Increased Awareness Is the Best Cure for Health Care Security Risks

The health care market is quite heterogeneous, and as a result, each organization has a unique set of cybsersecurity needs and characteristics. The industry includes hospitals of all sizes, local doctoral consortia, public health care institutions and individual physicians. Naturally, health care security risks vary depending on the size and type of organization, but most institutions have at least one thing in common: Their core business goals rarely align with security policies.

Limited Resources and Lack of Leadership

In many cases, the IT department is required to implement archiving functions with very limited automation capabilities. The level of automation typically depends on the size of the organization. Individual practitioners often work from a single laptop, for example, while large hospitals have data centers equipped with many automated functions.

The same goes for service and security management: Larger data centers usually require the oversight of a chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO), while smaller organizations might employ only one or the other. The smallest companies might lack a security executive altogether, opting instead to delegate leadership to individual IT competencies.

Nevertheless, the information stored on health care organizations’ servers is highly sensitive compared to most other industries. Data related to patients’ health and billing records is extremely valuable to cybercriminals and often goes unprotected due to lack of investment in security. It’s no surprise, then, that the health care industry has suffered numerous high-profile attacks in recent months.

Emerging Health Care Security Risks

The health care sector must also deal with additional security wrinkles related to cloud adoption and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. When managed appropriately, these services and devices can boost productivity for a health care organization. Unfortunately, this management often falls outside the scope of the organization’s core businesses, especially for companies that lack a CISO. In these cases, cloud services and personal devices are often adopted as a natural step without accounting for security risks.

Furthermore, health care networks are usually accessible 24/7, meaning they are exposed to cybercriminals at all times. Remediation efforts often lag behind while fraudsters compromise critical operations. In a worst-case scenario, these interruptions could be life-threatening to patients who require urgent medical care. This issue becomes even more complicated as more health care institutions adopt connected medical devices such as pacemakers.

Investing in Awareness and Technology

So how can health care organizations defend their networks and devices against cyberattacks? Regulations and policies can put a dent in security efforts, but the true cure for health care insecurity is increased awareness. All employees from the top down need to be educated about health care security risks as they relate to the medical services they provide. This requires proper investment in terms of both knowledge and technology.

Domenico Raguseo

Technical Sales and Solutions Leader in Europe, IBM Security

Domenico Raguseo is currently Manager of Technical Sales in Europe for the Security Systems Division. He has over 15...