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How to Manage Cyber Vulnerability in the Pharmaceutical Industry

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A 2021 report shows a significant increase in cybercrime. A staggering 45 million people may have felt the impact. That signified an increase of 14 million from the previous year.

So, what makes the Healthcare sector so attractive to cybercriminals? It all comes down to the data, which is personal and very sensitive. Hackers go after PHI or Protected Health Information due to its high value. There is a ready and willing market for health and patient-related information.

Further, cybercriminals target all areas of the healthcare sector. These include insurance, clinics, tech vendor pharmaceuticals, and specialists.

Our article explores cyber vulnerability management within the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharma Cybersecurity Challenges

The pharma industry collects and stores sensitive data. It makes them a prime target for cybercriminals. The data include research projects, patented drugs, clinical trials, and patient information. 

Technological changes, automation, and third-party vendors can help with cyber security. Yet, the very same security measures open up areas of vulnerability. It leaves them open to a wide range of attacks. The most common are phishing attacks, IoT, and insider threats. 

The implementation of comprehensive and robust security protocols remains an ongoing challenge. But, there are steps pharmaceutical companies can take toward vulnerability management. We will uncover some of them below.

1. Mitigation against Emerging OT Security Threats

Take a look at most cybersecurity measures. Many tend to focus on IT or computer security services. The thinking is that if such networks are safe, there is nothing to worry about. 

But, the increasing cyber-attacks are forcing companies to expand their scope beyond IT security. Now, the focus is also shifting to OT security. The pharma companies must secure physical assets, devices, and processes. 

Unfortunately, IT security can’t defend the OT environment. Yet, Pharma companies must have proper procedures and measures in place to decrease vulnerability to cyber threats. OT technologies solve one critical issue. And that is the management of networks in different geographical locations, multiple vendors, and hard-to-reach endpoints. 

Industrial Defender’s OT security provides a viable solution to dealing with OT security. The cyber vulnerability platform tracks manage and collect OT network and endpoint data. Everything happens in one central location. Yet, that is not all when discussing benefits. 

The industrial defender will:-

  • Provide an overview of the OT assets in real-time. The teams can better manage changes, investigate anomalies and keep up with policy compliance. 
  • Automates asset configurations, thus a reduction in cybersecurity risks
  • The OT security platform provides visualizations of missing patches and affected assets. It allows for timely mitigation against emerging vulnerabilities.

The right OT security can reduce cyber vulnerability in critical areas within the pharma chain. 

2. Use a Layered Defense Approach

Pharma cyber security must go beyond the basic security measures. Installing anti-ransomware, anti-malware and antivirus are all good. But, a layered security approach will yield better results. You look at a combination of:

  • Innovative security tools to combat cyber insecurity
  • Creating a cybersecurity culture within the organization. Everyone must carry the weight of online security. It should not be a task that only lies on the shoulders of the IT department. Ensuring the workforce has the relevant cybersecurity education through training. It should be an ongoing process to capture the latest trends, updates, and solutions.
  • Foundational protection of the existing networks and devices. IT and computer security, for instance, would include having the right security tools. Others are running updates, backup, and using firewalls.
  • A holistic rather than singular approach to cybersecurity. The teams get better insights into risk areas. It allows for proactive rather than preventive action.

3. Tighter Cloud Security Controls

Pharma companies are adapting to greater use of cloud facilities. Statistics show that up to 83% are active cloud technology users. Industry projections for global cloud computing by 2025 could reach $7021 million. 

Yet, with all the benefits, cloud platforms can be a significant security loophole. There is a need to:-

  • Place more stringent measures on cross-platform password vaulting. It can reduce the number of credential theft risks due to privileged access.
  • Take greater care around app development on multi-cloud platforms. Lack of consistency and integration in Privileged Access Management is an issue. Other loopholes are present in password vaulting and identity access management (IAM). This opens up the possibility of breaches on such platforms.
  • Pay closer attention to endpoint configurations to enhance security.

Root level multifactor authentication and IAM for hybrid multi-cloud platforms. Improper configuration of these platforms can have profound ramifications on cloud security. It could result in the exposure of network segments, applications, or APIs. 

Security experts see a big problem ahead. They project that by 2023, 99% of cloud failures will be due to the incorrect setup of manual controls.

The endpoint security must go through tons of data. It should then pinpoint patterns that show the possibility of emerging/new threats. Real-time visibility provides the security team with insights to mitigate against such cyber-attacks.

4. Adoption of Zero Trust Policies

Zero trust and least privilege access can be a game-changer in pharma cyber security. As the name suggests, a zero-trust policy means trusting no one and verifying everyone. Anyone who needs access to the system and data must have privileges. That means authenticating each user every time they want to access. 

The zero-trust policy should cover all the stakeholders in the pharmaceutical chain. These include healthcare providers, trial partners, DevOps, and more. 

The least privilege policy means only enough access as is necessary to complete a job. Admin must ensure that the privilege is for a specific time only. Password or access settings must immediately change afterward.

Pharma Industries are not the fastest in adopting technology. Yet, reliance on legacy systems is no longer an option. Migrating to zero trust and least privilege frameworks is critical.

Final Thoughts

Hackers target pharmaceutical companies for one primary reason. Such companies collect a lot of valuable information. Cyber-criminals know that they can sell such information to other parties. Imagine nearing the end of a clinical trial, and a data breach occurs. The impact on the pharma company would be profound.

The right IT and OT security will help with vulnerability management. The pharma can also take a more proactive approach to cybersecurity.