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Heightened stress means greater security risks, report finds

80% of companies say that an increased cybersecurity risk caused by human factors has posed a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in times of heightened stress.

This is according to Cyberchology: The Human Element, a new report from ESET and The Myers-Briggs Company that explores the role employees and their personality play in keeping organisations safe from cyber threats.

The report found that 75% of companies say that half of their business is being undertaken by employees who are now working remotely but weren't doing so before COVID-19, showing a highly dispersed current workforce.

With CISOs reporting a 63% increase in cybercrime since the COVID-19 lockdown began, and remote working here to stay for many employees, businesses are more at risk than ever, the report states.

Meanwhile, the report found that more than two thirds of consumers were concerned about their cybersecurity but didnt know what to do about it, and nearly half of respondents were concerned about their ability to manage stress during the pandemic.

Stress affects different personality types in different ways, meaning that each individual employee has their own specific blind spot when it comes to cybersecurity, the report states.

As the pandemic has raised stress levels, staff members may be more likely to panic and click on a malicious link, or fail to report a security breach to the IT team, depending on their personality type.

The paper therefore encourages businesses to implement a holistic cybersecurity strategy that takes individual personalities into account.

Discussing the findings of the Cyberchology paper, ESET cybersecurity specialist Jake Moore, says, “Remote working has brought greater flexibility to the workforce, but has also dramatically altered business processes and systems.

"The combination of fractured IT systems, a lack of central security, the sudden shift to home working, and a global climate of stress and concern is a perfect breeding ground for a successful cyber attack.

"The fact that only a quarter of businesses have faith in their own remote working strategy is shocking, and shows there is much work to be done to secure working from home."

John Hackston, head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, says, "Cybersecurity has long been thought of as the responsibility of IT departments alone, but in order to build a holistic cybersecurity strategy that accounts for the human factor, IT and HR departments must work together.

"Through the use of psychometric testing and self-awareness tools, HR can help to identify the makeup of teams and pinpoint potential vulnerabilities.

"IT teams can use this insight to create comprehensive security protocols and a proactive cyber strategy to stay one step ahead of potential threats."

Cyberchology research investigates the attitudes of 2,000 consumers and more than 100 CISOs, with psychological research examining the link between cybersecurity, personality, and stress in a virtual world.

Cyberchology is a partnership that has been running since 2019 between ESET, a global leader in IT security, and The Myers-Briggs Company, a business psychology provider.