Cyber Operations Stress Survey (COSS): Studying fatigue, frustration, and cognitive workload in cybersecurity operations


Josiah Dykstra and Celeste Lyn Paul, U.S. Department of Defense


Operator stress is a common, persistent, and disabling effect of cyber operations and an important risk factor for performance, safety, and employee burnout. We designed the Cyber Operations Stress Survey (COSS) as a low-cost method for studying fatigue, frustration, and cognitive workload in real-time tactical cyber operations. The combination of pre- and post-operational measures with well validated factors from the NASA Task Load Index and additional contextual factors provide a quick, easy, and valuable assessment of cognitive stress. We report on our experiences developing and fielding the survey instrument, validation, and describe the use and results of the COSS in four studies of cyber operations across the National Security Agency.

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