Pharma companies are over-estimating cyber security

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Has your company recently become the victim of a cyber attack?

For medical testing giant LabCorp, the answer is sadly a resounding yes. Only two weeks ago the pharma enterprise had to shut down its network after suspicious activity was detected. It seems likely that ransomware was behind that attack, under which a payment has to be made to the criminal group to retrieve the data being held 'hostage'.

Cyber security for the pharma industry, has become more relevant than ever in efforts to prevent the loss, leak or distortion of valuable data, be it vital intellectual property or personal information.

With the steep digital increase in new technologies the world has seen over just the past few years, opportunities continue to increase dramatically for criminals to take advantage of new vulnerabilities.

Cloud-Computing, Big Data, the Internet of Things – all are common buzzwords across all industries when it comes to the digital security landscape. These new technologies facilitate formerly unknown, streamlined pathways and offer a boom in connectivity.

'Almost half  believe their corporate risk profile is not firmly understood across all departments, potentially leading to gaps in the security process.'

For the healthcare and pharma industries this can mean a step change in the value and abundance of data. In monitoring chronically ill patients remotely, the rich flow of diagnostic data can now allow doctors to diagnose faster and find the best suitable treatment from a wealth of options. Data for clinical trials can meanwhile be captured without the participant leaving the house. Large data storage solutions and blockchain approaches can ensure a smoother journey for medical adoption.

But with every opportunity comes risk. Storage and transference of digital data –especially health-related data –can prove dangerous for patients as well as for decision makers if the information is corrupted, lost or stolen. The safety of patients and the efficacy and quality of drugs may be more exposed than ever. Whether motivated by financial gain, political leverage or merely malicious intent, pharma companies can not often afford to lack state-of-the-art cyber security.

In a recent Pharma IQ survey, we found that around 70 per cent of senior decision makers are “confident” or even “very confident” in their company’s IT security. Digging deeper however, 42 per cent of respondents admit their companies do not routinely follow and tested documents IT security policies, while almost half (49 per cent) state that the corporate risk profile is not firmly understood across all departments, potentially leading to gaps in the security process.

“There is a clear need for organizations in the pharma industry to re-evaluate the robustness and consistency of their information security procedures,” says Billy Nicholson, Pharma IQ’s business analyst.

“Companies should also look to their peers for insight into upgrading the technology they use to leverage security benefits. We found that just over a third of the industry has adopted cloud services with security as a key driver, but other sophisticated platforms like predictive analytics and cyber security solutions that share data collaboratively between companies in real time can help the industry stay ahead of threats together.”

The full report is available now.