Malware & Ransomware Protection

Defending Pharma’s Expanding Attack Surface

rectangle Written by: Anne Gotay rectangle 2 5 min read

Pharmaceutical organizations are facing a growing challenge when it comes to protecting their research data. Like health data, research data is highly regulated and extremely valuable to attackers. However, the modern research environment no longer falls within the boundaries of a single building or campus. To keep up with the aggressive pace that modern business requires, research no longer needs to leverage collaboration and tools to achieve its goals. As a result, the attack surface for research data is expanding, making it more challenging to protect.


The Attack Surface is Expanding

The expanding attack surface is one of the biggest challenges for research data security. Researching pharmaceuticals no longer takes place in a silo. Optimized research utilizes the best and brightest from around the globe. This means that there is no control over the security of collaborators, and it is tough to keep data contained. Furthermore, researchers need to share across public space without complex configurations and setups, and researchers are not techs, so they need seamless protection.

Collaboration is Key

Collaboration is critical in modern research but also expands the attack surface. When data is shared with collaborators, it becomes more challenging to keep it contained. Anytime data is transferred outside of your organization, the control over networks it traverses or endpoints it is accessed from dissipates. Data could be traversing monitored networks or accessed from malware-infected devices, and your traditional security controls cannot protect it.

Additionally, the best and brightest minds in their field are experts in their research but may not be well-versed in technology. Hence, they need seamless protection that does not require complex configurations and setups. If the technology is too challenging to implement, individuals will find ways to avoid it to accomplish their work.

Leveraging Cloud

Another challenge is leveraging cloud technology. Some of the most cutting-edge research today is done via the computation of large data sets of drug utilization to determine optimal outcomes. When used correctly, the dynamic environment of the cloud allows researchers to rapidly ramp up their capacity to evaluate data for a period and eliminate it when the research is complete. Dynamic utilization places massive power in the hands of researchers while controlling costs by eliminating the need to purchase hardware that may lay idle most of the time.

With all of the benefits cloud technologies bring for fast computation of large data sets, they also come with a risk of data going out of secure boundaries. Data stored in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, making it more challenging to keep it contained. In implementing cloud security controls, poor security practices could expose data to the global internet.

Building Defenses for Modern Research Data

To combat these challenges, building defenses for current research data is crucial. Creating multi-layered protection is imperative, starting with understanding what data could be exposed. Once this information is known, data-centric security controls must be implemented to ensure that access is limited and protections exist to keep data from being damaged or exposed to external parties.

Determining Where Data Resides

As data expands beyond traditional perimeters, it becomes more challenging to control. Before adding layers of protection, organizations must be able to explore where their data is stored, determining what they have and how it is classified. This helps determine what compliance frameworks are in play and is vital for determining appropriate levels of security. Additionally, it allows for clawing back data that should not exist in a location.

Once organizations have a better understanding of where their data resides, they can build defenses. This includes implementing proper access controls and authentication protocols to ensure that only authorized individuals can access the data and encryption to protect data in transit and at rest.

Protection That Follows the Data

Regarding data beyond traditional perimeters, the controls must focus on precisely defending the data. Using strong authentication and access controls such as RBAC (role-based access controls) applied in a granular fashion, pharmaceutical organizations limit the potential for data to be inadvertently accessed or modified, helping them meet their regulatory obligations.

Helping to re-enforce this solution is the application of solid encryption protocols that ensure data cannot be viewed at rest, in motion, or when in use. Encryption adds an additional layer to access controls providing protection if access controls are circumvented; the stolen data is entirely unusable to attackers. This factor is crucial to maintaining compliance as the encryption applied in this manner delivers safe harbor protection if data is stolen, limiting the exposure to regulatory penalties.

Access controls and encryption form a strong foundation of security that can extend to data outside traditional security perimeters, but they are not actively watching for threats. Adding on anomaly and threat detection builds an active defense for data. Modern anomaly detection creates baselines for data utilization for every user. When unexpected behavior occurs, such as after-hours access, bulk viewing, or viewing rarely accessed files, it can dynamically cut access and raise alerts. The most advanced forms of this detect ransomware based on behavioral indicators, ensuring data integrity even in the cloud.


Helping Pharmaceutical Organizations Protect Their Data

Research data security is becoming increasingly challenging as data expands beyond traditional perimeters and collaboration becomes more important. However, this is a continuous process, and organizations should stay vigilant and adapt to new threats and technologies as they arise. Doing this requires a solution designed to work beyond traditional security boundaries.

Sotero helps pharmaceutical companies by delivering a single solution that builds a multi-layered defense for your organization against threats to your data. Taking a holistic approach to data security, Sotero helps your organization take control of its data by limiting access, keeping data encrypted at all times, and using advanced threat detection to detect attacks before they can get a foothold. The Sotero platform protects your internal organization and the cloud to ensure that data outside the traditional security parameters remains defended against cyber criminals.

Contact Sotero today for a demo on how the Sotero Data Security Platform can help your healthcare organization get and maintain complete data security coverage.


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