Complete Health IT Security is a Myth, But That Doesn’t Mean We Shouldn’t Try

Posted on August 11, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I mentioned, last week I had the opportunity to attend the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. There were over 9000 attendees and 180+ speakers sharing on the latest and greatest IT security and privacy topics. Black Hat is more appropriately called a hackers conference (although Defcon is more hardcore hacker than Black Hat which had plenty of corporate prensence) for good reason. You turn off your devices and be careful what you do. There’s a certain paranoia that comes when one of the vendor handouts is a foil credit card cover that prevents someone from stealing your credit card number. I didn’t quite have my tin foil hat on, but you could start to understand the sentiment.

One of the most interesting things about Black Hat is to get an idea of the mentality of the hacker. Their creative process is fascinating. Their ability to work around obstacles is something we should all learn to incorporate into our lives. I think for most of these hackers, there’s never a mentality of something can’t be done. It’s just a question of figuring out a way to work around whatever obstacles are in their way. We could use a little more of this mentality in dealing with the challenges of healthcare.

The biggest thing I was reminded of at the event was that complete security and privacy is a myth. If someone wants to get into something badly enough, they’ll find a way. As one security expert I met told me, the only secure system is one that’s turned off, not connected to anything, and buried underground. If a computer or device is turned on, then it’s vulnerable.

The reality is that complete security shouldn’t be our goal. Our goal should be to make our systems secure enough that it’s not worth someone’s time or effort to break through the security. I can assure you that most of healthcare is far from this level of security. What a tremendous opportunity that this presents.

The first place to start in any organization is to create a culture of security and privacy. The one off efforts that most organization apply after a breach or an audit aren’t going to get us there. Instead, you have to incorporate a thoughtful approach to security into everything you do. This starts at the RFP continues through the procurement process extends into the implementation and continues on through the maintenance of the product.

Security and privacy efforts in an organization are hard to justify since they don’t increase the bottom line. This is another reason why the efforts need to be integrated into everything that’s done and not just tied to a specific budget line item. As a budget line item, it’s too easy to cut it out when budgets get tight. The good news is that a little effort throughout the process can avoid a lot of heartache later on. Ask an organization that’s had a breach or failed an audit.