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Healthcare Cybersecurity: How to Manage Online Threats


The new normal in pharma and healthcare came with equally new challenges and threats. Cybersecurity grew as a priority for more than one business sector. Healthcare cybersecurity arose as a prominent concern. Bioeconomy started to constitute one of the main technologies that need tight protection from cybercrime.

The question to ask is how can pharma companies manage online threats and prevent the cyberattacks plaguing the digital sphere?

Healthcare cybersecurity:

Why is pharma susceptible to cybercrime?

The disruption caused by the pandemic caused significant changes in the healthcare workforce. Digitalization presented its pros, but also came with some demarcated cons on the matter of online security. 

Cyberattacks have increased exponentially during the pandemic. With new techniques, hackers stole, and continue to steal, valuable information from many organizations in the field. 

With them came new tricks by hackers to steal valuable information from many organizations. The tendency for online attacks seems to continue throughout more than one country. This reveals that there’s more to prevent cybercrimes.

During the pandemic, pharma’s work chain grew more complex and digital. Workers within the pharma had access to apps, clouds, and disparate data daily. Still today, these professionals’ work is more data-centric and data-driven.

Adding to this, the growth of the customer-centric model in many pharma companies’ communication models equally put the healthcare industry on the frail ground for online attacks. Several are companies that now interact with customers through automated options. So, this increasing data exchange through healthcare portals makes them a great target for cybercrime. The provided intellectual property is valuable to online criminals. 

The protection of the intellectual property is vital for pharma and biotech. They are handing their IP whenever they outsource some of their research. In this sense, the IP of a company needs to be regarded as a valuable asset that can compromise the future of a company if breached by hackers.  

All in all…

Pharma and healthcare’s vulnerability to cyberattacks was due to the increase in remote work. This shift from corporate computers to individual ones opened a breach in security. Many employees’ computers don’t have company firewalls or security protocols. Therefore, they are more susceptible to hacker activity. 

Remote work is an element that opens doors for security breaches. IP electronically protected health information (ePHI) along with other sensitive data are accessed daily and transferred in a work environment. In a remote environment, this makes data susceptible to being snatched by cyber criminals.

The attacks come in several formats. From the distribution of ransomware to phishing emails. The last ones are becoming more sophisticated. Some can trick many unsuspecting employees into clicking the links inside. Some of these messages can even come disguised as a certain company’s email address.

Cybersecurity needs reinforcement

Pharma companies ought to secure web properties and interactions on social networks. As a result, healthcare cybersecurity needs to have a comprehensive and architectural approach. 

Cybercriminals try their best to explore the weaknesses of an organization’s security. In pharma’s case, this is a patchwork of IT systems, both current, and legacy. Thanks to acquisitions and mergers have grown and become more complex.  Unfortunately, this made them more vulnerable.

Besides, networked industrial facilities use many connected devices. This includes laptops, smartphones, and internet-enabled machinery. Thus, making them more susceptible to malware. This is dangerous because it can spread across a workforce’s network. 

What will pharma and healthcare companies do?

It’s a fact that the sector will start to invest a lot more in healthcare cybersecurity. There’s a growing use of tools such as automation data analytics, AI, and machine learning. This means that the workflow is going through a significant transformation. 

Aside from protecting product development, prototyping, and approval, security solutions must protect:

  • Manufacturing;
  • Distribution; and 
  • Patients. 

These elements must also consider other factors such as pharmaceutical manufacturers’:

  • Data;
  • Users;
  • Critical infrastructure;
  • Partners; and 
  • Remote workers.

The last point is crucial. Yet it should encompass all employees in regards to security awareness, and not just remote workers. Training the security personnel will be vital. They need to be up-to-date and ready to face threats. 

Non-technical personnel should also receive training in security basics. This includes being able to adopt good practices of security (like password management), becoming more aware of phishing messages, and knowing how to act in the face of a suspected cyberattack.

Security measures to combat the ever-evolving threats of cybercrime are also improving. Using MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) and changing passwords regularly have proven to be good prevention methods. Other features such as DLP (Data Loss Prevention) or VPNs, also help ensure the safety of private data. 

All the software used by pharma companies should be up-to-date and easy to use by the workforce. The rising popularity of cloud-based software is also a safe way to help ensure proper security measures. Cloud hosting providers tend to be strict in managing all updates to relieve the pressure of IT. This is also a lifted weight off of pharma companies’ backs.

IT is part of the “new normal”

The sophistication of the cyberattacks that followed after COVID-19 is notorious. Even though serious breaches are rare, it is never too much to point out that companies are not immune to cyber threats. 

The protection of an evolving and improving IT infrastructure can help to prevent many threats. Many of them can be a plague for modern pharma companies. Yet the new normal isn’t going to change within the next few years. Remote work is being adopted by many companies worldwide as a common practice. So, it is vital to think in the long term. 

Pharma companies, along with IT solutions are evolving in a faster fashion than ever before. With this evolution come new challenges and solutions for these two sectors to prevent the growth of cybercrimes. Developing a plan that will prevent and manage an attack, as well as identify the risks, is key to building resilience.

Cybersecurity is one of the main concerns that pharma companies should have. However, this is a part of the online strategy that the sector should adopt.

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