04 Mar Cybercrime Can Give You A Mental Breakdown
Nicole Beckwith offers hope and guidance to cybersecurity professionals
Northport, N.Y. – Mar. 4, 2021
Getting hacked and having your data and money stolen can lead to anxiety, depression and PTSD. For IT security workers who have to deal with the fallout from cyberattacks and breaches everyday, the effects can be much worse.
Too many people suffering from mental illnesses are still keeping it to themselves.
Over the last decade, there’s been a major push towards destigmatizing mental health, but there’s a long way to go.
For ages, we’ve accepted anxiety, depression, and exhaustion as inevitable side effects of being on the job. Nicole Beckwith, a top cybersecurity expert, says it doesn’t have to be this way.
During her time as a state police officer and federally sworn U.S. marshal, Beckwith fell in love with OSINT (open-source intelligence). “OSINT is my jam,” says her Twitter account @NicoleBeckwith.
Cybercrime Radio: Nicole Beckwith on Cybersecurity and Mental Health
It doesn’t have to be this way
In law enforcement, investigators digitally hunt criminals. It’s admirable work, but like many other roles in cyber, it can take a heavy toll on one’s psyche.
“Mental health in cybersecurity is so important because it’s a stressful field where burnout and extreme highs and lows happen constantly,” Beckwith told us.
“You are going to see and experience bad things if you are involved in DFIR, OSINT, or sometimes even in IT working on other people’s computers. Your mind needs training to be able to cope with those things before [and after] you encounter them.”
After closing a particularly difficult case, Beckwith was inspired to speak on the topic at the inaugural conINT event.
Though it was hard to rehash her trauma, the cyber intelligence analyst’s presentation became a popular training. Beckwith knew she had truly made a difference when INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) asked her to create a similar course for their agents.
Consisting of key tips on compartmentalization, preparing for difficult cases, and coping with emotions, Beckwith’s training is now mandatory for all new agents and those who have been in the field less than three years.
“It really is the training I wish I had received early on,” says Beckwith.
The impact of her efforts can be seen in feedback from INTERPOL agents, all of which has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I really wish I had this a year ago while looking at a horrible case,” said one alum. “The images stuck with me, but I’m now working through it with Beckwith’s recommendations. My team agrees she is an angel for talking about her bad experiences in order to help us.”
In such a broad field, unfortunately, not everyone has access to detailed training courses. But there are plenty of alternative methods to mentally manage and heal.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique is one of Beckwith’s favorites, as is the HALT Technique. She additionally recommends visiting mentalhealthhackers.org, NAMI, and SHIFT Wellness.
“Mental health should be a priority for everyone, and there is nothing wrong or shameful about seeking help,” advocated Beckwith in her final remarks. “I hope [talking about it] in the community gets normalized.”
Cybersecurity is certainly on its way there. In the past year, both Black Hat USA and RSA Conference have illuminated this important topic, with the latter planning to do so again at its upcoming virtual experience this May.
To hear more about her inspiring career, listen to Beckwith’s full Cybercrime Magazine podcast interview here. You can also read about her in the book “Women Know Cyber: 100 Fascinating Females Fighting Cybercrime.”
– Amanda Glassner is a staff writer and reporter at Cybercrime Magazine.
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