Addressing IT Security Concerns in a Post-COVID-19 World
By Jeremy Weiss
The pandemic has demonstrated why identity and asset management around technology in healthcare is so critical. When it comes to security, the COVID-19 pandemic has made at least one thing clear: The traditional, perimeter-based approach to network security is dead. Between COVID-19 treatment centers being stood up in parking lots and a massive shift to telehealth, the ongoing global health crisis has exposed just how important asset management in healthcare really is to protecting patient data. Yet despite these newfound security challenges, there’s good news ahead.
The current changes to care delivery are already leading to broader discussions around device visibility and control in healthcare settings to better secure patient data, no matter where it’s being accessed or stored.
As the pandemic continues into the latter half of 2020, healthcare IT leaders must continue to address how their organizations will manage security of their infrastructure going forward while simultaneously enabling remote work and care.
Telehealth Remains a Top Concern for Organizations
The ramping up of telehealth services has opened the door for potentially devastating cyberattacks. And in some cases, cybercriminals are already exploiting the pandemic as a means to stealing healthcare data, using social engineering tactics that target healthcare providers and patients alike.
For hackers, there’s never been a better time to attack. Take, for example, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford: In just a week, the organization increased its daily number of virtual outpatient visits from 20 to 400, surpassing 600 soon after that.
It’s easy to see why bad actors would want to focus on attacking the telehealth sector based on this instance alone. But when it comes to breaches, healthcare IT and security teams are the ones that will ultimately be held responsible for the safety of patients and clinical staff.
To address this, healthcare providers are exploring access management tools like multifactor authentication, or the requirement of utilizing two pieces of evidence to sign in. This mechanism can help to better protect individuals who are accessing data via patient portals. The right knowledge, however, is key to its proper implementation, as patients can view it as a hinderance to their care experience. For this reason, security teams should be prepared to take the extra steps to properly educate their care providers on cybersecurity and the threats often associated with telehealth. Clinical staff can then share this information with patients to make them feel more at ease with the new process and assured that their data is secure.
Access Management Helps Protect a Newly Remote Workforce
In addition to an increased interest in telehealth services, the pandemic has also enabled a remote workforce, meaning that more and more people are now handling traditionally in-person work online. This change can be great from a patient perspective, enabling individuals to access and receive care on their own time, but for providers dealing with the newness of remote care operations, cybersecurity best practices can sometimes be overlooked. This is concerning, considering that in April Google blocked 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 in a single week. The sheer volume of this type of attack speaks to why healthcare security teams must focus their efforts on securing patient data in every form and fashion.This is yet another way in which access management can help teams improve their security posture — ensuring that only the right people have access to the right data at the right time. This approach to data security helps IT teams to limit any unwanted exposure of patient data while staying alert to any actors who might be accessing the network for the wrong reasons.
Build a Defense That Can Handle the Adoption of IoT Tech
Finally, as healthcare systems spin up temporary facilities, an increased number of Internet of Things devices are being placed on their networks in order to administer care. This poses a major risk to patient data security, considering that any individual nearby might now be able to access these networks through such devices. Data from Palo Alto Networks tells us that IoT devices are really the low-hanging fruit for attackers, with 57 percent of IoT devices being vulnerable to medium- or high-severity attacks. To make matters worse, 98 percent of all IoT traffic is unencrypted, which can easily lead to the unwanted exposure of personal and confidential data on the network.
To prevent known and unknown IoT-focused cyberattacks, healthcare IT leaders need to recognize and manage the risks associated with these devices. That involves gaining better visibility into their organizations’ networks in order to catalog all of the IoT devices currently connected. From there, security teams can more properly segment networks to account for these devices. But the work doesn’t stop there. Real-time analytics can also enable active monitoring, helping these teams to better spot network anomalies such as the use of unapproved devices. Formulating a baseline of what is considered normal can help organizations to address top IoT threats and take actionable steps to reduce risk.