May 17, 2020

A global presence in the delivery of humanitarian aid

Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
2 min
The Red Cross is an institution of charitable response
The Red Cross is a global humanitarian movement and is an institution of charitable response during incidences of conflict, violence and disasters acro...

The Red Cross is a global humanitarian movement and is an institution of charitable response during incidences of conflict, violence and disasters across the world. Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the umbrella organisation of the national Red Cross relief societies.  Collectively, 80 countries across the world are now benefitting from its presence.     

The underlining aspect of the Red Cross that makes it unique is the fundamental principles it employs within its movement. Gregory Rose, a health advisor for the British Red Cross, notes these principles as being “neutrality and independence,” meaning the it does not affiliate itself with any religion, military or political force. This allows the Red Cross to maximise its global presence, as Rose explains: “This enables access for movement actors where other organisations may be unable or unwilling to go.”

Among the Red Cross’ many global projects, health is one of its major focuses. Its work in disaster and conflict zones sees it provide victims of such events access to preventative and curative healthcare of internationally recognised standards. Healthcare was also the inspiration behind the Red Crosses’ formation; founder Henry Dunant was appalled by the number of men and women that died due to a lack of care after the Battle of Solferino in 1859.

An increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is one of the major health issues currently affecting global communities. Rose adds that a growing population is also resulting in a lack of access to water, food and fuel. Additionally, he says competition for land is seeing poorer communities being forced to relocate settlements to ‘at risk’ areas such as flood plains, river valleys, conflict zones and environments that are prone to earthquakes or drought. He believes these problems are collectively increasing worldwide health risks and challenges.

“Health should be seen as an outcome rather than an intervention, achieved through a range of interventions,” says Rose. The projects and outcomes that the Red Cross works towards are varied and include: providing health and social care to those living with HIV, TB or other such illnesses, preparing for and trying to reduce the risk of natural disasters as well as facilitating access to shelter, primary healthcare clinics and water and sanitation services.

The Red Cross experiences a number of challenges in providing humanitarian and healthcare aid across the world. Rose notes the main operational challenges the organisation faces are retaining its neutrality and ensuring access for the most in-need where there are hostilities. He elaborates: “Perceptions of the status of the Red Cross are important to ensure that our services are used, since there may be a fear of using health facilities which have a military or political alignment, where reprisals may occur.”

These difficulties are common in conflict zones and can also be experienced in disaster areas, although Rose explains natural disasters can often bring additional complications: “Responding in a disaster for any agency or organisation can be made more difficult if the disaster has damaged the country’s infrastructure. In the Pakistan floods last year, roads were cut off and bridges were completely destroyed, meaning the Red Cross had to come up with more inventive solutions to reach the communities.”

The Red Cross recognises that a prompt reaction is vital when responding to natural disasters and is essential to save lives. In regards to the British Red Cross, Rose explains the methods it employs to ensure a swift response: “We mobilise relief items from one of three warehouses, which are positioned strategically across the globe to allow the items to reach people in need as quickly as possible. This can include tents, water containers, mosquito nets, blankets and any other items people may need in an emergency. In addition, the British Red Cross has a pool of specialist delegates who can be deployed to the field at very short notice, allowing gaps in human resources to be filled and life-saving programmes to be carried out.”

Collectively as an organisation, the various arms of the Red Cross work together to make sure its charitable efforts are effective and valuable to those most in need. “We operate as a movement, sharing resources - financial, materials, people – to achieve the most efficient response where it is most needed,” Rose says. He concludes by saying: “The Red Cross works hard to promote its fundamental principles of impartiality and neutrality, making sure we are there to help anyone in need, regardless of politics, ethnicity, or gender.”

The response of the Red Cross to the Japanese tsunami:

ICRC delegates discuss what it's like working for the Red Cross:

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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