How to Use Edge Computing to Combat Cyberattacks

Organizations can reduce the risk of harmful cyberattacks by using edge computing systems.

The rapid spread of the Internet of Things (IOT) across the healthcare industry has brought unprecedented data access and analytics benefits as well as new categories of operational risk. On the one hand, medical professionals can use innovations like “big data” and edge computing to make faster and more accurate decisions. On the other hand, as more and more connected IoT devices proliferate in the healthcare facility, the potential cyber attack surface for hackers – who orchestrate business disruptions and demand ransomware payments – is widening.

According to the Ponemon Institute, 75% of global healthcare organizations have experienced cyberattacks. HiPAA Journal Online also reported that healthcare facilities in the United States saw a 25% increase in cyber breaches in 2020 compared to the previous year. As a result, many healthcare facility operators recognize the need to redouble their efforts to protect patients, staff, medical devices, IT equipment, and operational infrastructure such as power, cooling, and ventilation systems from cyberattacks.

Edge computing as a strategy to combat cyber attacks

One of the innovative ways hospital workers can reduce the risk of harmful cyberattacks is through the use of edge computing systems. Edge computing can take many forms, but generally consists of local computing across distributed servers, sensors, and/or micro data centers, and other devices that can function independently or in conjunction with the cloud.

In traditional settings, hospitals collect data in a large, centralized on-site data center, and operators hope the data will remain self-contained and not exposed to potential hackers. However, data is generated and collected at the edge of the data center—for example, in nursing wards, radiology departments, and operating rooms—and protecting that data en route to the central data center can be problematic. Also, most current hospital systems do not use modeling or AI to try and predict where cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist. One of the unique benefits of edge computing is the ability to analyze data close to the source of data generation, allowing cybersecurity threats to be quickly identified and mitigated.

Edge computing benefits also include bandwidth savings, real-time processing of local data, reduced operational costs, reduced network latency, and improved patient safety. Healthcare IT departments are finding that the benefits of edge computing far outweigh the potential downsides (e.g., more systems to manage and protections from cybersecurity).

Understaffed IT departments can struggle to keep up with edge computing maintenance activities such as infrastructure monitoring. For this reason, most prefer to use remotely managed security and environmental monitoring solutions for their edge deployments.

Edge systems are distributed – separate departments such as power management, HVAC, scheduling systems, medical devices, resources and building automation can each have their own edge system – so from a cybersecurity perspective it becomes much easier to segment the different networks. It is important to protect this network layer because it is where devices communicate and convert data into information that facilitates accurate and quick decisions.

The practice of network segmentation in the context of cybersecurity implies building virtual protective fences by dividing hospital networks into zones so that damage in the event of a breach is limited to the sub-network rather than the entire network. In a network segmentation scenario, if a hacker were to successfully attack an aging Windows server running, for example, the building management system, the upstream analytics and downstream individual devices would still be protected.

New generation products and management tools for edge systems also strengthen cybersecurity

One of the best ways to manage edge computing systems is by using remote monitoring software. For example, software packages such as Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT automatically and regularly collect critical infrastructure sensor values ​​and transmit this data to a central data lake in the cloud. This data is then aggregated with data collected from thousands of other Schneider Electric customer sites.

Once in the data lake, asset behavior is compared across many device brands and multiple locations. All actions taken in response to alarms are tracked using data on device behavior before and after an incident. This edition provides a clear record of the actions and their positive and negative consequences. Such data pool correlation provides a deeper understanding of the root causes of problems. It can generate predictive reports that inform the operator what actions to take before problems cause unexpected downtime.

Skilled IT staff is in short supply, especially in smaller, more rural hospitals. Therefore, many healthcare facility operators are turning to managed service providers (MSPs) who are trained and have the required level of expertise to remotely monitor edge computing IT performance and cooling. Using monitoring technology, they can reduce the need to travel to on-site troubleshooting, reducing overall maintenance costs. They can also implement predictive maintenance practices by detecting warning signs of anomalies (such as internal temperatures exceeding preset thresholds or behavioral anomalies) and addressing problems before they result in unexpected downtime.

Additionally, when identifying edge software and hardware products, look for solutions that are designed and manufactured using a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDL) approach. Product managers and engineers conduct secure architecture reviews, test potential threats by modeling the security conceptual design, follow secure coding rules, use specialized code analysis tools, and conduct security testing for each product. These measures help to “harden” products and make them more resilient to cyber attacks. In this way, as new products replace old ones, entire systems become more cybersecure.

Learn more about reducing cybersecurity risks

To learn more about how remote monitoring and management solutions are helping healthcare IT teams better support edge systems and combat cybersecurity threats, visit the EcoStruxure IT website.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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