Automated Patch Management: the Right Formula to Secure the Pharmaceutical Industry

In recent years, companies across all industries have upped their focus on cybersecurity. In the face of massive global incidents such as WannaCry and Petya as well as other increasingly dangerous and sophisticated attacks, solid security practices are beginning to be implemented more effectively, and executive boards are showing stronger support for security than in the past.

If a company has anything of value on their networks, they will be targeted by malicious parties — it’s a fact of life in the digital world. Unfortunately, aside from massive corporations with significant security budgets, many industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, continue to lag behind when it comes to cybersecurity.

Generally speaking, the pharmaceutical industry has not operated on the cutting edge when it comes to information security practices due to a number of unique challenges. As a result, the pharmaceutical industry is increasingly targeted by hackers seeking to pilfer sensitive information or cause human or reputational harm. In fact, companies in the pharmaceutical industry have become a greater target for cyberattacks than companies in retail.

While most pharmaceutical companies agree that the losses from a cyberattack could be startling, the majority of companies in the industry continue to face numerous challenges, and as a result, they often struggle with cybersecurity.

Cost of a Data Breach

Due to the importance and prevalence of the intellectual property pharmaceutical companies possess, they are seen as a juicy target for hackers and bad actors seeking to cause harm. From stolen intellectual property to clinical trial information, litigation and lost revenue, the consequences surrounding a pharmaceutical data breach are staggering.

Worse yet, according to the 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study: Global Overview, the total cost of a breach, the per capita cost of a stolen record and the average size of a data breach all increased from 2017 to 2018, highlighting the increased danger around shoddy cybersecurity.

In the pharmaceutical industry, the problem is even more pronounced. The global average total cost of a data breach climbed to $148 per record, but for pharmaceutical firms, that number reached $174 — more than 17 percent higher than the average across industries.

Intellectual Property

For pharma companies, the ongoing pursuit of intellectual property remains a significant threat to the industry. At certain stages of development, molecules and formulas are not yet protected by a patent, and the way a company manages and protects that information has taken on increased importance in recent years. Imagine if data such as compound information or research on clinical trials that could determine a company’s strategy for the next five to 10 years falls into the wrong hands.

Research and development produces a significant amount of information that has the potential to determine strategic business decisions surrounding operations, the development of new solutions, investments, etc. Because this information drives decision-making when it comes to which elements to remove for the next round of development, the therapeutic areas to invest in and more, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly compelled to bolster their cyber defenses. Nothing is more valuable to a pharmaceutical company than the formula for one of its new drugs, so ensuring their intellectual property is protected is vital in today’s threat landscape.  

Mergers & Acquisitions

The reality is that attacks occur everyday, but today, companies need to be aware of where their challenges lie and when they can arise. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions, the pharmaceutical industry has always been busier than most. However, these activities often involve a significant amount of strictly confidential data, appealing to hackers as they know they can pilfer a significant amount of money or sell the information on the dark web.

According to a recent insight on cybersecurity for pharmaceutical companies, “Companies engaged in merger and acquisition activities have experienced attacks in which insider information was misused to trade their stock for profit in advance of a merger being announced publicly.” Clearly, protecting sensitive and confidential information during a merger or acquisition remains a difficult task for many security teams.

Fortunately, as data sharing grows increasingly prevalent across the industry, companies are beginning to understand that a breach in their network could have massive impacts on both a company’s reputation as well as its bottom line. If a company is waiting for signs of trouble before implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity program, it’s likely already too late.

The Internet of Things

As mobile computing technology continues to advance, connecting every device in our lives, the greater acceptance of “internet of things” (IoT) technologies poses new security challenges. The attack surface is growing as the proliferation of IoT devices that collect health data for the pharmaceutical industry ensures the presence of more connected medical devices than ever before.

The growing IoT ensures possibilities surrounding how data is collected, stored, transmitted and processed are extended. Because traditional IT environments already come with numerous risks, the rapid proliferation of the IoT increases these risks by extending the uncertainty surrounding controls all along the chain — from the location where data is gathered from or created to where it ultimately is stored.

Patch Management

With hacks and data breaches increasing across all industries, the importance of patching software and operating systems has never been more pronounced for companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

Unfortunately, many pharma security professionals are slacking when it comes to their patching programs. In fact, a majority of security professionals in the pharmaceutical industry admitted that they have had a data breach because of an unpatched vulnerability for which a patch was available, according to a survey of nearly 3,000 security professionals by the Ponemon Institute.

Staying current with patches for software, operating systems and third-party applications is the only way companies can fully prevent attacks based on known vulnerabilities. Pharmaceutical companies can improve their security posture in a number of ways: taking inventory of vulnerability response capabilities; defining and optimizing end-to-end vulnerability response processes; and automating as much of the process as possible. The solution addressing all of these needs appears to be cloud-native patch automation. Enter Automox, a cloud-native automated patch management solution.

The platform allows users to control their level of patch management automation, flow processes and configuration enforcement — all from a single dashboard. Better yet, the lightweight agent can be installed for all of your Windows, Mac OS or Linux systems in just a few minutes, and it automatically patches vulnerabilities based upon your company’s configured policies.

Today, pharma’s big test lies in understanding all of the cybersecurity challenges the industry faces and overcoming them. Having a security program and a security operations process in place is no longer something that can be overlooked. While patch management is a major issue for many companies — no matter the size, no matter the industry — Automox is helping make the traditionally time-consuming and burdensome practice of patching easier than ever for pharmaceutical companies.

About Automox

Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.

Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, Mac, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.

Experience modern, cloud-native patch management today with a 15-day free trial of Automox and start recapturing more than half the time you're currently spending on managing your attack surface. Automox dramatically reduces corporate risk while raising operational efficiency to deliver best-in-class security outcomes, faster and with fewer resources.

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