LAUNCH EVENT VIDEO: Cybermindz.org: Australia’s first peer-led, cybersecurity mental health support program
An idea whose time has come, Cybermindz.org provides scalable, effective and evidence-based mental health support and on-the-ground resilience building to cyber teams and those in related roles.
Founded by cyber and internet industry leader Peter Coroneos, and supported by a first-rate board and drawing from a national pool of over 400 accredited facilitators, Coroneos has launched a powerful, innovative, dedicated not-for-profit mental health initiative for the cyber sector and beyond: Cybermindz.org.
Organisations today depend on cybersecurity teams, both internal and external, to protect their customers and themselves from an ever-growing barrage of cyber threats across increasingly anything that is, or can be turned into, an attack surface.
Cybercriminals, hackers, nation states and other bad actors experienced digital acceleration during the pandemic too, and have escalated their attacks to such levels it feels appropriate to reference the title of Michelle Yeoh’s hit movie and point out we are being attacked by everything, everywhere, all at once.
The relentless threat environment by unseen attackers is felt directly by our defenders whose neurology adapts to an unhealthy ‘hypervigilance’.
With cyber security professionals our cyber defenders and protectors, Cybermindz is peer-informed (like helping like) and will operate at scale to transform the human face of cybersecurity.
Using an evidence based, ‘military-grade’ protocol called Integrative Restoration or ‘iRest’, Cybermindz builds and restores cognitive and emotional resilience in our embattled cyber teams and related disciplines.
The protocol has been used by the US Military since 2006 for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and in 2010 was approved by the US Army Surgeon General as a Tier 1 complementary therapy.
The formation of Cybermindz.org was in part a result of international studies such as the pre-pandemic 2020 UK / US Nominet study which showed:
- 88% of CISOs considered themselves to be under moderate or high stress
- 74% said their teams were under moderate or tremendous stress
- 48% admitted the levels of stress they are under had impacted their mental health and 35% their physical health
- 40% said that their stress levels had affected their relationships with their family or children
The concern is that cyber teams under relentless pressure may suffer psychological overload which will impede not only their personal wellbeing but also, through no fault of their own, their job performance. By extension this may expose to great risk the organisations they are charged to protect.
Our core proposition is that effective cybersecurity depends on healthy, happy, unburdened cyber minds. Our goal is to ‘protect our protectors’ by building resilience at the psychological level and, by extension, improving the cyber resilience of organisations and society at large.
Genesis of Cybermindz.org
Cybermindz.org founder, Peter Coroneos, having trained in, practiced and then trialled the iRest protocol with pilot groups within cybersecurity, realised its great potential in alleviating the suffering of stressed cyber teams. The pandemic amplified pressures on cyber defenders, but also provided Peter with the opportunity to successfully test and deliver the protocol remotely.
Recognising its ability to scale, he sought the endorsement of the US based Integrative Restoration Institute (IRI) and its founder, clinical psychologist Dr Richard Miller, to support his efforts to spearhead delivery of the protocol into the cyber sector – noting IRI facilitators had delivered the protocol into the US Military since 2006.
Leveraging the power of the iRest protocol and the accredited base of local facilitators, Cybermindz.org has the capability to provide in-person or remote delivery to individuals and teams to preventatively support and restore their mental health. IRI has also authorised us to develop, with their guidance, customised versions for cyber audiences.
The protocol has been the subject of over 25 independent studies which have proven its efficacy in disparate groups, from veterans and active service military, to victims of domestic and substance abuse, homeless shelters, palliative care settings, front line health workers, educationists and college students.
The neuroscience suggests that the regular practice of iRest can reverse the effects of prior unmanaged stress and restore individuals’ emotional and cognitive reserves, bringing about a new default state of calm, clarity, empathy and wellbeing.
Peter Coroneos said “The Cybermindz scheme directly addresses the risk of burnout and skills loss. It also fulfils our moral and ethical obligations to those we invite into our profession, to not let them fall. With the criticality of mental health and its ultimate impacts on human suffering and organisational security, Cybermindz.org’s mission — moving well beyond awareness raising — is to deliver peer-informed, effective, accessible relief and resilience building to stressed and embattled cyber teams,” said Mr Coroneos.
This important initiative was launched by the Hon Victor Dominello MP, NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government. Minister Dominello said: “Cyber security presents workplaces with a host of challenges, which can take a toll on people’s mental health. Our greatest asset is our people and we must ensure we prioritise their mental fitness so they can perform at the optimal level. I commend this new and unique initiative for the work they are doing in building strong and resilient cyber workforces.”
Tony Chapman, NSW Chief Cyber Security Officer echoed the Minister’s words, stating: “Cyber Security NSW is proud to be a part of this initiative to support and recognise the importance of good mental health within the cyber security workforce. As an organisation, we are acutely aware of the high-stakes environments these analysts operate in daily. Cyber security has significant implications for individuals and communities. Equipping staff with the tools to navigate the mental stressors of the job will help ensure they can continue to be a strong front line of defence for our critical infrastructure, information and systems.”
Additional quotes from founding partner organisations:
CyberCX Chief Strategy Officer, Alastair MacGibbon
“Cybermindz is set to be a deeply valued resource for the sector, coming at an important time for the Australian cyber workforce. The impact of the pandemic has seen rapid growth in cyber crime and the demand for cyber security services. Our team members have been delivering extraordinary levels of support to our customers over the past couple of years, and it’s important that we recognise they too need support. We need to train, attract and retain the best and brightest cyber practitioners – and, importantly – give them the very best support to ensure they thrive and grow in their careers and continue their important work.”
Nick Lennon, VP APAC, Mimecast
“Cybersecurity is notorious for being, to put it mildly, a demanding profession. The constant pressures on cyber professionals can result in stress and burnout, meaning taking care of your health and well-being are essential. Cybermindz.org is taking the lead on addressing the mental health challenges of cyber professionals and Mimecast are very proud of being a Founding Partner of this wonderful initiative. Together we have the opportunity to shape the future of the industry, so let’s set the benchmark for how cyber work can and should be done.”
Cybermindz.org Australian Leadership Team
WIth over 30 years active military service, Lt. Col. Richard Mogg, GAICD has joined the Cybermindz board as incoming Executive Director. He will assist Peter Coroneos in building the organisation into a national presence during 2022. The board of Cybermindz.org also includes iRest Australasian Director Fuyuko Sawamura-Toyota and leading cyber organisational and behavioural risk academic, Andrew Reeves. Corrs Chambers Westgarth cyber litigation and pro bono partner Michael do Rozario is supporting the organisation as its Special Advisor: Governance, Risk and Compliance.
Videos of the launch and interviews with stakeholders (on Cybermindz TV)
The official launch can be viewed here and immediately below. It includes the welcome, founder’s address, Ministerial address and formal launch, the expert panel discussion and questions from the audience. (78 mins)
Individual interviews with a number of HR and cyber professionals (3 mins avg)
1. Vicky Drakousis, Chief Human Resources Officer Allianz Australia
2. Chris Poulos, APJ Lead KeyFactor
3. Ben Jones, CEO Continuum Cyber with Stephanie Cullinan
4. Lt Col Richard Mogg, incoming executive director Cybermindz.org
5. Stephen Chey, cyber industry veteran