May 17, 2020

Healthcare is a Major Target for Cybercriminals

cyber-security
Technology
healthcare services
healthcare services
Brandon Bekker, Managing Direc...
3 min
Cyber criminals
The internet of things has transformed the healthcare sector, allowing practitioners to easily share information and deliver personalised treatments. Ye...

The internet of things has transformed the healthcare sector, allowing practitioners to easily share information and deliver personalised treatments. Yet many experts in the security industry believe that of all the industries facing serious cyber threats, healthcare is possibly the most at risk. That’s because relatively speaking, healthcare organisations are still behind when it comes to security defences.

It’s also well-documented that external attackers have set their sights on protected health information (PHI). The value of medical records on the black market is at least 10x higher than credit card data. Why? PHI contains more personal data points and cannot just be reissued in the event of a problem. Bank account details and passwords can be changed following a breach; but information about allergies, disabilities, mental health or hereditary conditions, can’t. So, securing this data and a healthcare institution from these calculated threats should be a top priority.

The nature of healthcare, requires that organisations within this sector keep highly sensitive patient data on file. Doctors need to have this information to make informed decisions about patients, and the ability to easily share this information within a healthcare network, has resulted in significant advancements in the way patients are treated. Personal and medical details are also used by staff who handle post care activities, from post-op follow-up to billing. This reduces the admin involved and makes it a far more efficient experience for patients.

However, housing this kind of personal information poses a severe risk. Without the right security in place, this data is left exposed to external threats, as malicious actors use targeted threats to infiltrate networks. But when you’re dealing with something as important as people’s lives, it’s not enough to only have security in place, the continuity of services is vital. Take the WannaCry ransomware outbreak earlier this year for example, where entire hospitals in the UK were shut down.

Healthcare institutions therefore need to have a cyber resilience strategy in place. This will help them defend against threats such as ransomware, allow continuous access to critical applications and information during an attack and provide the ability to recover data to the last known workable state, after a threat is neutralised.

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But it even goes beyond external threats. Equally important is making sure the organisation is insulated from mistakes by both well-meaning employees and malicious insiders. Busy staff members are bound to make mistakes regarding PHI. With the ubiquity of email, it’s not uncommon to find a breach where employees accidentally (or carelessly) attached a spreadsheet or document containing PHI. A mistake like this could result in personal harm or defamation and will have severe implications for healthcare professionals in countries that have data protection laws in place.

To prevent brand damage, fines, and audits, healthcare organisations must actively seek to identify and prevent PHI from leaving the organisation without the proper safeguards in place. However, this can be a monumental task without the right technology. For email, Mimecast recently introduced data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities that can help address this challenge. Healthcare organisations can scan, identify and take action on emails containing PHI. These actions include holding the message for review, encrypting the content, applying secure messaging between parties, converting the files and more. As part of the service, Mimecast can notify the sender, recipient, and administrator of a message flagged as containing PHI.

Ensuring that PHI does not leave the organisation without the proper encryption and safeguards is just as essential as securing against external attackers. Healthcare is the only industry where employees are the predominant threat of a breach.

The healthcare sector is at major risk. The time is now for them to rethink cyber security and implement strategies that make them resilient and prepared for both internal and external threats.

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Jun 16, 2021

NHS opens 8 clinical trial sites to assess cancer treatment

NHS
Cancer
immunotherapy
MachineLearning
2 min
NHS and OncoHost to launch clinical trials analysing cancer patients response to immunotherapy

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is opening eight clinical trial sites to assess patients' responses to personalised cancer therapy. 

The trials will analyse how patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma or non-small cell lung cancer respond to immunotherapy, to help predict their response to treatment.  They will be hosted at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust facilities. 

Immunotherapy helps the body's own immune system fight cancer, but while it has achieved good results for some cancer patients, it is not successful for everyone. Finding ways to predict which people will respond to the treatment is a major area of research.

OncoHost, an oncology startup,  will provide advanced machine learning technology to develop personalised strategies aiming to improve the success rate of the cancer therapy. The trials will contribute to OncoHost’s ongoing PROPHETIC study, which uses the company’s host response profiling platform, PROphet®

“Immunotherapy has achieved excellent results in certain situations for several cancers, allowing patients to achieve longer control of their cancer with maintained quality of life and longer survival,” said Dr David Farrugia, Consultant Medical Oncologist at NHS, and chief investigator of all eight NHS clinical trial sites.

“However, success with immunotherapy is not guaranteed in every patient, so this PROPHETIC study is seeking to identify changes in proteins circulating in the blood which may help doctors to choose the best treatment for each patient." 

"I am excited that Gloucestershire Oncology Centre and its research department have this opportunity to contribute to this growing field of research and I am determined that our centre will make a leading national contribution in patient recruitment.”

Previous studies in the US and Israel have shown that PROphet® has high accuracy in predicting how patients with cancer will respond to various therapies.

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