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Cyber hoarder study

While we are familiar with physical hoarding, little has been done into the digital equivalent; which can cost businesses money and be a cybersecurity risk, if that undeleted data is not being stored securely.

A Northumbria University project will look into why people hoard data and information digitally; for example, emails, documents, and the impact on organisations; and how behaviours can be changed.

Associate Professor of Psychology at Northumbria, Dr Nick Neave, is leading the research. He said: “We all know how frustrating it is when you can’t find what you are looking for; even more so in today’s digital age. Not being able to find that document, image or email you need is not only frustrating, but costs organisations time and money and can cause stress and anxiety for those involved.

“This research project is the first to explore the characteristics of digital hoarding; who is hoarding, why and what can be done to change that behaviour in order to reduce the risk and to help staff and employers. We hope the findings will also help people in their normal lives too as our use and reliance on digital continues to increase.”

The researchers plan a survey of employees at a number of large organisations, including councils, universities and emergency services; initially to identify hoarders, their characteristics and the extent of hoarding symptoms. Those individuals who score highly on digital hoarding will then be invited to take part in focus groups to look in more detail at their digital hoarding behaviour as well as how that behaviour could be changed.

The purpose; to help organisations develop and refine their digital storage and data protection and digital security policies, and preserve their commercial integrity.

The research is one of eight new projects announced by UK’s Centre for Research and Evidence on Security (CREST).


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