Data Privacy and Security Risks in Healthcare
Healthcare is a business much like all verticals I work with; however, it has a whole different set of concerns beyond those of traditional businesses. The compounding threats of malware, data thieves, supply chain issues, and the limited understanding of security within healthcare introduces astronomical risk. Walking through a hospital a few weeks ago, I was quickly reminded of how many different devices are used in healthcare—CT scanners, traditional laptops, desktops, and various other devices that could be classified as IoT.
Sitting in the hospital, I witnessed people reporting for treatment being required to sign and date various forms electronically. Then, on a fixed-function device, patients were asked to provide a palm scan for additional biometric confirmation. Credit card information, patient history, and all sorts of other data was also exchanged. In my opinion, patients should be asking, “Once the sign-in process is complete, where is the patient data stored, and who has access to it? Is it locked away, encrypted, or sent to the “cloud” where it’s stored and retrieved as necessary? If it’s stored on the cloud, who has access to that?” I do recall seeing a form asking that I consent to releasing records electronically, but that brings up a whole new line of questions. I could go on and on …
Are these challenges unique to healthcare? I would contend that at some level, no, they’re not. Every vertical I work with has compounding pressures based on the ever-increasing attack surface area. More devices mean more potential vulnerabilities and risk. Think about your home: You no doubt have internet access through a device you don’t control, a router, and many other devices attached to that network. Each device generally has a unique operating system with its own set of capabilities and with its own set of complexities. Heck, my refrigerator has an IP address associated with it these days! In healthcare, the risks are the same, but on a bigger scale. There are lives at stake, and the various staff members—from doctors, to nurses, to administrators—are there to hopefully focus on the patient and the experience. They don’t have the time or necessarily the education to understand the threat landscape—they simply need the devices and systems in the hospital network to “just work.”
Many times, I see doctors in hospital networks and clinics get fed up with having to enter and change passwords. As a result, they’ll bring in their personal laptops to bypass what IT security has put in place. Rogue devices have always been an issue, and since those devices are accessing patient records without tight security controls, they are a conduit for data loss. Furthermore, that data is being accessed from outside the network using cloud services. Teleradiology is a great example of how many different access points there are for patient data—from the referring doctor, to the radiologist, to the hospital, and more.
Figure 1: Remote Tele-radiology Architecture
With healthcare, as in most industries, the exposure risk is potentially great. The solution, as always, will come from identifying the most important thing that needs to be protected, and figuring out the best way to safeguard it. In this case, it is patient data, but that data is not just sitting locked up in a file cabinet in the back of the office anymore. The data is everywhere—it’s on laptops, mobile devices, servers, and now more than ever in cloud services such as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Fragmented data drives great uncertainty as to where the data is and who has access to it.
The security industry as a whole needs to step up. There is a need for a unified approach to healthcare data. No matter where it sits, there needs to be some level of technical control over it based on who needs access to it. Furthermore, as that data is traversing between traditional data centers and the cloud, we need to be able to track where it is and whether or not it has the right permissions assigned to it.
The market has sped up, and new trends in technology are challenging organizations every day. In order to help you keep up, McAfee for Healthcare (and other verticals) are focusing on the following areas:
- Device – OS platforms—including mobile devices, Chrome Books and IoT—are increasingly locked down, but the steadily increasing number of devices provides other avenues for attack and data loss.
- Network – Networks are becoming more opaque. HTTP is rarely used anymore in favor of HTTPS, so the need for a CASB safety net is essential in order to see the data stored with services such as Box or OneDrive.
- Cloud – With workloads increasingly moving to the cloud, the traditional datacenter has been largely replaced by IaaS and PaaS environments. Lines of business are moving to the cloud with little oversight from the security teams.
- Talent – Security expertise is extremely difficult to find. The talent shortage is real, particularly when it comes to cloud and cloud security. There is also a major shortage in quality security professionals capable of threat hunting and incident response.
McAfee has a three-pronged approach to addressing and mitigating these concerns:
- Platform Approach – Unified management and orchestration with a consistent user experience and differentiated insights, delivered in the cloud.
- To enhance the platform, there is a large focus on Platform Driven Managed Services—focused on selling outcomes, not just technology.
- Minimized Device Footprint – Powerful yet minimally invasive protection, detection and response spanning full-stack tech, native engine management and ‘as a service’ browser isolation. This is becoming increasingly important as the typical healthcare environment has an increasing variety of endpoints but continues to be limited in resources such as RAM and CPU.
- Unified Cloud Security – Spanning data centers, integrated web gateway/SaaS, DLP and CASB. The unification of these technologies provides a safety net for data moving to the cloud, as well as the ability to enforce controls as data moves from on-premise to cloud services. Furthermore, the unification of DLP and CASB offers a “1 Policy” for both models, making administration simpler and more consistent. Consistent policy definition and enforcement is ideal for healthcare, where patient data privacy is essential.
In summary, security in healthcare is a complex undertaking. A vast attack surface area, the transformation to cloud services, the need for data privacy and the talent shortage compound the overall problem of security in healthcare. At McAfee, we plan to address these issues through innovative technologies that offer a consistent way to define policy by leveraging a superior platform. We’re also utilizing sophisticated machine learning to simplify the detection of and response to bad actors and malware. These technologies are ideal for healthcare and will offer any healthcare organization long-term stability across the spectrum of security requirements.