A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 2/7/2013 | 14 comments

Andrew Froehlich
The promise of profits to be made in healthcare IT, coupled with new HIPAA regulations, has put a renewed focus on software security.

It used to be that software security was an afterthought in the healthcare industry. But HIPAA regulations have helped to bring the security topic to the forefront, and many healthcare IT managers are now placing security on an even plane with functionality.

For example, the University of Michigan recently announced that it is offering a new graduate-level course that specifically focuses on medical device security.

While this is a positive step in the right direction, it's hard to patch an already broken system. The real challenge occurs in assuring security across the full lifecycle of the software. Although software security may, indeed, be improved when an application is first deployed on a medical center infrastructure, it doesn't remain secure for long.

The real reason software security eventually fails is the outdated method for regulating medical software over the long haul. The process to recertify software after adding new security updates is tedious at best. Software companies find that it requires an inordinate amount of time and money to keep software security patches up to current standards.

What ends up happening is that software is developed, certified, and deployed, never to be updated again. There's not a great deal of profit involved in maintaining security, so it's often ignored. I've personally seen this occur on numerous occasions -- even with well-respected medical device companies. It's this combination of antiquated regulations and lack of interest by the software companies that creates an environment of lax security practices.

Security pressures mount in healthcare IT
The responsibility falls on the healthcare provider to properly secure devices and applications. A large number of healthcare systems are deployed by vendors using common desktop and server operating systems such as Microsoft Windows or Linux. Even though these operating systems receive regular security patches from the OS vendor, they cannot be deployed onto medical systems until they are certified and approved by the vendor. This process happens slowly, if at all.

Additionally, it's common for healthcare device and application vendors to disallow third-party applications from being installed on these systems. This significantly limits what can be done to secure systems on an OS level, such as third-party anti-virus or software firewalls.

If you want to protect your organization from the latest vulnerabilities, the best defense is to physically or logically separate weak systems, providing an added layer of security. Fortunately, there are a couple different methods that can be used to proactively protect insecure health systems.

One way around this is to deploy small hardware-based firewalls between these systems and the rest of the network. Many enterprise-class networking companies offer low-cost firewalls that can be deployed in a bridged, or transparent mode. This means that the firewall can be deployed without any reconfiguration or re-addressing being needed. This is especially useful if a medical device regularly moves from one location to another.

An alternative to providing hardware point-based solutions for vulnerable health systems is to create separate, secure DMZ areas. By leveraging today's modern, virtualized firewall solutions, it's fairly easy to create multiple, logical DMZs. These effectively quarantine unpatched systems so they can't affect the rest of the network if they become compromised. While this may create a complex infrastructure, it often is necessary in order to quarantine specific systems that don't meet a minimum level of security.

A renewed interest in medical device security is a positive step toward safe healthcare software in the future. But securing software for deployment on day one is only part of the challenge. The real issue is continuing security measures throughout the lifecycle of the system. Because of problems within the industry, IT managers must take a proactive approach to securing software themselves.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Syerita Turner   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/21/2013 9:06:05 AM
Re: InfoSec the enemy.
When it comes to security and healthcare there are some things that can be done to protect information and then some things will fall through the cracks. I think that allowing people in the healthcare industry very little play when it comes to downloading on a healthcare or company computer because this is where your problems begin. Keeping people off of sites that are not for business and providing strict guidelines about plugging up personal devices will have to be set before issuing these machiines out to the masses.
singlemud   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/18/2013 9:47:03 PM
Re: IT Security in Health care
I really do not think the security concerns will be addressed. It is always the second thing and forgotten easily. Thinking about banking industries, with so many credit card breaches, it still keeps leaking
soozyg   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/13/2013 11:39:34 AM
Re: A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security
@Sara

A great selling point? Yes, actually would I agree that security could be a good selling point. But the statement here is There's not a great deal of profit involved in maintaining security, so it's often ignored. Which seems accurate...BUT if a company is talking about the money-making departments, security is up there with the non-money makers like marketing, publicity and accounting. I would say if we're categorizing like that, sales would be the only direct money making department.
Susan Nunziata   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/12/2013 11:42:01 PM
Re: InfoSec the enemy.
@Damian: I think that's a fair assessment. There is $$ at stake in penalties and unfortunately that is often what is needed to drive appropriate behavior. I'd like to think ethics come first, but that has not been proven out in much of corporate history.
tekedge   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/12/2013 7:09:50 PM
IT Security in Health care
It will soon become important to the healthcare industry to invest in IT security to guard the  confidentiality of the patient history. But at present the slew of changes in the industry is keeping them fighting to keep the costs down. I am really skeptical when they will actually address the security concerns!
Sara Peters   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/11/2013 5:47:14 PM
Re: A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security
@soozyg   Over recent years, some IT security professionals have tried to say that good security practices will eventually become a great selling point for a lot of organizations. I'm not sure that it's true, though. If it's true at all, then I think it only applies to the financial services industry. When it comes to healthcare services, people are going to make their choices based upon what healthcare organization they can trust with their body, not which they can trust with their data.
Sara Peters   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/11/2013 5:44:13 PM
Re: InfoSec the enemy.
@Damian  Agreed:  "I'm amazed at how little security is considered amongst many IT professionals I meet."  On the flip side, I'm often amazed at how little the business is considered by many security professionals I meet. I think that CIOs, CISOs, and CFOs should overcome their differences and become friends. Like the fox and the hound.
Sara Peters   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/11/2013 5:37:42 PM
third parties factor in too
Thanks for the post Andrew. Another thing that comes to mind when thinking about healthcare device security is that the devices aren't entirely run by the healthcare organization. For example, the EEG equipment used at my hospital is maintained by a third party vendor -- the hospital's IT department apparently has nothing to do with it.
soozyg   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/10/2013 7:43:01 PM
Re: A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security
There's not a great deal of profit involved in maintaining security, so it's often ignored.

Interesting take--so because an area doesn't make any money, health care companies don't talk about it even though patient confidentiality is crucial and avoids lawsuits.
batye   A Proactive Approach to Healthcare IT Security   2/8/2013 2:16:29 PM
Re: InfoSec the enemy.
Susan you are right... as with Healthcare and IT security is more like cat and dog fighting... no one wants to give priority to IT security until breach happens... and everyone started thinking... why? as with out proper balance is bad... 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>


The blogs and comments posted on EnterpriseEfficiency.com do not reflect the views of TechWeb, EnterpriseEfficiency.com, or its sponsors. EnterpriseEfficiency.com, TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Andrew Froehlich
Andrew Froehlich   4/16/2014   12 comments
With news that Google slashed the price of their big-data offering "Big Query" by up to 85 percent, one has to wonder if the move is to ward off competitors -- or simply that the ...
Andrew Froehlich   3/18/2014   26 comments
At a recent South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Edward Snowden said the NSA is "setting fire to the future of the Internet." In light of this, the World Wide Web ...
Andrew Froehlich   2/28/2014   34 comments
An increasing number of partnerships, vendor contracts, and third-party agreements require opening access to your enterprise network. While offering access to these partners is usually ...
Andrew Froehlich   2/18/2014   10 comments
Annual IT security audits can be painful, yet they don't have to be.
Andrew Froehlich   2/11/2014   16 comments
Much of the focus around big data has been in electronic health records, customer data mining, and financial prediction models, but big data can be a big help in the field of IT security. ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
4/23/2014 - Dell Compellent performance and features make it an outstanding storage platform for SQL Server. Register for this webinar now.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
moderators@enterpriseefficiency.com
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
SPONSORED BY DELL
CASE STUDIES
EBOOKS
PUBLIC SECTOR RESOURCES
VIDEOS
WHITE PAPERS
WINDOWS SERVER 2012 RESOURCES
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video


On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments


Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   12 comments


The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   5 comments


TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments


The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments


Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments


IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments


TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments


TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   8 comments


The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments


The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   16 comments


Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   6 comments


New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   11 comments


The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments


We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments


Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments


Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments


Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments


On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments


Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments


A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments


VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments


Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments


Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments


Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments


The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.