- Industry that deals with copious amounts of personal, exploitable data
- Organisation-wide education and awareness are crucial
AS THE adoption of digital technology in the healthcare industry accelerates, there is an increasing need to protect another side of patients’ and healthcare organisations’ well-being – the security of their personal data.
This emphasis on protecting data and mitigating cyber-threats is reflected in the industry’s significant investment into cyber-security.
According to a recent survey by Palo Alto Networks, about 70% of healthcare organisations in Asia-Pacific say that 5% to 15% of their organisation’s IT budget is allocated to cyber-security.
However, despite substantial budgets, there seems to be a need for the healthcare industry to catch-up with industry peers in terms of cyber-security talent, with only 78% having a team in their organisations dedicated to IT security, the lowest among other industries surveyed. This is also well-below the industry-wide average of 86%.
“As an industry that deals with copious amounts of personal, exploitable data, it can be disastrous if this data enters the wrong hands.
“Healthcare organisations need to ensure they are always updated on new security measures, and change their mindset from a reactive approach to a prevention-based approach instead, akin to how they remind patients that prevention is better than cure,” says Sean Duca, vice president and regional chief security officer for Asia-Pacific, Palo Alto Networks.
Aside from monetary loss associated with data breaches and availability of connected devices which monitor patient lives, healthcare professionals are most worried about the loss of clients’ contacts, financial or medical information – 30% have cited loss of details as key.
Fear of damaging the company’s reputation among clients comes next at 22%, followed by 17% citing company downtime while a breach is being fixed as a concern.
Cyber-security risks in healthcare organisations are also amplified with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), with 78% of organisations allowing employees to access work-related information with their own personal devices such as their mobile phones and computers.
In addition to this, 69% of those surveyed say they are allowed to store and transfer their organisation’s confidential information through their personal devices.
While 83% claimed there are security policies in place, only 39% admit to reviewing these policies more than once a year – lower than the 51% of respondents from the finance industry, a sector also known to hold sensitive client data.
Call to get in shape for the future
As more healthcare organisations fall prey to cyber-attacks, such as ransomware, a lapse in data security is a real threat to the industry, hence organisation-wide education and awareness are crucial towards ensuring that the right preventive measures are implemented and enforced.
Fifty-four percent of the respondents have cited an inability to keep up with the evolving solutions being a barrier to ensuring cyber-security in their organisations, and 63% of respondents attributed this to an ageing internet infrastructure as the likely main reason for cyber-threats, should they happen.
Here are some tips for healthcare organisations:
Ensure that medical devices are equipped with up-to-date firmware and security patches to address cyber-security risks. Medical devices are notoriously vulnerable to cyber-attacks because security is often an afterthought when the devices are designed and maintained by the manufacturer. These precautionary measures may include having an inventory on all medical devices, accessing network architecture and determining patch management plan for medical devices, as well as developing a plan to migrate medical devices to the medical device segment.
Apply a zero-trust networking architecture for hospital networks, making security ubiquitous throughout, not just at the perimeter. Healthcare organisations should look to segment devices and data based on their risk, inspecting network data as it flows between segments, and requiring authentication to the network and to any application for any user on the network.
Practices such as BYOD and some employees’ ability to store and transfer confidential information through their personal devices put them at a higher risk of phishing attacks. To prevent this, healthcare providers should ensure that staff undergo regular end-user security training to reduce successful phishing. Cyber-security best practices can be taught as a new hire class for every employee.
As healthcare organisations migrate portions of their critical infrastructure and applications to the cloud, it becomes imperative for an advanced and integrated security architecture to be deployed to prevent cyber-attacks on three-prongs: the network, the endpoint and the cloud. Traditional antivirus will not be effective in guarding against advanced malware such as ransomware which continuously changes to avoid detection.