More Evidence Ransomware Attacks Impact Mental Health


March 25, 2024

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A recent study conducted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) examined the “significantly overlooked” psychological impact on victims of ransomware attacks, particularly for small businesses.

The study found that the mental health of small business owners and IT teams can be severely impacted by ransomware attacks, with increased levels of stress and in some cases suicidal thoughts.

According to the more recently published CISO stress report (PDF), nearly half of CISOs surveyed (48%) said work-related stress negatively impacted their mental health.

“With security professionals facing long-term consequences from job pressure, it’s crucial to understand the root causes and explore solutions. What’s driving this stress, and how can business leaders step up to protect their employees’ well-being?” IT Security Guru reports.

“In recent years, the rate of cybersecurity professionals finding themselves in need of medical intervention due to a decline in their physical and psychological health has increased significantly.”  

Takeaway: It’s no small matter that ransomware attacks are causing psychological trauma for incident responders and business owners, as the fallout from a successful attack for some businesses represents an existential risk, especially for smaller organizations.

This is particularly true for CISOs who lead security teams and have long endured the brunt of the “blame” for successful attacks regardless of their efforts to get more funding to improve the security posture of the company.

We should also be considering the psychological pressure that a dysfunctional legal and regularity landscape is going to put on CISOs and other security team leaders who are already under tremendous pressure to protect the organization while being denied the resources they need to be successful.

In the very recent past, while ransomware attacks were still very disruptive to organizations, at the end of the day everyone went home. Most CISOs know that they can only expect to keep a job for a few years, as there has always been volatility for the position – but everyone went home.

Today, when you look at the legal actions taken against the former CISO for Uber and the more recent cases brought against SolarWinds executives including the CISO, we are witnessing a significant sea change regarding where liability lands for security-related decisions.

In this environment, it’s not unlikely that we may see CISOs and/or security team leaders potentially face jail time following an attack. It’s any wonder that anyone would want to take on the thankless job of CISO if they are just going to take the blame for organizational decisions.

A punitive regulatory stance by the government will likely create top-down pressure on CISOs and security teams to be less forthcoming with the C-level and BoD when faced with a security event and put them and their teams under even more pressure.

It’s not hard to see that security teams will feel pressure to not report events to leadership unless they absolutely have to, and this has the potential to negatively impact security operations and the mental health of security teams. is the leading anti-ransomware company that closes endpoint protection gaps and defeats ransomware through built-in bypass and evasion protection, key material capture, automated decryption, and data exfiltration prevention – talk to a Halcyon expert today to find out more. Halcyon also publishes a quarterly RaaS and extortion group reference guide, Power Rankings: Ransomware Malicious Quartile.