Is healthcare security ready for entrepreneurial hackers?

May 15, 20195 minute read time

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The strategic component of defense against hacking can be fascinating or terrifying, depending on where you sit.

Healthcare is catching up in the realm of security, but hackers are also becoming increasingly innovative and entrepreneurial. There’s an entire shadow industry looking to profit from the data theft attempts that pop into your inbox every day. And it’s a big business—a 2018 report from MacAfee and CSIS estimates that cybercrime cost the world more than $600 billion last year and shows no signs of slowing.

So what does this mean for endpoint device security? Healthcare security leaders currently have an opportunity to counter hacks with approaches that are just as strategic and proactive as those being cooked up by the hackers themselves. But doing so will require taking a fresh look at all security vulnerabilities within the organization, especially digital endpoints.

It all starts with exploited endpoints

Unfortunately, most organizations’ endpoints are in a pretty sorry state where security is concerned. Healthcare Info Security sat down with Dan Schiappa, SVP and GM of Products with Sophos, who had an enlightening perspective on the matter.

“When you start to dig into the details of how [organizations] get hit, why they get hit, you start to learn that they don’t really, fully understand all the approaches that hackers take to have successful ransomware attacks . . . When you dig in a little bit deeper, a lot of these ransomware attacks . . . the entry points were exploits.”

Because losses from healthcare data breaches are becoming the new norm, healthcare security professionals can’t afford not to implement protections for all exploitable devices—especially those that are often overlooked as potential points of entry.

Printers and multifunction devices

State-of-the-art office equipment is incredibly complex in terms of its functionality and processing power. However, if your organization is relying on outdated, unsupported devices that can’t take advantage of the most recent cyberdefense developments, security will suffer.

You may even be at an organization that doesn’t manage its own printers’ security configurations or updates. If this is the case, make sure the vendors responsible for your devices are accountable—and not just in contract language. Security best practices should involve checks to ensure that all devices are properly configured and patches are timely and up to date.

The internet of medical things

While IoMT devices might not process patient health information or sensitive data, they’re still endpoints and, therefore, still vulnerabilities. IoMT devices are often made as cheaply as possible, with security being an afterthought.

As with printers, healthcare security professionals often don’t have much control over IoMT updates or patches. Beyond that, inventory isn’t usually well kept, which leaves dozens, if not hundreds, of invisible opportunities for exploitation by enterprising hackers. As a result, healthcare security professionals will likely need to be granted additional permissions to oversee the securing of these endpoints and effectively stop attacks.

The imaging suite

Imaging technology has become incredibly sophisticated, but with every MRI and ultrasound comes another layer of endpoint device challenges. Once again, ownership and management frequently involve outside players whose reputations aren’t on the line for HIPAA violations like healthcare institutions’ are.

Since these devices are expensive, manufacturers tend to control their security. Still, security teams should monitor the interactions between devices of this kind and the organization’s network. Ideally, the connections should be segmented into secure VLANs that are unable to access the internet or sensitive systems.

Get endpoint device security caught up

Remaining resilient against healthcare security threats is going to take more than simply sticking to the best practices of the past. Consider the following tactics to sharpen your organization’s security capabilities.

  • Go Beyond the Firewall: Even the sophistication of next-generation firewalls (NGFW) isn’t always enough to protect the data and patients you’re tasked with keeping safe. The risk of theft and the sheer volume of endpoints that security professionals deal with mean that the firewall is just one part of a truly solid security strategy.
  • Invest in the Strategy: It’s time to stop looking at IT security budgets as examples of burdensome spending and more as investments in organizational resilience and patient well-being. Security is a part of your business, and investment is what keeps it healthy.
  • Focus on People: People are one of the greatest risks to healthcare security. Three out of four hospitals don’t have a designated security person, and that’s a dangerous position for any organization to occupy when antagonistic actors are putting together whole toolkits just to hack into printers. Designating professionals to deal with these matters and ensuring that employees are trained to avoid falling for cyber attacks are crucial developments for any institution operating in the healthcare space.
  • Endpoints as Allies: Devices themselves have to be centers of security excellence. Partnering with thoughtful device providers is a smart way to create opportunities not only to keep individual devices secure, but also to reduce the average time of threat detection. Attacks will happen, but you can minimize their impact by implementing automatic defense measures to assist with detection, response, and recovery.

Healthcare data security is turning a corner, but it’s still in critical condition. With hackers and threats growing in sophistication, taking a smart approach to modern endpoint security can and should start today.

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