Of the four critical industries within the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, healthcare and pharmaceuticals rates lowest when it comes to cybersecurity, according to recent analysis by BitSight Technologies, a Cambridge, Mass.-based security rankings provider.
The report examines the security performance in the finance, retail, utilities, and healthcare and pharmaceutical industries from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Industry ratings were calculated by using a simple average of the security ratings of companies in that sector.
It was found that the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry experienced the largest increase in the number of security incidents over the observation time. At approximately 5.3 days, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry also experienced the longest average event duration, meaning the number of days taken to fix security issues. Retail and utilities took approximately 4.2 days, and finance took approximately 3.75 days.
According to the report, the healthcare sector has many of the same characteristics as the retail sector, including a high volume of security incidents and slow response times. While its security rating has increased over the last three quarters, there is still ample room for improvement, the report concluded.
"In our recent assessment of medical devices used in clinics and hospitals around the country, weak encryption, lack of key management, poor authentication and authorization protocols and insecure communications were all common findings," Chandu Ketkar, technical manager at the N.Y.-based Cigital, said in a statement regarding the report. "These gaps in security can lead to a compromise in data confidentiality and integrity. When sensitive data is compromised, it can not only create risks for patients, but also expose healthcare providers and device manufacturers to regulatory and business risks."
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