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Addressing the loopholes: How cybersecurity is a critical element in modern healthcare value-chain

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By Jaipal Kolapurath

Jaipal Kolapurath

Technology has transformed the healthcare industry by simplifying and enhancing patient care. The adoption of connected medical devices is driving the move to digitise and virtually store patient history and medical records. All of this is making healthcare-related information more accessible and available, and has improved the service delivery and medical processes for patients. However, the growing convergence between healthcare and digital technology has also amplified the threats to the industry.

The mounting challenge of protecting healthcare data
Cybercriminals are targeting sensitive healthcare information for two reasons. Firstly, because the healthcare industry is a lucrative source of highly valuable personal data; compromising healthcare data to steal a person’s identity can make such information worth hundreds of thousand of dollars.

The second reason is the weak cyber defense infrastructure currently in place. Over the years, cybercriminals have launched several targeted attack campaigns across the globe to steal data from healthcare systems, as well as government records.

Furthermore, technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are increasingly being adopted by the industry to connect systems, devices, and users to remotely access and share information across the healthcare value chain. This further increases the risk to network and data security within the healthcare industry, for a single vulnerability can compromise a larger network.

Understanding the swiftly growing healthcare network infrastructure, and with it the expanding network perimeter, is an essential requirement. There is an urgent need to establish robust mechanisms by the industry to secure its assets from cyber threats. Here are some potential solutions that can address vulnerabilities in digitised healthcare systems:

Securing IoT infrastructures and environments
Recent industry breaches highlight the critical need to build security into IoT-based healthcare information networks. This can be done by strengthening authentication and access control protocols and using more robust encryption. Monitoring solutions can also be deployed at different levels across IoT management platforms and gateways, as a real-time view of the network security posture will enable swifter detection and elimination of suspicious activity, threats, and attacks.

Healthcare service providers must also conduct penetration testing and make detailed security assessments for their IoT systems on a regular basis. Doing so allows them to identify and address potential vulnerabilities and risks, thus ensuring that their infrastructure is up-to-date, secure, and capable of resisting breaches. Introducing such measures into the healthcare environment will add a much-needed layer of security, until IoT protocols and hardware become secure by design.

Adopting advanced Managed Detection and Response (MDR) capabilities
AI-driven MDR service can help healthcare service providers strengthen their security profiles. By leveraging automation and analytics, these advanced security solutions can proactively hunt for and combat threats. MDR services also continuously collects and analyzes global threat data and trends from multiple sources. These security insights can be applied contextually to design a customised security strategy for the specific needs and requirements of healthcare information systems.

MDR frontiers also enable swifter and more accurate threat detection, response, and mitigation capabilities. Speed and accuracy are critical to determining the efficacy of threat response, and MDR services can respond to and contain threats on a near-real-time basis. Security playbooks continuously being updated by AI systems, can also provide security teams with the most appropriate course of action during an ongoing breach to ensure speedier and more effective elimination of threats.

The Indian healthcare industry is currently worth more than $160 billion and is expected to reach more than $280 billion by 2020. The rapidly-growing market is a lucrative target for cyber criminals globally, making the scale of threat even higher. India is also digitising at a rapid pace, with public sector organisations rapidly transforming themselves to be in step with the private sector. This digital transformation journey is bound to leave several infrastructural gaps, which are again likely to be exploited by threat actors.

There is a pressing need for new legislations and regulations to be put in place to ensure a smooth transition to a digitised and connected healthcare industry in India. This, however, will require cybersecurity to be made an integral aspect of healthcare information management and patient safety.

(The author is the Regional Head, India-West, at Paladion Networks)


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