Addictions are difficult to deal with whether we are talking about gambling, alcohol, drugs – or internet addiction. If people in your organization is suffering from addiction, this means the risk of falling victim to social engineering attacks is increased.

Addiction to alcohols, gambling or even being constantly connected share many behavioral effects that hurt our ability to stay alert and make rational decisions.

According to Cybehave’s psychologist, Anders, who is an expert on addiction, typical effects are:

  • People who suffer from addiction tend to disregard anything but their focus – getting their next fix
  • Addiction leads to anxiety, stress and makes us make rapid decisions in order to get to the desired substance – whether physical or digital
  • This makes us “click faster” and “think less”

The follow-on effect from addiction on cybersecurity is twofold; the addiction is a vulnerability that can be exploited by third-parties wanting to recruit insiders – for example through blackmail or bribes. The other effect, that is perhaps more common, is that individuals will be less able to detect and respond rationally to phishing attacks. It is more likely that a person suffering from the effects of addiction will click a phishing link or fail to notice that the login page they are using does not show the right URL than a person who does not suffer from such issues.

Internet or mobile addiction – what can we do about it?

Alcohol and drugs have long been seen as problematic in the workplace, and many workplaces have systems in place to help employees in trouble with substance abuse. A newer, and perhaps more common addiction problem is smartphone and internet addiction. The effects on concentration and decision making can be very similar to those of substance addiction – but being glued to one’s smartphone is generally much less likely to be frowned upon by coworkers than keeping a bottle of gin on the desk.

Tips for individuals

If you feel you may be in the danger zone of internet or smartphone addiction, here are some tips for how to manage this:

  • Take regular breaks from working on digital devices. The break from work should be a disconnect from the digital world – take a walk, have a coffee, talk to a colleague.
  • See yourself from the outside: do you see behaviors you do not like? Do friends and colleagues express frustration with your tendency to constantly use your phone?
  • If you feel you are having problems disconnecting or putting your phone down, tell someone – whether it is a friend or your doctor.

Tips for businesses and leaders

As a leader you wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop in performance for someone with an alcohol problem. After reading this you probably would be concerned with digital addiction as well. So what can you do?

  1. Don’t foster a culture where it is expected that people stay connected at all times. Allow people free time and space to breathe.
  2. Build knowledge about addiction into your HSE and security programs. Cybehave’s e-learning program has a unique focus on human factors and includes brief and to the point information to employees also on addiction and its effects.
  3. Encourage social breaks during the day. Have spaces for socializing available and make it OK to use them.
  4. Don’t focus too much on performance goals and KPI tracking; make it OK to talk about issues with a manager without fearing for the bonus or even being let go.
  5. Consider offering professional help to people suffering from addiction – for example through health insurance or the company’s HSE department.

Leave a Reply