Bridging Communication Between Privacy and IT Security in Healthcare

Kim Lennan
Kim Lennan

Guest post by Kim Lennan serves as director of healthcare markets for Hexis Cyber Solutions.

The cost of IT security data breaches in the highly regulated healthcare industry is staggering, as it tops even the likes of financial services market. No one is immune. Nearly 94 percent of medical institutions report that their organizations have been victims of a cyber attack, according to findings by the Ponemon Institute. With the update last year to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and HITECH Act of 2009, signs of increasing expenses are again a reality. The annual cap on fines for security breaches has also skyrocketed from a maximum of $25,000 per year to $1.5 million.

With breaches in healthcare spanning from insider, nosey-neighbor snooping, to external, cyber-threats, such as malware, there is an obvious urgency for detection and remediation solutions that engage not only the hardened perimeter, but also the soft center, spanning all the way out to the ancillary systems which at once stood alone, but are now networked and part of the entire electronic healthcare ecosystem.

Establishing a single, integrated, active defense approach to bolster your security posture and mitigate insider breach, as well as cybercrime in healthcare, begins with a motion to break down internal barriers. Organizations need technology and organization leaders who champion a bridging the gap between the two influential and liable, yet often un-collaborating services providers responsible for protecting these domains: Privacy and compliance and enterprise IT security.

Coordinating the effort to monitor networks and applications to achieve a greater understanding of risky behavior is a giant step toward detecting early indicators of compromise and strengthening the weak links in your security practice. We recommend an assessment of the often overlooked, non-standard variety of electronic data carriers, which can fall into the category of the “Internet of Things,” those medical device end-points, video surveillance systems, x-ray machines and call contact systems. These must be treated as part of the entire electronic ecosystem to achieve a greater degree of data protection. They carry patient health information (PHI) and even intellectual business property, and are largely unprotected by traditional intrusion detection solutions. While often perceived as immune to breaches, they represent readily available ports of entry for an attacker.

A unified approach to end-user education and monitoring for early breach detection that fosters risk mitigation requires tight coordination between privacy and IT security.  The challenge is in how. Functional groups are often siloed and share very little information with each other. This becomes a major issue in the event of a breach, as neither side is able to understand the full spectrum of the threat without the others’ data. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

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