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Moffitt Cancer Center secures radiology machines by ditching anti-virus software

From the January/February issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

By Dave Summitt

In healthcare, one of the most challenging areas to secure is the radiology department.
The machines that interpret radiology scans and other medical images at Moffitt Cancer Center are regular Windows-based workstations running GE-PACS. They are connected to the network and can potentially be exposed to web-borne malware or threats that hide inside malicious email attachments, if or when employees use these machines to check their email.

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Modern computer scanning equipment is designed to take pictures of large sections of the patient’s body in just seconds. The images need to be very detailed, doctors usually request to see multiple images at once, and they often need this information in real time. At Moffitt, we were using traditional anti-virus software on our workstations, but we noticed that it was causing substantial degradation in performance.

Because the AV had to scan every image as it came across before presenting them to the viewer, it was really slowing things down. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for Moffitt’s radiologists and technicians to wait several minutes for each scan to come up. We quickly realized we needed to find a solution that would shield the machines from threats, known and unknown, while preserving usability and performance.

A new approach
I first learned about Bromium while I was CISO at the University of Alabama Birmingham Healthcare System. When it was first presented to my team there, it was kind of a “wow moment”. I fell in love the first day I saw it. It works by isolating web pages, emails, attachments and so on within micro-VMs, which means that the threat is instantly neutralized, as the hacker can’t get anywhere.

Upon moving to Moffitt, I brought my experience with Bromium with me as a tool to better understand what potential threats may be lurking in the Moffitt environment. Initially we began intentionally infecting a few select PCs to observe how threats unfold and how they behave throughout their life cycle. We reviewed the complete kill chain analysis, which gathered all available information about the threat to help us harden our cyber defenses.

Then it dawned on me; we already own Bromium, so why don’t we try to remove the anti-virus from the radiology machines and protect them in that manner? Our initial trial was successful, and today more than 30 of our critical radiology reading machines run Bromium. Even when people are using those machines for things not related to radiology, like downloading files from the internet or checking email, we have a way to protect them.
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