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Patient data: how secure is yours?

3 March 2020

Categories: Digital Health

Man coding on computer

Related sectors

Life Science & Healthcare and Cyber Security

In today’s ever-increasing digital and interconnected world, more and more companies are storing sensitive data online, and as ‘big data’ becomes the norm, data breaches are surging.

The benefits of going digital are highly advantageous, but unfortunately, as a result, a whole new host of bigger and new vulnerabilities come into play. The most common form of data breach is a cyber attack where hackers using sophisticated malware, phishing, social engineering, skimming, and scams can access sensitive and event encrypted information. The risks are so huge that companies can lose public trust, end up with long-term damage to their reputation and acquire hefty fines.

Every industry has a lot to lose should a cyber attack take place, but the healthcare sector is especially vulnerable with huge amounts of complex, multi-layered and extremely sensitive, personal data. As the industry becomes more and more tech savvy with, for example, smarter IoT medical devices, cyber security threats are on the rise and healthcare companies need to tighten governance and develop and implement better security standards in order to become more resilient.


Life or Death

Cyber security is constantly evolving in order to combat the ever-increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, but in essence, it’s about protecting systems, networks and programs from digital attacks. The UK’s cyber security breaches survey 2019 reported 32% of businesses identified cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months so it’s imperative that companies, regardless of industry type, have the appropriate frameworks in place in order to recognise and deal with an attack. This means joining together trained staff and robust processes with technology, in order to have a strong, pertinent and highly resilient data defence system.

Healthcare is a major target when it comes to digital attacks and the repercussions could be as serious as life or death as vital and confidential patient data is stolen and manipulated for malicious purposes. The sector is extremely attractive for savvy hackers as identify theft can be used for expensive medical services, devices and prescriptions, especially in countries such as the U.S where private healthcare is standard.

The largest healthcare data breaches have affected as many as 80 million people. In the U.S. in 2015, 78.8 million patient records were affected during the Anthem medical data breach. In 2017, according to the National Audit Office (NAO) the WannaCry NHS ransomware attack disrupted more than a third of trusts in England and consequently thousands of patient appointments and operations were cancelled at a cost of nearly £100m on IT recovery services alone. 2018 saw the critical breach of the Singapore government’s health database affecting 1.5 million patients and last month’s ransomware attack on a private Nebraska-based U.S. company proves it’s not just public healthcare data that’s at risk.


Data Protection - Best Practice

By implementing best practice protection, you could stay ahead of potential attacks and ensure the safety of your business and your patient’s data. It would be wise for healthcare companies to follow the examples set by the financial services industry which is highly regulated and has quickly embraced usage, integration and the rationalisation of data.

At the very least, companies should be applying a layered approach including a written security policy, along with:

• User training
• Timely system patching
• Updating anti-virus software
• Shortening incident response time
• Tracking asset management.


Healthcare Cyber Security: Why Manchester?

Manchester is where the world’s first stored program was created and now, with the likes of GCHQ and other leading digital companies making it their key location, the city-region is fast becoming a global centre for cyber-resilience.

In terms of healthcare, Greater Manchester is home to the Salford Royal NHS Foundation - the only fully e-enabled NHS organisation in the UK, and an NHS Global Digital Exemplar. This is also where the GSK Salford Lung Study took place - a world first clinical trial of a large representative patient population to test the use of Revlar for asthma. As the city-region sets out to reshape the care and services people receive through its new digital transformation strategy - of which cyber security is a key ingredient - Manchester presents the perfect skills and ideal environment to implement an appropriate, long-lasting and secure healthcare infrastructure.


Healthy Data for Healthy Lives

The benefits of Greater Manchester’s proposed digital transformation are vast: people will be able to manage their own health and care through new digital tools and apps and as a result of rich data analysis, healthcare professionals will be able to diagnose and treat diseases more effectively. However, without the appropriate cyber security processes in place, patient data and people’s lives will become more vulnerable and the new digital services, unsustainable. Similarly, as consumer expectations evolve and more complex health and technology ecosystems develop, healthcare companies in the U.S. will need to invest in more advanced digital technologies with better data interoperability and even more rigorous data security infrastructures.

Through greater control of its £6bn ($8bn) health and social care budget coupled with assets such as the Greater Manchester Cyber Resilience Centre and Manchester Digital, Manchester offers the perfect cyber security framework to ensure robust information governance policies and procedures are in place; not only for the sharing of information between professionals for the purposes of direct care but also to support service planning, redesign and research for innovation through third parties.

The Greater Manchester Cyber Resilience Centre has close links with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit at Greater Manchester Police to provide accessible and consistent government backed advice. It also provides free and subsidised cyber services to micro and small businesses and focuses on developing the right skill and talent to effectively service the cyber security landscape.

Manchester Digital - a joint venture partner alongside Greater Manchester Police and the Manchester Cyber Resilience Centre - has a mission to reduce the vulnerability of Greater Manchester’s business for cyber crime and is a specialist trade body for digital and technology businesses across Greater Manchester.


Speak to a Manchester Cybersecurity Expert

So, whether you’re an IT firm specialising in healthcare or a healthcare company searching for the right environment and expertise to build a robust and resilient digital infrastructure, speak to MIDAS to find out why Manchester is the right fit for your business.

For more information speak to Catherine Davidson – Head of Business Development for Life Sciences & Healthcare or Hannah Tracey - Head of Business Development for Creative, Digital & Technology

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