Tackling the challenges of data-driven health care

Gregg Petersen, Regional Sales Vice President, MEA at Veeam Software on the challenges that data and connected technology have brought into the health care industry and what can be done to keep their data from falling into the wrong hands.

Data, analytics, and the devices used to access and gather them have changed our lives for the better. From giving us the insight we need to improve critical business processes, to enabling us to learn more about our personal health and fitness, they’ve had some major impacts on both the way we work, and the way we live.

But you’d be hard-pushed to find an area where data and connected technology have done more for the greater good of the human race than in health care.

Mobile devices have put critical patient data in the hands of first responders, new analysis devices and tools are helping healthcare professionals diagnose with greater accuracy, and the instant sharing of information between specialists is enabling them to save more lives in emergency situations.

Those are truly life-changing capabilities – but they come at a cost. The sheer volume of sensitive patient and organizational data handled by today’s healthcare providers has put a major target over their heads for hackers and data thieves.

And it’s not just the volume of data they’re handling that’s leaving them vulnerable. According to Gartner, 41% of the world’s discrete Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are deployed in healthcare organizations, representing a whole world of new entry points for hackers to exploit.

Fending Off Diverse Threats

The combination of massive volumes of sensitive personal data and a growing number of entry points that can be exploited to steal it is a recipe for disaster. An organization holding more valuable data than ever before, that’s also the most vulnerable it has ever been, is a dream come true for data thieves.

The problem is, not every attacker wants to actually steal data from healthcare organizations. The critical, life or death nature of the work they do also makes them a huge target for those launching ransomware attacks.

Why are hospitals such a perfect target for ransomware? Because patient data is so important to the care they provide, putting it out of reach throws them into a state of panic where they’re likely to cave into demands. Quite simply, when you hijack something that’s critically important to someone, chances are that they will pay to get it back.

So What Can You Do About It All?

Clearly, healthcare providers can’t ignore the benefits that new data-driven technology can bring to them and their patients. So what can they do to keep their data from falling into the wrong hands?

Well, with threats becoming more diverse every day, nobody can ever truly achieve complete protection against malicious attacks. Instead, the best course of action is something those in healthcare are already very familiar with – making sure you’re properly prepared for a disaster.

At ground level, professionals gathering and using data need to receive specific training in how they can best prevent attacks and minimize vulnerabilities. They must understand how their actions can leave the organization as a whole – and all of its data – vulnerable.

Beyond that, healthcare IT leaders need to create, clarify and execute robust disaster recovery plans to help ensure the continuity of care and operations in the event of a serious breach or malicious attack.

Backups sit at the core of those strategies. By frequently backing up data and verifying those backups to ensure they’ll work when they’re needed, healthcare organizations can quickly and effectively recover from a wide range of threats, including ransomware attacks.