The inevitable burnout of a repetitive workflow is not a new concept. People burn out when they do the same thing for too long and they become less interested in both process and result. There is an age-old saying: "Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life". Well, this may be the case, but how many of you have started doing more of something that was once a hobby, and then eventually it became work and was no longer enjoyable?
Burnout can come in all shapes and sizes and will probably even look different for everyone, and will likely happen at various stages throughout your career.
According to the World Health Organization, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
- and reduced professional efficacy
In DFIR, this burnout is complicated even more by the nature of the work we do. For a digital forensic examiner, it doesn’t matter your sector or discipline, you are likely to be exposed to media files or similar artifacts containing violent or CSAM content. Such repeated exposure introduces a whole new perspective on burnout. We may love every aspect of our job, putting evidence in a report to take down the violent and sick minded individuals who hoard this kind of content. But such kind of exposure can tremendously accelerate burnout.
In the Belkasoft LinkedIn group, we conducted a short survey dedicated to burnout. Here is what some of our readers feel now:
Reduce stressors and limit burnout
- Keep learning: Always challenge your mind and techniques. Try to learn new methods for completing your examination and analysis. A change in workflow might even accelerate old processes
- Your body needs R&R: Do not skip vacations. Even if you feel you do not need a vacation, studies show we do
- According to the Belkasoft DFIR Industry survey 2021, 46% of responders work overtime or beyond the formal time expectation 1-2 or even more times a week. Work from home, remote capabilities, and other benefits of the modern work routine have pros and cons. It is important to delineate as clearly as possible where "work" begins and ends. For example, you can include hours when you are available for urgent communications. If you work in front computer the whole day, staring into a computer as a rest will rarely help. Change the type of activity. Sounds insane, but when you feel exhausted, physical activity will actually give you energy.
- Utilize your unique resources: You have friends, family, associates, connections and social media. Exercise your personal resources for assessment and growth
- Check out the article Somebody Else's Hero: Mental Health In Digital Forensics
- Check out the podcast Mental Stress & Mental Health Awareness in Digital Forensics
- Check our Belkasoft's Jared Luebbert's topic of conversation during a Cyber Social Hub "Hub Cast"
- Talk to an experienced therapist, even if you think you do not need to
- Get up and away from your desk. Going for a walk or getting exercise is a great way to clear your mind
- Check out our latest article on the physical upkeep of your body, and how it can lead to better perspective on work and productivity
There is research in progress on the impact of child abuse investigations and identifying possible protective factors in regard to coping strategies for investigators and personality traits. The study is supported by Newcastle University Psychology Department. You can take part in it and help the digital forensic community.
How Belkasoft helps our users
As mentioned before, examiners are constantly subjected to material that no one should be exposed to. To help our customers have as little exposure as possible, while still effectively performing their duties, we have implemented the following features into our top of the line digital forensic and incident response software:
- Blurring explicit photos detected. Please find more details on this feature
in our article
Stay in Good Physical Shape: Look Past the Screen of a Digital Forensic Examiner
- With the additional ability of unblurring the faces of those in the above-mentioned photos
- We also offer a blurred content addition to reports, so the disturbing artifacts can be included on reports without exposing everyone
- Allowing hash set analysis to detect CSAM without having to look through
- With the ability to add or create hash values for this type of indexing and search feature
- By automating the dulland routine tasks Belkasoft empowers examiners to focus on the deeper, more challenging and intellectual work
- Belkasoft also supports the Project VIC hashset search as well as an export format: both 1.3 and 2.0
It is inevitable that we will be exposed to material that no one should ever have to see, but the job of a forensic examiner is to uncover necessary and damning evidence that oftentimes will expose criminal behavior. Repeated exposure to disturbing artifacts will most certainly accelerate the process of a burnout, whether personally or professionally. Take the necessary steps to protect your mental state, whether that is taking a long weekend vacation in the midst of a long and gruesome case, or going for a walk to clear your head. We need to protect ourselves, both physically and mentally so that we can keep up the good fight.
The Belkasoft team is always willing to lend an ear to those in need, as well as to continuously improve our digital forensic software to enable good mental and physical health for our customers. If you have a suggestion on how we could better a specific feature of our product to assist your workflow, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.