Top 5 videos from HIMSS17
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Top 5 videos from HIMSS17

FireEye exec to probe why hackers see healthcare data as such a lucrative target

Providers and payers need to protect their security, shoring up third-party relationships with official business associates, Dan McWhorter to discuss in HIMSS16 keynote.
By Bill Siwicki
10:40 AM

Cyber-criminals continue to pose major threats to healthcare information technology departments, and experts say it’s the lure of electronic protected health information that keeps them coming.

“In the last two years, healthcare providers and insurers have been hit by some of the most severe network intrusions ever observed, exposing millions of patient records and costing victim organizations tens of millions of dollars,” said Dan McWhorter, vice president of global threat intelligence and strategy at FireEye, an IT security vendor.

McWhorter will deliver a keynote address at HIMSS16 on the importance of health data security in his presentation, “Emerging Threats: Why is ePHI a Target?”

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“This session will take a step back from the headlines and explain why these breaches are happening in the healthcare sector and who is behind them,” he said.

McWhorter, for example, will discuss why healthcare organizations are high-value targets for a security breach, both from the perspective of cyber-criminals looking to turn a profit and from government-affiliated cyber-actors conducting espionage.

One example McWhorter pointed to is the role that third-party relationships play when it come to inadvertently enabling network intrusions.

“This is a problem in security incidents again and again, even for organizations with strong IT security practices,” McWhorter said. “Threat actors view business partnerships and data-sharing relationships as a potential opening they can exploit to gain access to their targets. Protecting this so-called ‘blind side’ is one of the most important pieces of the security puzzle.”

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For healthcare provider organizations, business resiliency is critical, McWhorter added.

“As health systems become increasingly connected, patient care relies ever more on the secure functioning of IT systems and Internet-connected medical devices,” he said. “IT security provides the underpinning for patient privacy and trust. It also ensures the availability and integrity of life-giving systems. Cyber security is and will remain absolutely fundamental to the future of healthcare.”

McWhorter’s keynote, “Emerging Threats: Why is ePHI a Target?” is scheduled for Feb. 29, 2016, at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Lando 4205. HIMSS16 runs from Feb. 29 to Mar. 4 in Las Vegas.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT