Innovation in Life Sciences Sector Requires Focus on Security Hygiene

As industries across the world expand their focus on innovation, cybersecurity takes on an expanding role and increased importance. From technology to healthcare, manufacturing, financial service and beyond, innovation allows the business world to create new products, methods and ideas, providing an endless stream of value and helping their companies grow.

This includes the life sciences industry, companies in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, life systems technologies, environmental, and organizations and institutions that devote the majority of their efforts in the various stages of research, development, technology transfer and commercialization. Examples of companies in the life sciences industry include Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, and P&G.

As companies in the life science industry aim to put patients first, focus on solvable problems and support open innovation, data sharing and analysis has taken on tremendous importance. When researchers are able to leverage cognitive computing to search peer-reviewed studies from around the world, diseases can be treated — even cured — with more speed and efficiency than ever before.

If research is transmitted via the cloud, performing clinical trials to develop medical devices becomes a seamless and much less expensive process. Better yet, data sharing allows the creation of medical devices to be collaborative, and patient outcomes are improved through innovative medical devices that allow doctors to monitor medication adherence and vital signs.

While digital innovations appear poised to propel the life science sector into the future, it is vital for organizations to remember that the opportunities these technologies present also offer significant cybersecurity and privacy risks. As many organizations continue to innovate and grow, cybercriminals are also progressing their methods of system infiltration and data theft. Today’s cyber threats are exponentially more sophisticated and dangerous than those of year’s past, and the costs associated with a data breach in the life science industry is skyrocketing.

In fact, according to the 2017 Cost of a Data Breach Study, a life science data breach is nearly 20 percent more expensive per record than the average cost across all industries. As the risks and costs surrounding regulatory non-compliance, reputational damage and related cyber and privacy breaches continue swelling, so too is the value of digital assets across the life science sector.

As noted in our blog post discussing cybersecurity in the healthcare industry, health records offer more value to hackers than credit card records or Social Security numbers due to the additional information found in a medical record that isn’t readily available elsewhere and can’t be easily changed. This information includes:

    • Patient’s full name.
    • Social Security number.
    • Date of birth.

In addition to sensitive patient information recorded during clinical trials, firms in the life science sector hold an ever-increasing amount of data, from drug formulas to device specifications, that is of high value. Making matters worse, the proliferation of new digital platforms across the life science industry makes these companies particularly attractive due to their vulnerability.  Other common vulnerabilities include the lack of policies and procedures around information technology, the lack of protection around IoT medical devices and the data they store as well as the outsourcing of IT services to third-party vendors.

Life sciences companies have many strategic essentials that can be addressed through the uninhibited use of big data, and making progress on such transformational endeavors necessitates data sharing, not just data analysis — across borders, with competitors, via the cloud, and occasionally in real time. While there is a great debate surrounding whether the cloud increases or decreases an organization’s security profile, today, life science companies are beginning to share an increasing amount of sensitive information with a much wider variety of partners and vendors. Some organizations are committed to this more open environment, but many organizations remain complacent when it comes to the very real, and incredibly dangerous, threat of intellectual property and patient data cybertheft.

Despite high-profile data breaches increasing in recent years, a whopping 43 percent of the companies surveyed in “Life sciences innovation and cyber security: Inseparable” feel about the same or less secure about their data security than they did in the past. In developing a cybersecurity strategy to combat potential threats, life sciences companies should focus on assessing and analyzing risks while also placing a premium on active and continuous planning, training and updating of cybersecurity strategies.

Cybersecurity risk assessments are foundational to meeting legal requirements and can define the parameters that constitute reasonable cybersecurity within an organization. In an area evolving as rapidly as the life science sector, the importance of staying up to date with software and operating systems patch management has never been more obvious. Once considered burdensome and time consuming, advances in cybersecurity technology now enable the patch management process to be automated, allowing security professionals to see the real-time vulnerability status across their entire IT infrastructure from a single dashboard and take action immediately.

One such advance is the Automox platform. Automox provides instant visibility of system inventory, vulnerability status, and policy compliance, the ability to automate patch management, software deployment and workflow management as well as complete control and active enforcement of system and software configurations.

With Automox, you control your level of patch management automation, flow processes and configuration enforcement — all from a single dashboard — to ensure every endpoint remains protected from harm. The platform was not only built for a mixed OS environment, enabling the management of Windows, Mac OS X and Linux patches, Automox also natively patches third-party software, including Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java, Firefox, Chrome, MS Office and others as part of our growing catalog.

Whether the life science sector is focused on internal risks, risks associated with mergers and acquisitions or risks arising from insufficient cybersecurity resources, addressing cybersecurity should go hand in hand with pursuing growth and innovation. Life science organizations that ignore this reality are opening themselves up to profound damage — to their reputations, their financial resources and even their viability.

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.

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