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Ryan Witt

How not to become a health care security headline: Protection from the inside out

By: Ryan Witt, Vice President, Healthcare Industry Practice at Fortinet

Healthcare is under attack. Years of focusing on digitizing health records - with resource constraints and little focus on security – has opened doors that attackers are walking through in record numbers. Attacks like phishing and malware that made headlines in the retail and financial sectors a few years ago moved to healthcare in 2015.

2015 was a banner year in healthcare, for all the wrong reasons. There were multiple data breaches in 2015—Anthem and Premera among them—as well as a well-publicized ransomware attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. The increasing number of attacks on healthcare systems exposed security shortcomings: many unsecured attack vectors, unsecured sensitive data and the possibility of catastrophic consequences.

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Healthcare is behind the curve in implementing strong security measures. Even the FBI has opined that healthcare simply doesn’t have the systems in place to stop attacks. And cybercriminals know it too. The FBI is regularly contacting the leaders of healthcare systems and organizations to tell them they must step up security to protect their sensitive information. Healthcare isn’t as different from other industries as it thought it was.

What are the Threats?
Security threats are ever-present. I work with CIOs from across the country and security is their top concern. In an October focus group with 14 CIOs, they all agreed that 95 percent of all inbound email poses a threat to their network—that’s a mind-boggling percentage. One West Coast health system’s CIO said he has up to 100 attacks a day that are so serious they reach his desk. He could get law enforcement involved in about 10 attempted attacks or breaches every day. It’s amazing and very frightening.

Unfortunately, it looks like 2016 will bring more of the same. Healthcare organizations must speed up their security efforts to avoid putting their patients, and themselves, at risk.

Fortunately, there is growing recognition among healthcare leaders that security must be at the top of their “to do” list. Firewalls are no longer enough to protect patient information. The expansion of the Internet of Medical Things has resulted in a borderless network perimeter. There are devices in use in multiple locations that must be secured, including:

• Personal devices, like wearable fitness trackers and glucose monitors
• In-hospital devices, like IV pumps and heart monitors
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