The aftermath of a cyber-attack can be detrimental to your cyber-security, but what happens to your self-security in the fallout of a crime against you?

 

Undergoing a cyber-attack is not only a threat to your private information, but an attack can also be a threat to your emotional state. Becoming a victim of virtual crime can lead to emotional trauma, depression, and Acute Stress Disorder, according to an article from the Academic Press (Bada, Nurse).

 

Yes, compromised information is always a concern following an attack, but the weight of damage control is not the sole cause for distress. Oftentimes, the feeling of helplessness, vulnerability, and victimization is what takes the biggest toll on our emotions, according to the report.

 

“The victim can go into stages of grief, suffer from anger or rage. In some cases, victims may even blame themselves and develop a sense of shame.” (Bada, Nurse).  

 

Sometimes, these emotional states can begin to have physical consequences for the victim, including troubles sleeping, general aches and pains, and even problems with addiction (USA Today).

 

“Victims wrestle with feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. Their sleep can be disrupted, energy levels decrease. They self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. For some, the aftereffects are more severe: bouts of depression and anxiety, even post-traumatic stress disorder.” (USA Today). “Aches, pains, headaches and cramps were symptoms for nearly 57%.”

 

Victims who end up blaming themselves for incidents of cyber-crime could have yet another psychological impact on their self-esteem, impacting how they perceive cyber-attacks in general.  Some may come to view them as inevitable and take little action to prevent the instance of another attack. (USA Today).

 

This can be illustrated through the concept of “learned helplessness”, where the feelings of powerlessness take over the individual and how they react to instances of victimization (Bada, Nurse).

 

“The anonymous nature of cyber-crime, can lead to an acceptance that one (e.g., an individual, industry, government) will become a victim of cyber-crime at some point. Moreover, the sense of learned helplessness can potentially also result in a low uptake of protective security behaviors.” (Bada, Nurse).

 

This phenomenon is becoming progressively more common.

 

“Mental health professionals say data breaches and other cyber-crimes are increasingly taking a heavy psychological toll on the millions of Americans whose personal information is plundered by fraudsters.” (USA Today). “Nearly 85% reported disturbances in their sleep habits, 77% reported increased stress levels and nearly 64% said they had trouble concentrating.”

 

So, how can we combat this emotional toll if we are subject to an attack?

 

“As online threats and cyber-attacks continue to permeate the Internet, it is essential that we as a community develop a better understanding of these issues and how they can impact our lives.” (Bada, Nurse).  

 

The only way to combat the emotional toll of a cyber-attack is to not give up. Preparation and prevention are key in warding off unwanted negative emotions following an attack. Don’t blame yourself, and talk about what you are feeling (USA Today).

 

Informing yourself on what specific types of cyber-attacks are (such as ransomware and phishing), how they affect people, and the typical course of action following an attack is a great starting point. Also, informing yourself on the specific psychological tolls an attack can have on someone will prepare you to look for signs of cyber-attack related distress within yourself.

 

The more you know about cyber-attacks, how they happen, and what happens after them, the less of an emotional toll an attack will have on you and the more prepared you will become for if and when a cyber-attack is brought against you.

 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any anxiety or depression related symptoms after falling victim to a cyber-attack, please seek help from a professional. You can also contact a victim’s assistance group, such as the Identity Theft Resource Center

 

Additionally, if you are concerned about your company’s cyber-security, Responsive Technology Partners is offering a free risk assessment to business owners and executives so you can gain peace of mind knowing your network is secure. We will reveal your company’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas such as credentialing, backups in case of a ransomware attack, and if your network is safe from hackers. Ninety-nine percent of the computer networks we assess would not survive a ransomware attack. You can claim your free risk assessment at www.responsivetechnologypartners.com/cyber-security-assessment/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Bada, Nurse. “The Social and Psychological Impact of Cyber Attacks” Academic Press.  https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1909/1909.13256.pdf#:~:text=Other%20impacts%20can%20be%20isolation,anger%2C%20annoyance%20and%20being%20cheated

Guynn, Jessica Usa Today. “Anxiety, Depression and PTSD: The Hidden Epidemic of Data Breaches and Cyber Crimes.” USA TODAY, 24 Feb. 2020, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/conferences/2020/02/21/data-breach-tips-mental-health-toll-depression-anxiety/4763823002/