Ask the Experts: Is there a better solution beyond firewalls?

August 24, 2017 Alex Swain

Ideally, we want the hospital network to be transparent and work seamlessly behind the scenes. If you can automate the identification of devices and the enforcement to secure them, you mitigate the risk and you resolve the problem of all this administrative overhead while creating a more dynamic environment for all the people that work in it. A complete security strategy that makes security inherent throughout the entire network is more important than a boundary security device, like a firewall device, that sits at the edge.

In this ‘Ask the Experts Series’, our in-house healthcare security expert, Alex Swan, offers up a better solution to keep your hospital network secure.

When I talk to any of my healthcare customers, the one thing that is holding them back from taking their network security to the next level is that is seems too daunting. The sheer complexity of the healthcare environment is overwhelming. A hospital has the most diverse user types, massive numbers of devices and applications on top of it all. All of these users, devices and apps have unique and hugely complex requirements on the network.

I don’t envy healthcare.  There are a vast number of risks, but there are better ways to deal with it and this is what we provide exceptionally well at Extreme.  If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a three-step approach to get you started:

Step 1: Find out what’s out there. The biggest challenge when it comes to implementing a complete security solution is that hospitals don’t know what they’ve got. I hear this all the time in talking to healthcare customers. In fact, I just heard a stat from GE Healthcare that 30% of medical devices in use are not calibrated or maintained. This means they are probably not compliant for use in most countries.  The top reason for this is that bio medical teams don’t know where the devices are. You don’t know how big the problem is until you know what you’ve got out there, so before you can define a security strategy, you need to have an understanding of who and what is connected and what apps and devices are running. We can install ExtremeAnalytics to have visibility into application communications and ExtremeControl to help identify the connected devices.

Step 2: Apply security rules. We can then start to identify devices by type and user and then apply security rules. Once we configure rules and policy, you set that once, and then the network takes control of enforcing the policy. Once you connect an infusion pump, you never have to touch the network. Policy is automatically enforced to the port and when you unplug the device, the policy is also gone and you can plug something else in.

Step 3: You’re on your way to a more secure network. The complexity of the healthcare network is simplified by automating the deployment of security to all different device types and enforcing it at the network level. By controlling network communication at the network layer, you have the opportunity to mitigate the risks of network based attacks because you can control the traffic on the network to protect the medical devices. Providing automation through visibility and control leads to a better experience for staff, clinicians, and most importantly, patients.

By taking these steps your Hospital IT team will be on the right path to implementing a cumbersome network security solution with firewalls, antivirus software, network access control systems, built in policies, network analytics, network management, and governance engines. Knowing what's on the network, applying security rules and policy, and automating the deployment of security from the network level allows your hospital to develop a security strategy that is inherent throughout the entire network.

“The thought of moving to a complete security solution is overwhelming for a hospital. Don’t get me wrong, a firewall is still a required component of any network, but it should not be your first and last line of defense. Today’s digital hospitals need security that is inherent throughout the network and that is what Extreme provides exceptionally well.” Alex Swan, head of vertical strategy at Extreme Networks

Want to learn more about securing your hospital network. Read the Solution Brief, IoT and Medical Device Safety for Healthcare

Got a question? ‘Ask the Experts Series’ continues! Submit your question to Alex.

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