Can the “good guys” ever catch up to the “bad guys” when it comes to data and IT security in healthcare? That most basic of questions seemed to hang over the results of a recent new report on data and IT security that spanned all industries and was international in scope.
As Assistant Editor Heather Landi reported in an article last week, “Eighty-one percent of senior IT security executives at healthcare organizations anticipate IT security spending increases in the next 12 months, yet, at the same time, successful data breaches are also up significantly. These were the findings of a recent survey conducted by Thales, a data security and information systems solutions provider, and in conjunction with 451 Research, which point to an ongoing disconnect between the security solutions organizations spend money on and the ability of those solutions to protect sensitive data.”
As Landi noted, “The report findings present a glass half-full or half-empty dilemma. The projected increase in IT security spending could potentially be good news for healthcare IT leaders dealing with budget constraints, however, the findings seem to indicate that organizations continue to focus their spending on strategies and tools that are not effectively preventing data breaches.”
Across all industries, the report found, 88 percent of business organizations feel vulnerable to data and IT security threats; 68 percent have experienced a data breach; and 73 percent have increased their spending in order to fight the scourge of breaches and hacking.
In addition, the Thales 2017 Data Threat Report, issued in conjunction with analyst firm 451 Research, found that, across all industries, business organizations are still prioritizing network and endpoint solutions over encryption despite the rise in data breaches. While 30 percent of respondents classify their organizations as “very vulnerable” or “extremely vulnerable” to data attacks (and the number of breaches continues to rise), the two top spending priorities are network (62 percent) and endpoint (56 percent) protection solutions. In contrast, spending on data-at-rest solutions (46 percent) comes last.
The press release announcing the report and the survey results on which it was based, included a statement from Garrett Bekker, senior analyst, information security, at 451 Research, and author of the report. “One possible explanation for this troubling state? Organizations keep spending on the same solutions that worked for them in the past but aren’t necessarily the most effective at stopping modern breaches,” Bekker said. “Data protection tactics need to evolve to match today’s threats. It stands to reason that if security strategies aren’t equally as dynamic in this fast-changing threat environment, the rate of breaches will continue to increase.”
What’s more, as Landi’s report last week noted, “Overall, 68 percent of survey respondents, across all industries, have experienced a breach with 26 percent experiencing a breach in the last year – both numbers that rose from last year. According to Andy Kicklighter, director of product strategy at Thales e-Security, within the healthcare segment, the number of organizations that reported having a breach in the past year increased from 18 percent to 20 percent. ‘So, that’s one in five who said they had been breached just in the last year,’ he said.”
Kicklighter also noted that the cybersecurity threat landscape continues to evolve and is becoming more sophisticated with the prevalence of spear phishing attacks combined with the availability of malware for use by cybercriminals. “Zero-day malware is not detectable with anti-virus, and you can buy it on a black market website for $4,000 or $5,000. So, if you are really determined, you are going to find a way to get credentials and get inside. If you don’t put in place technology that enables you to safeguard and control access to the sensitive data inside your organization, that’s a problem,” he noted.
A number of points are worth making here. Of course, it comes as no surprise that business organizations not only in the United States, but around the world, are being hit by malware and every other kind of cyberattack now. And the same is true in terms of these threats hitting all industries, not just healthcare. What’s more, organizations in many industries remain behind the curve, because the threats are indeed becoming more and more sophisticated, and in some cases simply different or new, every day, as Thales’s Andy Kicklighter has noted.
But healthcare remains particularly vulnerable in two very distinct contexts. First, it is still catching up to other industries such as the financial services, retailing, and transportation industries, in terms of building core data and IT security infrastructure, as well as in terms of core spending on, and staffing up for, data and IT security. So there’s that.