How to Make Emotionally Effective Decisions when faced with ransomware attacks

cyber security challenges Dec 05, 2022
ransomware decision-making

Not so long ago, cybersecurity was seen as a sexy buzzword, a trending phenomenon that few understood. For many societies, sectors, and organizations across the globe, cyber breaches are the root cause of digital pain.  Due to the volatile landscape, cyber threats continue to evolve rapidly. Remote or hybrid workers are vulnerable to attack by cybercriminals because they have an in-depth understanding of how to exploit human vulnerability.

Ransomware is by far the most prevalent digital virus in the 21st Century. There is no mercy in inflicting digital, mental, and financial distress on organizations and people from this type of cybercrime.

Many companies have paid the ransomware price, several times as criminal hackers keep circumventing their outdated technical systems or where insider threats and human error prevailed. An anti-ransomware kill switch, for example, deals with symptoms only, not the root cause, with potentially devastating consequences for business disruption, employee productivity loss, and the inability to reformat networks or reconfigure cloud architectures. This article explains why the kill switch alone is not always the best option.

Sophos “State of Ransomware 2021” reveals that only 8% of businesses that pay a ransom get back all of their data. It is even illegal to pay in some countries, while others are contemplating extending this under their own laws.

Among the invisible pains affecting businesses around the globe is the human factor. Stress, pressure, and anxiety are taking their toll on people when dealing with a ransomware attack. Universities and schools are facing unprecedented disruptions to their educational systems. Customers are losing trust and confidence companies responsible for safeguarding their data, because their digital privacy and assets are being compromised. In the face of ransomware attacks and saving lives, the healthcare sector continues to face unimaginable dilemmas.

How can organizations leverage emotional intelligence to improve decision-making and effectively manage the risk of ransomware attacks?


What is Emotional Intelligence?

Our emotional intelligence (EQ) is our ability to perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information effectively and meaningfully. As opposed to cognitive intelligence (like IQ), emotional intelligence is not a measure of professional aptitude, vocational interest, or personality preferences (like psychological type).

In spite of the misconception that EQ is touchy-feely and overly dependent on emotional and subjective factors, the EQ-i 2.0 is a scientifically validated tool widely used across the world that focuses on many objective aspects, including Problem Solving, Reality Testing, Flexibility, and Independence. The ability to respond in the short term to one's immediate surroundings, challenges, and environment requires EQ. In the same way, IQ is crucial for long-term planning and strategic thinking.

Emotional intelligence has enhanced our ability to evaluate our general or overall intelligence, adding new depth to our understanding of human intelligence. Understanding oneself and others, relating to others, and coping with the immediate environment are all aspects of emotional intelligence. The function of emotional intelligence is tactical (immediate), while the function of cognitive intelligence is strategic (long-term).

By reflecting how a person applies knowledge to the present situation, emotional intelligence helps predict success. Measuring emotional intelligence is like measuring one's common sense and ability to navigate the world. Emotional intelligence can assist people in building their emotional firewalls and have several lines of defense when feeling triggered by fear in the cybersecurity world.

Emotions are linked to perceptions and concepts stored in different brain regions, according to research. A person's world map is based on their cognitive biases, also known as cognitive biases. Everyone has filing cabinets with information from the past that they use as a blueprint for how to behave and respond to the immediate environment.

Based on past experiences, childhood upbringing, and cognitive biases, we all see, perceive, and process information within our map of the world. Essentially, concepts trigger emotions, and emotions drive behavior, such as people's responses.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, renowned brain researcher and author of How emotions are made, explains the science of emotional intelligence in depth.





How does it work?

When faced with a ransomware attack, people have two options: to pay or not to pay. Let’s look at a fictional persona, Jason, who is a high-profile person of interest and works in the critical infrastructure services industry.


Option A: Jason pays




Option B: Jason refuses to pay





A 3-Step Approach to Making Sound Decisions




Jason's decision could have catastrophic consequences if he bases it on fear instead of reason. Emotional intelligence techniques can help people overcome their fears.

Using a three-step emotional intelligence process, Jason can make more informed decisions, own the consequences, and navigate the results with more confidence and less anxiety.

The first step focuses on emotional diffusion. When we perceive a threat, we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. The amygdala often hijacks our decision-making ability as we experience fear and anxiety. Emotional diffusion techniques can help people regain a sense of calm and confidence, allowing them to act from a place of reason instead of emotion.


In step two, Jason can use the 360-degree perspective technique, which allows him to see a situation from his own perspective, as well as from the perspective of a third party, an observer, and a group or organization. By gaining a broader understanding of what is happening, Jason can make more rational decisions and avoid being influenced by impulses.

The third step focuses on visualization techniques. Our ability to use our imagination is what differentiates the human mind from other species. Visualization is often accompanied by worry, but by using visualization techniques, people can create a new mental representation of an unfamiliar environment and overcome their uncomfortable emotions of fear and anxiety. This process can help people mentally rehearse their decision-making process, build emotional resilience, and fear less when faced with uncertain situations.


When Jason can visualize his action plan of executing both options and see himself navigating the consequences of both situations, his emotional intensity will decrease. He has mentally rehearsed this process plenty of times and built emotional resilience through his mind. By knowing more, he fears less, and his decision-making process is less likely to be dominated by his fears.



As far as reducing the risk of Ransomware is concerned, there is no one solution that fits all. Emotional Intelligence, a science that helps minimize people's pain and disruption, can go a long way in managing ransomware risk by emotionally effective decision-making under pressure.


If you're interested in learning more about how emotional intelligence can enhance your organization's cybersecurity efforts and minimize the potential impact of ransomware attacks, I invite you to connect with me. As a consultant and expert in emotional intelligence, I specialise in helping individuals and organizations develop the skills and techniques necessary to make effective decisions under pressure and navigate difficult situations with confidence and resilience.

Together, we can explore the ways in which emotional intelligence can be leveraged to reduce the risk of ransomware and other cybersecurity threats, and develop a customized plan that meets the unique needs and goals of your organization. Whether you're a CEO, a manager, or a team member, emotional intelligence can play a vital role in safeguarding your company's digital assets and protecting against potential breaches.

So why not take the first step towards a more secure and resilient future? Let's connect and start the conversation today.

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