June 10, 2016

The Role of IT Security In Public Safety And Health Care: Part 2 – Real Risks

Government agencies and health providers are often seen as inherently secure: After all, they didn’t engender public trust overnight, but were compelled to earn it over time by demonstrating the ability to protect information and detect potential compromise. As a result, best practices — and in some cases a substantial amount of red tape — have been honed after years of effort and designed to safeguard this public trust. Fifteen years ago, the model enjoyed modest success: Data volumes were small enough that internal servers could handle the load, while malware threats focused on service disruption rather than data theft or compromise. Now, the tech landscape has changed. Data is the new currency and malicious actors will do whatever they can to get their hands on it — or deny government agencies access.

What happens in a world where governments and health care providers have no IT security? First is an information free-for-all. Both authorized users and hackers could easily access, download and alter stored data, making it impossible to rely on this information for decision-making or national security. Processes and services are next in line. For governments, this could mean everything from disrupted air traffic as on-board flight computers crash to power outages if hackers decide to attack energy girds. Health care, meanwhile, would face the specter of stolen medical records used as fodder for identity theft or to obtain large quantities of prescription drugs. The burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), meanwhile, would open avenues of compromise, such as manipulating drug pumps or pacemakers.

The ultimate end in a world with no public IT security? Virtual chaos, and a public unable to entrust even basic information to providers of any kind.

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