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Is cyber security and mobile device management important in the healthcare industry?

Is cyber security and mobile device management important in the healthcare industry?

Healthcare and technology go hand in glove more than almost any other sector in today’s business world. This statement is true today and will remain so into the future. Patient records form just one element of the vast mountain of data that is stored and processed everyday by all healthcare providers be they a local GP’s surgery or a teaching hospital. These records are some of the most sensitive data there is, protecting this data from accidental or malicious access is becoming increasingly difficult.

Just think of the many and varied mobile devices there are today designed to either plug-in, wirelessly connect or Bluetooth connect to your network or computer system. Can we police and manage these connections? After all when access is required, by bona fide healthcare professionals, this ease of connection and access is a very desirable requirement. But the security of this access is paramount not least because there is a legally enforceable duty of care to protect this sensitive data.

In an ideal world the holder of any sensitive data would be able to control and audit the sharing of that data throughout its lifetime. That touches on another valid concern, that of when is data irrecoverably deleted, we should look at this issue in another blog. If we accept the premise that no amount of added security can be totally full proof what we need is away of mitigating the risk. The use of encryption technology seems to be the answer. If data is encrypted when at rest or during transportation between two points it is less lightly to be compromised.

At this point we should consider the implications for the individual data user. Any security system that alters the users normal working practices will be resisted and subverted wherever possible. Human nature is not normally predisposed to thinking security. The average user in the course of their normal day’s work will access many different data sources, may transfer data between differing media devices and share that data with other users, all quite legitimately. If at every stage of this data interaction they are challenged or required to do something extra that takes time, thought or additional actions the system will not be adopted or accepted.

The latest generation of security systems has taken note of this human response to security. It has acknowledged the fact that we as users are quite willing to pay lip service to the need for robust security providing it doesn’t affect our daily lives in an obtrusive way. In just the same way as you would expect your passage to be controlled within a secure building so your access to data will be, according to your personal privileges, the key being your authentication at the front door or access point. Once inside your set of privileges dictates your access to and actions that can be performed to the data. All of this will be audited for later analysis. These personal privileges should, in a well designed system, be dynamic. By this I mean that your privileges can be modified in real time, what you can do today you might not be able to do tomorrow. Keeping data available on a need to have access basis help limit the possibility of compromise.

And what of that data that you shared? Where is it now and is it still being controlled securely? Just because it has left your system has it suddenly become less sensitive? Unlikely! The system should be capable of extending it’s security to that data that has been shared beyond the network. Email or thumb drives are just two easy routes for the leaking of sensitive data. Be sure the system you consider has taken this into account.

I hope this very brief blog has shed some light on the various issues that confront those responsible for the security of the data they hold. You can find out more about cyber security here

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