attack sequence. As a 23-year practitioner, the burnout is a real thing, and it unfortunately comes in waves. You’ll stay up on the latest and greatest for months on end. Take a couple weeks off at the wrong time of year, maybe around the big security conferences (think RSA or Blackhat/DEF CON), and you could spend 6 weeks catching back up. Everyone has a take, and without getting in front of the wave, the wheat may not be easy to separate from the chaff. How can you avoid–or at least lessen–the chance of missing the next question from a CISO while still maintaining a sense of sanity?

Where does the quest for knowledge transform into chasing your own tail?

Be picky

First and foremost, carefully vet your media input sources. Every source you sign-up for will inevitably add to the noise in your feed. Each follow, every like, even entering your email address for more information opens more avenues for daily discourse. Pick a few trusted sources of information, the innovators in your niche. For cybersecurity, Bruce Schneier (@schneierblog), Gene Spafford (@therealspaf) and Brian Krebs (@briankrebs) fit the mold. They’ll put enough content on the wire for a daily read in a short amount of time.

Set time limits

Set aside a period of time each day to catch up. It’s easy to read articles 24×7. Personally, I’m click baited any time I read a headline news article. My ADD increases my penchant for distraction, and suddenly three hours of my day passed without a tangible memo, report or other accomplishment.

Choose a duration that doesn’t wipe out the entire day, probably during the morning so you’ll have water cooler talk. Maybe it’s first thing before everyone comes in or you leave for the office, or try the train, lunch time. Find a daily podcast (Raf Los aka @Wh1t3Rabbit’s Down The Security Rabbit Hole is usually interesting) and listen to it during a morning exercise. Whatever it is, limit your alert time per day; they don’t call it Twitter for nothing.

Back-scatter and bit buckets

Be prepared to be bought and sold. The luckiest thing I ever did was buy my own domain name. I use unique email addresses for everything I sign up for and then forward the important ones into folders to keep my immediate inbox clean. It’s technically a back-scatter technique. If you have to make it past a marketing wall and provide information, don’t be afraid to unsubscribe, unfollow or remove access. Your contact info will be monetized, and most reputable marketing/distribution houses fear the legal ramifications of not complying with spam prevention acts. When someone doesn’t comply appropriately, simply point that individual address to the bit bucket.

The struggle is real

Add an additional account for friends and family threads for non-business hours. Co-workers at the office won’t think you’re wasting work time on personal pursuits. You also have a chance to create a work/life balance.

No one wants to live, breathe and die work. Cyber fatigue is real …

Jon-Michael C. Brook, Principal at Guide Holdings, LLC, has 20 years of experience in information security with such organizations as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, Optiv Security and Symantec. He is co-chair of CSA’s Top Threats Working Group and the Cloud Broker Working Group, and contributor to several additional working groups. Brook is a Certified Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge+ (CCSK+) trainer and Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM) reviewer and trainer.