University of Wolverhampton secures additional funding to address cyber professionals extreme levels of stress

A team at the University of Wolverhampton has received further funding to develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to help Cyber Security professionals reduce stress and improve performance.

Led by Visiting Scholar, Ellen Kay, and Professor Prashant Pillai of the University’s Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI) the team has been awarded nearly £60,000 to develop a Proof-of-Concept of their smart technology.  Other University team members are Maria Uther, Professor of Cyber Psychology and Head of Centre for Psychological Research and Dr Sadiq Ali, Lecturer at the School of Mathematics and Computer Science and a member of WCRI.

The project is one of 14 selected for Phase 2 of the Cyber Security Academic Start-ups Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP), funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). 

The project, ‘CyberMIND: An AI based platform helping Cyber Security professionals detect, predict and manage stress’, is due to run until February 2021.

Several recent studies have shown that cyber professionals experience extreme levels of stress with 95% working beyond their contracted hours, 48% suffering from mental health and 23% turning to medication or alcohol to cope. 1 in 3 suffer from ‘tremendous’ stress, and 40% leave their jobs within 12 months, costing employers more than £16K per person in recruitment and onboarding, not including the cost of sick days taken due to stress which is currently 21 days per year.

Professor Pillai said: “The Phase 2 funding will help us build and test our system and our aim is to take the product to market in the future.

“In the first phase, the team invited Cyber Security professionals to take part in an online survey to assess the scale of the problem against the national average and the results were overwhelming, with 90% respondents acknowledging that stress was affecting their physical health and 86% acknowledging that it was affecting their work-life balance.

“The biggest concern in our findings was that 68% acknowledged that stress was affecting their ability to perform their job duties and 72% acknowledged that stress impacted the cyber team’s overall performance. So how vulnerable are we to potential cyber-attacks if our cyber professionals are suffering?

“The team has now opened the survey to other IT professionals to gain an understanding of the scale of the problem in the IT sector and to identify how they can help reduce stress, improve wellbeing and help companies address their Duty of Care.”

Project lead, Ellen Kay, said: “Due to an increase in the number of sophisticated attacks, shortage of skilled staff and overwhelming workloads, cyber professionals are suffering high levels of stress. So how secure are we? CyberMIND will help cyber professionals to monitor and reduce their stress levels and improve their performance.”

The survey is available here.  

For more information contact Professor Pillai (P.Pillai@wlv.ac.uk) or Ellen Kay (E.Kay@wlv.ac.uk).