Covid fatigue causes careless behavior, endangers online safety

Because it’s not bad enough that we’ve had to shelter in place, shut down businesses, and stay away from friends and families for months. Now we learn that our natural response to this stress — a type of emotional exhaustion medical professionals call Covid fatigue — puts us in danger, too. Great. Might as well give up now.

The above paragraph is a meta example of Covid fatigue… or at least the beginnings of it. The defeatist attitude is a telltale symptom of this type of fatigue, which should not be mistaken for the fatigue that can sometimes be a symptom of Covid-19 infection. Covid fatigue is instead defined as feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the conditions brought on by the pandemic and the ever-changing list of rules to follow in order to stay safe.

Those with Covid fatigue are less likely to follow basic social protocols for protecting against the virus. And that, unfortunately, spills over into their online habits as well.

For many of you in IT and security, a lightbulb may have already flickered on. Covid fatigue sounds awfully similar to security fatigue or alert fatigue. Indeed, it’s the exact same principle. And if you’re catching on to how emotional fatigue can lead to self-destructive behavior online (like reusing passwords or exercising less caution opening emails, for example), then guess who else knows?

The most successful threat actors study user psychology so their social engineering tactics can be believable. And those threat actors have been clued into Covid fatigue for a while now.

It’s most important, then, that IT and security leaders guide their employees in fighting back against possible online attacks, remembering basic security hygiene, and combatting emotional fatigue. The last item may require help from your people operations teams, but will ultimately lead to a happier, healthier workforce with energy in reserves.

There’s so much uncertainty with this virus, and that contributes to Covid fatigue, too. But if there’s one thing we can be sure about, it’s that battling this pandemic — and the one we’re facing online — is a marathon, not a sprint.

Read on to learn how to cope with Covid fatigue and stay safe online:

For background on security fatigue:

To see what Johns Hopkins recommends for fighting Covid fatigue:

On alert/notification fatigue:

By Marcin Kleczynski

CEO of Malwarebytes, click About Me at the top of the page to learn more!

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