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Avoidance of financial penalties remains a top driver for US healthcare security spend

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Thales has announced the results of its 2018 Thales Data Threat Report, Healthcare Edition, revealing only 30% of global healthcare organisations have remain untouched by a data breach. Up to 39% of these organisations have been breached in the last year alone, while the majority of respondents (70%) reported being breached in the past – a 17% rise from 2016.

Issued in conjunction with analyst firm 451 research, the findings also highlight the negative impact cyber criminals are having, with over half (55%) feeling ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ vulnerable to data breaches.

Digital transformation: Enabling better healthcare, but creating risks

In an effort to provide more efficient services – and with an eye towards cutting costs – the healthcare industry has more recently been turning its attention towards embracing digitally transformative technologies, including cloud, big data, Internet of Things and containers. These technologies allow organisations to better create and manage data, as well as store critical information more efficiently.

Almost all (93%) of global respondents reported using these technologies with sensitive data. With each new technology comes unique data security challenges that must be addressed, as they increase the attack surface available. Among some of the more notable findings from this year’s report:

  • All (100%) global respondents surveyed are leveraging cloud technologies, with 54% using three or more cloud vendors for infrastructure (IaaS) as opposed to having it onsite
  • One-third (33%) of global respondents are using more than 50 cloud-based software applications (SaaS); and 54% are using three or more cloud-based platform (PaaS) environments
  • Almost all (99%) of global respondents are using big data; 94% are working on or using mobile payments, and 94% have a blockchain project implemented or are in the process of implementing one
  • 96% are leveraging IoT technologies, which may include internet-connected heart-rate monitors, implantable defibrillators and insulin pumps

Consequently, these organisations have emerged as a prime target for hackers, putting valuable medical data at risk. While a stolen credit card has a time-limited value, PHI and electronic medical records (EMR) are packed with immutable data that can, and do, fetch hundreds of dollars per stolen record on illegal online markets.

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Compliance playing larger role in influencing global healthcare security attitudes

Past global healthcare reports have shown the US to place more of an emphasis on compliance, compared to its global counterparts. This is primarily driven by a privately focused healthcare system, which contends with a complex web of regulations and standards. The effectiveness of a compliance-based strategy is debatable: 77% of US healthcare respondents reported at least one breach at some time in the past, making it the most breached among all US verticals polled in this year’s report.  Despite the US’ struggles, 64% of global healthcare respondents still believe compliance requirements are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ effective at preventing data breaches, with compliance ranking first among global healthcare respondents as a driver of security spending (51%), higher than any other sector and higher than the US. (44%).

Encryption viewed as critical – but does spending reflect this?

While 83% of global healthcare respondents plan to increase spending on security (a number that is above the global average), only 40% of global respondents are increasing spending for data-at-rest security tools. This stance is puzzling, when reflecting on other findings from the report.

For example, the looming deadline for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means data sovereignty is top of mind for most international companies. Globally, encryption is the top choice for complying with privacy regulations (36%). Unlike their US counterparts, who ranked data-at-rest defences second-to-last in terms of effectiveness, 76% of global healthcare respondents also ranked data-at-rest defences (such as encryption or tokenisation) as the number one tool for protecting data (tied with data-in-motion defences).

“When it comes to data security, the global healthcare industry is increasingly under duress, which is why some of this year’s findings are so counterintuitive,” explained Peter Galvin, Chief Strategy Officer at Thales e-Security.

“For example, 63% of global respondents are investing money in endpoint security, even though it offers little help in protecting data once perimeters have been breached. Data security spending needs to match healthcare’s reality – which is that of an industry embracing digitally transformative technologies – in the form of investments in encryption solutions offering protection to known and unknown sensitive data that has moved beyond the traditional four walls of the healthcare environment.”

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