Hacker phobia - coping with the fear of getting hacked

Gal Ringel
5
min read

<hl>Is “hacker phobia” the new mental health issue demanding our attention?<hl>

They say that it's not paranoia if they're actually out to get you, but fear of genuine dangers can still get a bit out of control. The rising number of cybersecurity attacks and the media attention they each receive have caused some people to develop a state called “hacker phobia.” Is this a new mental health problem that demands our attention, or merely a new buzz term like FOMO? How can we recognize and manage it? Let’s take a closer look at this rising issue.

Hacker Phobia

The mental price of cybersecurity breaches

When discussing the price tag of privacy violations, we often think of the company holding the data and the implications of a security breach on their business conduct and reputation. But behind alarming titles, describing the millions of files that have been leaked to unknown destinations, are real people who must face the consequences of having their data stolen because of malicious forces and irresponsible professionals. These people suffer both the financial and emotional consequences that involve worrying about sensitive personal data being exposed and used against them and having their most private space violated.  

Getting to know hacker phobia

Research performed last year in Australia found that the locals’ top five fears and phobias include snakes, spiders, heights, sharks, and... hackers! Many participants also reported feeling scared that their actions at work will cause a data leak that will affect the organization. This fear is added to people worrying about their personal phones being hacked and having private information fall into the wrong hands. Hacker phobia, which is also known as cyber insecurity, is often fueled by the media and entertainment companies who promote the image of cyber warfare. That’s not to say that they’re wrong, but this contribution to the rise of fear levels should still be noted.  

Is there something to fix?

Some might say that hacker anxiety is just plain logic. Given the frequency of data breaches, the most natural and healthy thing is to worry about being hurt by hackers. In an article series examining different stress types, tech journalist Mike Pearl asked various security specialists about the fear of getting hacked and ranked the results as 4 out of 5 in his scale of stress. Making it clear just how real the struggle is.

While this may be true, there is still a big difference between staying alert and allowing fear to take over. Should we be aware and concerned about car accidents? Absolutely. Should we stay off the road? Absolutely not. As someone who reads about data breach threats on a daily basis, I always differentiate between awareness and fear and do my best to give others the tools to protect themselves while embracing technology and the value it brings us all.

Hacker phobia
Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Self-diagnosis and telling signs

Think you might suffer from hacker phobia but not quite sure? Based on recognized signs of anxiety, there are a few ways of spotting it:

  • Excessive fear: If online interactions genuinely scare you to the point of suspecting every email, form, and link you come across, it’s worth looking into the details of hacker phobia and considering treating it.
  • Avoidance: If you try to avoid technology and prefer not to shop online due to a fear of being hacked or scammed, you can miss out on many wonderful opportunities (and sales!) and should consider speaking to someone.
  • Panic and distress: Feeling stressed about using technology tools doesn’t always indicate a phobia of any sort and can sometimes be part of the anxiety and frustration that some of us feel when having to comprehend new procedures and tools. But, if you're panicking when interacting with certain types of technology or feel that having to give any information online makes your blood pressure skyrocket, that’s worth looking into.  

Manage your fear before it manages you

First, let me make an important disclaimer: You should only take advice from professionals regarding emotional distress and mental health issues.  If you feel that your fear of getting hacked is interfering with your ability to run a regular routine and enjoy life,  or that you might be having delusions of being hacked, please consult a therapist.  

Now that we’ve got that covered, there are also a couple of ways to ease the situation. First, I would suggest learning a little more about the subject to understand what online interactions can be dangerous and how to spot suspicious behavior. Hacker phobia is the one case where more information isn’t just triggering but might be helpful. Secondly, use technology to fight your fear of online dangers by embracing tools that help you manage your own data. This newfound sense of control will not only lower the risk of having your data exposed and used by unauthorized bodies but can also help calm the stress surrounding online actions.  

It’s OK to be worried, but the real benefit comes when you use those primal feelings that are trying to protect you and use them to empower yourself by learning how to manage your information online. The good news for all of us is that there’s never been more technology to help you protect and manage your data online, so we can let those worries be something of the past.