Risk management has become far more of a complex matter in the past few years, which makes sense given the massive transformations that have taken place across the board and around the globe. First and foremost, the same types of threats that have always faced businesses, including market volatility, loss of talent and similar matters, are still very much alive, but are now complemented by severe IT security and downtime risks that have really only been common for a decade or so.
Comprehensive risk management is critical to not only maintain a competitive edge, but to avoid the prospect of significant financial losses, reputation hindrances and poor customer engagement. Business continuity has become a more popular addition to the risk management strategy, especially as it ties directly into the optimal handling of people, processes and technology to reduce the threat of experiencing outages and operational disruptions.
"Comprehensive risk management is critical."
For the purposes of this blog, though, we're going to keep the focus on compliance and security, and mostly use the example of the health care industry to illustrate how these matters are increasingly central to the overall performance of risk management strategies. Virtually no organization - small or large - is completely safe from the prospect of experiencing a major data breach, and medical firms tend to be the most at-risk of these events today given the high value of patient records on the black market.
Put simply, more needs to be done by all types of entities to begin cutting back on the progression of cybercrime, which causes billions of dollars in damages a year and is now impacting a greater majority of businesses in certain industries. Identifying the types of struggles that health care providers are experiencing in their own IT security and risk management strategies can often illustrate what small-business owners in other areas should be focusing on in the future.
Major report released
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, more commonly referred to as HIMSS, recently released its 2015 Cybersecurity Survey results that highlighted some of the more troubling statistics regarding breach and IT threats in the medical sector. First, the firm pointed out that 87 percent of respondents stated that they have indeed placed IT security as a high priority for their organizations in the past year, and will continue to do so.
As a note, this survey questioned just under 300 chief information security officers who operate in health care regarding their opinions toward cybersecurity-related topics, and their confidence in their own abilities to protect their firms. Unfortunately, it appeared as though a high rate of these individuals were not all that confident in their capacity to mitigate certain types of attacks before they begin to wreak havoc on systems and steal data.
That part is not all that surprising, given the fact that 66 percent of surveyed CIOs had a "significant security incident" take place in their organizations, and employee negligence or error appeared to be the single most popular cause of breach in this area. There were a couple of positive findings in this particular report, such as the fact that the process of identifying breaches has apparently improved significantly, with most leaders monitoring operations closely enough to detect an intrusion within one day of its origination.
However, the report did have one relatively strange result, which might illustrate the lack of awareness among leaders.
"Additionally, respondents noted that today's security tools are not going to be sufficient to protect the industry against the types of security threats their organizations expect to face in the future," the authors wrote. "Indeed, respondents were widely likely to indicate that more innovative and advanced tools are required to secure their environments in the future. Furthermore, they indicated that healthcare organizations must operate from a perspective which presumes their organization's perimeter has already been breached. Moreover, more than half of respondents (59 percent) indicated agreement with the statement 'cross-sector cyber threat information sharing is beneficial to my organization.'"
Now, security is certainly not an easy matter for health care organizations or others, but the idea that solutions are not available to effectively mitigate current threats is simply false. A combination of the right solutions, as well as employee training and plenty of support from expert service providers, can make a big difference when working to deter threats as they proliferate.
Lessons for health care and beyond
The fact of the matter is that data breach is inevitable. You will not hear many chief executive officers or other leaders say that often, but experts do agree that there is no way to completely erase the entirety of threats from an IT department. However, this does not mean that companies cannot protect themselves, nor does it translate to the idea of the necessary solutions not being available for use among firms in every industry.
"Data breach might be an inevitable threat."
What does need to happen is a more concerted effort to properly manage people, process and technology from an intelligent and proactive standpoint, which would involve the creation of sound policies, strong communication among departments and plenty of advanced security software. For example, network monitoring tools, data encryption software, firewalls, authentication and other modern security fortifications can go a long way toward reducing the risk of an intrusion, while simultaneously putting the firm in a good position to minimize losses should an event take place.
On the other hand, proper use of advanced technology will also help to boost the control of information and systems among health care providers and others, especially modern unified communications and cloud services. Cloud services will effectively centralize the management responsibilities involved in IT security and risk management, which significantly streamlines the process of identifying and eradicating threats as they become an issue.
Additionally, business leaders who are not entirely confident in their firms' ability to properly maintain systems and data in such a way that comprehensively protects against breach should always work with a managed service provider for their IT needs. Choosing one that has experience in compliance and security requirements across industries can have a profoundly positive impact on performance over time.