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Ransomware Emerges as Top Health IT Infrastructure Threat

Ransomware is one of the top threats to enterprise data security, responsible for 40% of survey respondents security threats.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Ransomware is the cause of forty percent of disruptive IT events, according to a new cross-industry survey by Fortium Partners, highlighting one of the top threats to health IT infrastructure and data security.

Ransomware threatens health IT infrastructure

The survey of more than 80 C-level executives found that organizations are taking a variety of approaches to combat the threat of ransomware, which is among the top concerns of infrastructure and security professionals.

More than half of respondents experienced a security event in the past 90 days. Attacks reportedly included web applications attacks, denial of service attacks, and service outages, but far and away, the most common attack was ransomware.

Ransomware holds secure data hostage and demands money from an organization to restore it. Ransomware has become a serious issue in 2016 with one respondent reportedly, “requesting permission from corporate legal to pay ransoms within certain parameters to minimize the impact and further risk to his organization.”

Healthcare IT departments must have a clear look into their infrastructure and monitor all facets of the network in order to detect threats before data is compromised. HIPAA violations can result in fines which many organizations cannot afford to pay or a hit to their reputation that they cannot recover from.

Implementing an security information and event management solution (SIEM) solution monitors security events and protects organizations against malware by informing IT of abnormalities before they have a chance to settle into the network.

Fortium Partners analysts suggest, “a combination of good threat intelligence, perimeter security, monitored traffic and backups is the best defense.”

The survey also asked executives about their infrastructure spending and future investments.

The survey found that most technology leaders have been able to maintain their goals in 2016, with over 50 percent reporting that spending on operating expenses, capital expenses, and personal is right on target.

Nearly 20 percent of respondents reported spending ahead of plan on capital expenses and operating expenses.

Results also showed that organizations spending ahead of their budget plan are more prominent in the operating and capital expense categories than in personnel. Fortium Partners analysts credit this imbalance to the deployment of cloud managed services which are leading to higher expense and lower personnel spending.

Lowering personnel spending leaves room for organizations to invest in technology that is more efficient and and requires less maintenance. Healthcare organizations stand to benefit from infrastructure implementations like SaaS or cloud management for wireless networks because of the budget restraints they often face.

Cloud technologies are likely to strain IT budgets, but are expected to balance out and save institutions money over an extended period.

When it comes to future investments, blockchain technology topped the list of most watched technologies, closely followed by internet of things (IoT), and software defined infrastructure (e.g., network, data center, virtualization).

“Of those,” analysts said, “software-defined infrastructure and IoT are the technologies making the strongest push to production while Blockchain garners the most press.”

Software defined infrastructure includes migrating to cloud storage, application development, and cloud service deployments for managing and monitoring IT infrastructure.

IoT was also a popular solution and includes employee and customer facing wearable apps. Most healthcare organizations are likely interested in the potential benefits of biomedical devices connecting to the network, as well. Organizations looking even further into the technological future may also be thinking about implanted medical devices for patients with chronic health conditions.  

Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) was also a popular area of interest as respondents were reasonably split on adopting it and phasing it out of their future plans. DaaS lowers spending on hardware in the long run, but can also be difficult to deploy.

The survey showed that IT infrastructure executives are generally sticking to their financial plans in 2016, while finding better ways to ward off malware attacks, particularly from ransomware. Organizations are looking to the future and considering new technologies to strengthen security and stay within budget.

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