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Healthcare: The New Arms Race Is in Cybersecurity | @CloudExpo #Cloud

Cybersecurity personnel are tasked with the onerous and difficult job of protecting the core network and departmental systems

The evolution of cybersecurity as it relates to healthcare in the United States is by most standards in its infancy, but this situation is changing quickly. The industry is scrambling to shore up defenses as cyberattacks and breaches increase.

Very few people, if asked twenty years ago, would have predicted that stolen medical records would be such a massive criminal enterprise. The rapid expansion of EHR/EMR has created an unparalleled opportunity for criminal fraud and abuse. A recent Ponemon study found that the healthcare industry has the highest breach costs of any industry at $363 per stolen record.

Cybersecurity personnel are tasked with the onerous and difficult job of protecting both the core network and departmental systems found in healthcare operations. This is particularly true in multidisciplinary and multi-location healthcare facilities. Historically, typical cybersecurity deployments built walls around the perimeter and static internal defenses; this strategy alone has failed for the same reason the French strategy of the Maginot Line failed in World War II. The adversaries are too agile and able to infiltrate multiple locations via speed, stealth, and sometimes brute force. Traditional security technologies simply cannot protect or react fast enough. Make no mistake, there's a new arms race and it is in cybersecurity. The Internet and increasing interconnectivity of medical systems and devices is exacerbating the problem by constantly increasing the healthcare industry's attack surface and exposure. In many ways it's the same reason why perimeter strategies and static defenses alone also fail to protect us from physical terrorist attacks. The attack surface has become both physical and virtual in all aspects of our lives.

It's becoming clear the healthcare industry needs to join with and enhance some of the best cybersecurity practices of financial and insurance institutions. Financial institutions would never consider short changing physical security, alarms, vaults, etc. This mindset has made their industry one of the notable early adopters of security defense in depth strategies. It is widely accepted in the financial industry sector that advanced cybersecurity solutions need to go well beyond the perimeter. They extend deep into the core networks in their data centers. Financial institutions have responded by rapidly adopting a layered defense approach that includes behavioral analysis tools designed to protect their most important data. The assumption is that traditional defense practices are inadequate and therefore render existing assumptions invalid.

The latest generation of cybersecurity assumes previously trusted entities may now be compromised and may act maliciously, typically targeting the heart of every corporation, where the most sensitive digital asset is located. Under such assumptions it is now clear that a different approach that employs a constantly adapting set of assumptions and focuses on behavioral aspects is the way forward. Advanced behavioral cybersecurity methods will allow healthcare providers to detect attacks on their EHR/EMR data that today remain invisible until it is too late. Very large sums of money are being spent on post-attack forensics, as opposed to prevention. Cybersecurity is just like most chronic disease issues. Prevention is generally less costly and the most effective strategy. The bright side is that the new behavioral cybersecurity detection solutions do not require a lifetime of planning. We are not foolishly suggesting that healthcare providers abandon forensics and remediation. What we are advocating and suggesting is that a transition to new advanced behavioral technology protecting the core EHR/EMR will yield significant economic benefit.

Will healthcare embrace these latest generation cybersecurity technologies? Well surprisingly enough, there's an apparent disproportion between the size of the industry and the investment in cybersecurity. Interestingly, the financial and insurance sectors represent only eight to nine percent of GDP in the U.S. while healthcare is in excess of 17 percent and is expected to expand to as high as 21 percent by the year 2021. It is generally accepted that cybersecurity is one of, if not the top, initiatives in financials but rarely so in healthcare. Given its significant percentage of the overall U.S. economy, healthcare needs to become a leader and early adopter of behavioral cybersecurity technology that protect their core EHR/EMR and prioritize it more appropriately.

It is understandable that healthcare naturally wants to funnel all their resources into improving the level and quality of patient care through advanced analytics such as population analysis. These are laudable and appropriate goals. Sadly, billions of dollars are being siphoned off through cyber theft and fraud. We often find healthcare providers with the misguided view that cybersecurity is a bothersome expense. The facts are that in the healthcare industry improved cybersecurity represents a significant opportunity to recapture billions of dollars in lost revenue. It is time for healthcare providers to lead the way in the protection via early detection of medical records and sensitive data breaches. In doing so they will end up savings billions of dollars that could then be put to the purpose originally intended - to improve the level and quality of care in America.

More Stories By Mark Keelan

Mark Keelan is RVP Sales at DB Networks, a provider of database cybersecurity.

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