American security giant Symantec carried out the survey in collaboration with Dr Chris Bauer, the director of Innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London, in order to understand the psychological impact of having to work in the cyber-security sector.
The company said with increasing regulation, the need for creative problem-solving and rational decision-making under pressure, leaders in the field of security were over-loaded and this could affect their ability to make sound decisions.
But the negative sentiments expressed by the survey participants did not affect them in carrying out their daily responsibilities, the survey found.
"Security leaders tend to be motivated by high-pressure situations and find their work environment thrilling, even though it’s challenging."
The reasons why the cyber security professionals felt this way were increasing regulation, attackers gaining ground, growing complexity in the enterprise and the growing skills gap.
Forty percent of those surveyed feared with increasing regulation, such as the GDPR, they would be held personally liable for a data breach. And a little more than four-fifths said they had too many threat alerts to deal with, with 55% saying they feared being sacked if a breach happened on their watch.
There was agreement among 82% that the task of securing too much data in too many places was adding stress to the job and making it costly and complex.
The skills gap also added to the pressure, with 80% saying that lack of skills was a cause for increased pressure. Nearly half the respondents believed that, because the existing base of workers had been overtaken by the rise of cloud and mobile, their skills were behind those of attackers.
An additional factor adding to the stress on cyber-security professionals was the fact that they had to manage too many products or vendors – 79% were in agreement with this.
"In the face of such huge workloads, the majority of those questioned (67%) said their cyber-security teams left work at the end of the day with threat alerts left unreviewed," the survey said.
"The volume appears to be impacting the security of enterprises. Already 41% of security leaders believe a breach is inevitable. A third (32%) say their organisation is currently vulnerable to avoidable cyber security incidents. A quarter (26%) admitted they have already suffered one of these."
Darren Thomson, Symantec chief technology officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, commented: "The current patchwork approach to security tooling and strategy is creating more problems than it solves. There is so much daily noise that it’s near impossible to work out what is most important.
"Meanwhile the overlaps and chinks between defensive systems present hackers with new opportunities for exploit. The volume of alerts, the constant patching, and rapid emergence of new threat vectors, are absorbing the attention of security professionals, leaving little time for a more strategic approach."
The survey is the first of four in a series Symantec calls High Alert, with the remaining three to be released in subsequent months. The first can be downloaded here after agreeing to receive marketing communications from Symantec.