Porous network perimeters in health tech are easy attack surfaces within the healthcare industry. Ponemon Institute discovered an alarming “67% of healthcare organizations have experienced cyberattacks and 33% of them have been victimized twice or more.” So how are cybercriminals getting in? How can IT leaders shore up security vulnerabilities to protect Personal Healthcare Information (PHI) while data sources are distributed across medical devices, telehealth services, applications, machines, laboratories, health wearables, billing, pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, and care facilities?
Healthcare organizations are responsible for the security, monitoring, and maintenance of patient data that powers their industry. The complexity of securing data gathered from MedTech and unsupported digital devices is a core healthcare business problem that can lead to costly lessons learned when failure to secure perimeters allows an attacker into your systems. Securing data sources against multiple disruptors requires structured processes, airtight server infrastructure, segmented networks, disciplined update and patching deployments, and tested data backups. Data breaches against the healthcare industry nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, including $9.23 million in damages from a single event.
What is MedTech?
Medical technology, or MedTech, is defined as any of the many devices used to enhance patient health. Think big like hospital equipment and expensive machines, down to small implantable devices (pacemakers, insulin pumps), Smart Watches, and smartphone apps. The core deliverable of MedTech is data, most commonly Electronic Health Records (EHR). EHR improves patient outcomes, promotes accurate diagnoses, and gives doctors the information they need to deliver personalized medical interventions.
Did you know that 23% of patients lie to their doctors? Doctors cannot make accurate diagnoses without complete patient histories and the truth about lifestyle habits. But when MedTech data is available, doctors have access to valuable, unbiased health data - isolated from emotional attachments (usually embarrassment) and patients’ ability to recollect conditions, medications, and dosages.
MedTech is the crossover between individualized care and data analytics. Enabled through the Internet of Things (IoT), EHR is used to enhance productivity, cost savings, and improve the standard of care. Remote monitoring and other biotech tools can improve patient outcomes – but only if that data is clean, secured, accessible, and recoverable.
What makes MedTech vulnerable?
Cybersecurity disruptions directly impact patient care. Even something as benign as connectivity issues can have material implications when hospital machines and data transmission rely on internet connections for functionality. Multiple medical services need access to a single patient’s data to streamline patient care, but that access comes at a price. The flow of data between MedTech devices and software and supporting medical facilities can be interrupted by a single malware attack that can infiltrate multiple networks throughout the network of care. Each entity is in danger of an attack. Remember the widespread impact of the SolarWinds cyberattack? That massive hack was effective because malicious code was entered into Orion software at the source, and SolarWinds unwittily populated client systems with the bug via installed updates. Eighteen thousand companies were impacted – from U.S. government agencies to hospitals.
The danger of sophisticated cyberattacks on medical facilities that continue to run legacy devices alongside advanced MedTech adds to the complexity of secure IT management practices. The variety and volume of devices are often too much for in-house IT teams who struggle with old and new tech that cannot integrate, requires too many resources to maintain, and expands over a large IT landscape. Gartner research warns that “by 2025, threat actors will have weaponized operational technology environments successfully enough to cause human causalities.”
Standard threat mitigation techniques and security tools become unwieldy and insufficient. Medical services still holding onto unpatchable operating systems open the door to malicious actors. But some hospitals can’t afford to upgrade systems to take full advantage of rapidly evolving technologies.
How to Protect MedTech Data?
MedTech deployment and adoption demand constant vigilance around configurations, network and server activity, data security, HIPAA compliance, and cyberattack preparedness. Healthcare executives must thoughtfully develop a risk strategy that addresses physical and digital asset vulnerabilities.
Who is responsible for monitoring and maintaining disparate technologies used in medical management? The blame falls on the point of attack owner. Still, MedTech developers, vendors, security teams, end-users, and healthcare facilities all play a part in protecting PHI at every stage in the data lifecycle.
Healthcare data lifecycle stages and security tips
- Creation – both product developers and consumers need to be aware of how devices gather and share data. Define device functionality and limit data intake capacity.
- Maintenance and storage – MedTech usage can only promote beneficial outcomes if the data is clean and accurate. Implement cyber hygiene processes required of every entity that touches patient data. Use a hybrid cloud model to keep sensitive data more secure in a private cloud and less critical data in the public cloud.
- Usage – high-value data and analytics play a critical role in patient care, financial projections, clinical trials, and pharmaceutical efficiencies. Use the policy of least privilege to limit access to PHI and other highly sensitive data.
- Publication – transmitting and sharing data between medical services and healthcare facilities can help patients receive individualized care and promote patient compliance. Control the data path and evaluate the sensitivity level of data before publication.
- Archiving – HIPAA compliance and legal requirements may dictate the length of time records must be stored. Remove old and underutilized data from your active environment so as not to clutter your cloud.
- Destruction – data that has no value and has fulfilled governance policies should be destroyed. MedTech data and healthcare records hiding on legacy servers could be used to perpetuate criminal activity and must be destroyed.
Healthcare facilities and medical services rely on the digitization of medical records to deliver personalized patient care. The many regulations governing healthcare data protect patient privacy and autonomy. But how can the healthcare industry deliver positive patient outcomes without jeopardizing patients’ sensitive data?
Who Can Protect MedTech Data?
Investing in the right IT talent to support your MedTech data protection plan is a smart strategic move. Do you need help creating a data management framework and IT services to support your existing teams? TBConsulting (TBC), a Managed Service Provider headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, can deliver resilient processes, 24/7/367 network, server and cybersecurity monitoring, and hybrid cloud scalability for your critical data. TBC can help you navigate the intricacies of HIPAA compliance, complex deployments, and cloud adoption with over 25 years of experience in the IT industry.
Contact TBC today to schedule a Security Posture Assessment to view the vulnerabilities in your digital environment through the eyes of a cybercriminal seeking to breach your IT perimeter.