A recent report from leading cybersecurity firm, Deep Instinct, has uncovered that the relentless threat of ransomware attacks is now driving many chief information officers (CIOs) and other cybersecurity professionals to quit their roles.

Cybersecurity professionals are now under intense pressure to ensure the businesses they serve remain secure, and the stress involved in dealing with dedicated attacks like ransomware strikes is leading many to opt for a different career path in another industry altogether.

The impact of ransomware on the cybersecurity industry

Cybersecurity researchers are warning that these increasing stress levels are unsustainable in the field’s workforce and are the resulting of a combination of looming company-wide assaults and persistent ransomware threats. Deep Instinct’s study discovered that 46% of executive-level and senior cybersecurity professionals have now considered quitting their profession because of stress.

The main factors for this desire to quit were identified by Deep Instinct as unrelenting cyber threats from ransomware operators along with supply chain attacks. The 2021 Kaseya ransomware attack and the 2020 SolarWinds incident were both cited as examples. The 2020 and 2021 strikes both had long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for companies affected.

The cybersecurity company’s research team found that the responsibility of preventing these kinds of devastating attacks weighs exceptionally heavy on those charged with keeping business networks and wider organisational systems protected. Statistics showed that 90% of cybersecurity professionals are actively stressed in their current roles and that a substantial proportion of these professionals concede that this tension is impeding their ability to perform the duties they are tasked with.

Factors affecting cybersecurity professional’s stress levels

The report uncovered that heightened stress levels were directly related to levels of responsibility. As a result, those in leadership roles tended to feel pressure more acutely, with one out of every three C-Suite executives describing themselves as “highly stressed”. These individuals included CISOs, ITOs and CTOs, as well as IT strategy directors.

Deep Instinct commented that the exodus of professionals couple be “potentially catastrophic” for organisations relying on their expertise and vigilance, as could senior cyber executives’ acknowledgement that they may not be performing to their best of their abilities, nor making the best decisions, due to their high stress levels.

Cybersecurity professionals also felt that fatigue and burnout had increased because of many organisations adopting remote working as a new business model. In many cases, the work-from-home revolution has made securing enterprise networks a far greater challenge for CIOs and other IT professionals.

The greatly diminished oversight that IT security teams have over devices being used in a remote setting makes it far more difficult to make certain that correct information security practices are being adhered to. The study also found that many IT teams feel they are still not properly equipped to answer the multiple challenges that working remotely presents.

A total of 52% of C-suite level professionals surveyed commented that trying to secure a remote workforce was the largest area of concern for them, followed by digital transformation and its impact on a firm’s security posture.