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24 - 08 - 2022

Cyberattacks and safety at work 

European Agency for Safety and Security at Work
General
24 - 08 - 2022

Cyberattacks and safety at work 

In the technological age, it is fair to question Cyberattacks and safety at wor, meaning the effects that cyberattacks can have on health in the workplace. How can Cybersecurity impact the physical and mental health of employees in the workplace? 

European Agency for Safety and Security at Work 

This is done by the European Agency for Safety and Security at Work through a document that considers the impact on workers when assessing cyber risks. 

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work ( EU-OSHA) has been studying in recent years the occupational consequences of rapid developments in digitalization, for example with reference to ‘artificial intelligence, robotics and the potential impact on occupational health and safety (OSH).

Studies, reports, and research that aim to provide EU policymakers, employers, and social partners with much-needed information on changes in digital technologies and their impact on the nature and organization of work and the emerging challenges they may pose for OSH. 

Growing importance of cybersecurity 

Recalling that the global cost of cybersecurity will reach $10,500 billion by 2025, it is important the impact of cybersecurity on workers.   

Indeed beyond the problems associated with data theft, cyberattacks can also put workers at risk. And companies assessing the risks of exposure to these kinds of threats must therefore also consider new and emerging risks to workers’ health and safety. 

These risks are discussed in the paper entitled “Incorporating occupational safety and health in the assessment of cybersecurity risks.” The paper, commissioned by EU-OSHA and edited by Isabella Corradini (Scientific director of Themis Research Center), investigates the relationship between cybersecurity threats and worker health and safety. 

Every company is at risk of cyberattack 

The paper’s introduction reminds us that in recent years, cybersecurity has become a hot topic for all companies in all industries. Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and cybercriminals are exploiting all kinds of vulnerabilities for their attacks. 

It is emphasized that in an increasingly digitized world, every business is at risk of cyberattack, and 2020 was a watershed for both digitization and cybersecurity issues.

While companies have increased organizational approaches on remote work, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has also been a breeding ground for cybercriminals, to the point that 78 percent of organizations have experienced an increase in the volume of cyberattacks due to the shift to remote work. 

Cyberattacks and safety at work: the social and psychological impact of cyberattacks 

We come, finally, to the social and psychological impact. 

It is indicated that cyberattacks can have both social consequences, such as loss of confidence in digital technology, and psychological consequences, such as anxiety, anger and depression. 

For example, workers who are affected by cyberattacks may feel guilty, confused or frustrated, especially when digital information is leaked, and the significance of these impacts also depends on the environment involved. For example, in a financial institution, where the consequences of a data breach may be more severe than in other workplaces, the psychological harm to workers may be greater. 

It is indicated that research on “cybercrime victimization” points to various negative experiences for both companies and individuals. For example, when organizations experience ransomware attacks, teams suffer in terms of damage to professional trust. 

The paper then reports useful insights into human error, which is considered the leading cause of 90 percent of cybersecurity breaches. 

Mistakes made by human beings 

These mistakes, such as opening phishing emails or mishandling passwords, can expose organizations to serious consequences, such as installing malicious software in the corporate network. 

And as for these mistakes, it is important to consider the psychological factors involved in cybersecurity incidents: 52 percent of workers are more likely to make mistakes when they are stressed, 43 percent when they are tired, and 26 percent when they feel exhausted. 

Not to mention the fact that cybersecurity professionals experience a high level of stress or burnout from the very work of preventing and mitigating cyberattacks. 

Cyberattacks and violence 

Finally, it is noted how the cyber dimension also affects the phenomena of violence. Cyberbullying, for example, is the best-known form of online harassment with the goal of humiliating, stalking and controlling a person using digital means. And online harassment can produce serious psychosomatic, social and mental health effects. 

Ultimately, cybersecurity management should not be reduced to mere technological protection of systems and information. In view of the fact that cyberattacks can also affect the health and safety of workers, organizations should take a holistic approach to cybersecurity.

One of the solutions of the future in this regard is Artificial Intelligence, which, unlike humans, can analyze billions of situations simultaneously. In fact, there is evidence that cybersecurity systems that take artificial intelligence into account help detect the presence of hackers or their attacks much better.