Security Means Staying Alert

Imagine working as a security guard in a guard shack or parking booth. Night after night, you’re watching multiple screens without incident. However, this lack of stimulation can actually cause you to lose focus and potentially miss signs important “red flags”.

In a study by the Human Factors and Applied Cognition program at George Mason University, researchers tested subjects about vigilance fatigue to assess how and why brainpower depletes and how to regain it. The study indicated that vigilance fatigue happens when the brain becomes overwhelmed. Essentially, when engaging in a task, the brain moves back and forth between performing a diligent task and allowing the mind to wander to “reset”. This pattern produces positive results to sustaining attention. 

When it comes to security, an eight-hour shift can pass without incident, but there is a distinct passivity that comes with monotonous tasks. Without additional stimuli, a guard sitting in a security shack has a lot of potential to miss an important incident.

There are a variety of techniques that can help increase task effectiveness. One tactic is to implant false alarms, which creates a break in the lack of stimuli. Another possibility is implementing a reward system. According to the study, rewards increase dopamine levels, which make increase the ability to stay focused. 

Interestingly, attitude plays a big role. Those who maintain a positive mental attitude tend to be more relaxed and more effective at performing a task. 

Vigilance fatigue also reaches the world of cybersecurity. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), most computer users have negative feelings about security and privacy in relation to online behavior, leading to poor decision-making. 

Participants reported being tired of having to constantly update passwords and perform system updates, along with other basic cybersecurity measures and don’t see a reward for doing so. Other signs of security fatigue include impulsivity and making the easiest decisions, which are not necessarily the best decisions. To combat this, researchers offer several suggestions security companies can take to avoid security fatigue. One is to limit the number of security decisions and simplifying security decisions.

Vigilance fatigue impacts security officers and laypersons. Taking measures to avoid these issues will help maintain high levels of security for guards who are placed inside the guard shack or security booth.

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