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Healthcare Data Security Performance Stagnates

Healthcare organizations are still largely driven by compliance and legacy attitudes.

Cybersecurity in healthcare organization has reached a plateau as protection strategies fail to keep up with the innovation of attackers who seek to steal patient data and intellectual property. According to a new report by 451 Research on behalf of Vormetric, a Thales company, IT risk management remains a 'business as usual' affair for most healthcare organizations

"Like most regions and verticals, healthcare organizations must recognize that doing more of the same won’t help us achieve an improved security posture," writes Garrett Bekker, senior analyst for 451 and author of the report. "As an industry, we need to pay more attention to new techniques for preventing attacks as well as detecting potential threats more rapidly and narrowing the window of exposure."

The survey showed that for the most part, compliance still largely drives healthcare security in spite of the fact that compliance efforts don't always directly equate to improved risk management results. Among U.S. healthcare respondents queried for the survey, 61% of organizations see compliance as the main driver for data security, far above the U.S. average of 54% of all organizations. And 68% of healthcare organizations view compliance as 'very' or 'extremely' effective at improving security, the highest ratio among all verticals, including finance and banking. However, the results of these attitudes have been lackluster at best, with 63% of these organizations experiencing a breach at some point in the past and only about 14% saying these past breaches offered a good reason for securing sensitive data.

“Compliance is only a step towards Healthcare IT security,” Bekker says. “As we learned from data theft incidents at healthcare organizations that were reportedly HIPAA compliant, being compliant doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be breached and have your sensitive data stolen.”

The status quo security measures are likely to continue to some degree, with growth in spending on traditional network security measures still expected to outstrip growth in data-at-rest security spend on technologies such as file-encryption, disk encryption, data access controls, application encryption and tokenization. Nevertheless, approximately 46% of healthcare organizations do plan to increase spending on this front.

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As that does occur, organizations believe they will run into some stumbling blocks when it comes to adopting better data security. Around 54% of healthcare organizations see complexity as the number one barrier to adopting data security more widely and 38% say that a lack of staff to manage data protection technology is a problem for them.

"More liberal use of encryption and other data security techniques also raises the potential for introducing an array of single-function products that are needed to address an increasingly diverse set of use cases, which in turn can increase overall complexity and staffing requirements," writes Bekker. "Given the main data security hurdles of complexity, and specifically for US healthcare customers, lack of staff and budgetary constraints, the message for enterprises and data security vendors is clear. In order to achieve broader adoption of data security products, the latter must be more cost effective, simpler to use and require less manpower to deploy, operate and maintain on an ongoing basis."

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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