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Reducing Cybersecurity Risks: A Primer for Emerging Life Sciences Firms

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In the fast-paced landscape of emerging life sciences firms, one critical aspect often overlooked is the need for robust cybersecurity measures. As innovative companies propel forward with cutting-edge research, development, and patient care, they become increasingly attractive targets for cybercriminals seeking to exploit sensitive data, jeopardize intellectual property, and disrupt operations. The urgency to protect valuable assets and maintain the trust of patients, partners, and regulatory bodies has never been greater.

This blog delves into the essential strategies and best practices that can help emerging life sciences firms fortify their cybersecurity defenses, reduce risks, and continue pursuing transformative breakthroughs in the ever-evolving field of life sciences. Four key areas require attention to minimize the risk for emerging life sciences firms significantly:

1. Conduct a Comprehensive Assessment of the Existing Environment

Before proposing any recommendations or implementing changes, a proficient cybersecurity professional should systematically evaluate the prevailing circumstances. This entails identifying the devices connected to the corporate network, assessing the protective technologies safeguarding the IT infrastructure, and determining the access privileges of individuals to various systems.

It is imperative to acknowledge that cybersecurity assessments should not be considered isolated events. Given the dynamic nature of a company’s IT environment, characterized by constant additions of applications, devices, and users, the number of endpoints requiring protection continues to expand. Especially with the advent of flexible workspaces or remote work, the IT team’s responsibilities to secure and manage systems may grow exponentially, heightening the necessity for monitoring applications and protection tools.

2. Mitigate System Vulnerabilities

Network assessments serve the purpose of identifying potential cybersecurity issues. The insights derived from these assessments enable IT professionals to identify issues and vulnerabilities, establish priorities for future projects, and formulate long-term plans for data protection. Typical activities undertaken after an assessment include: 

  • Applying necessary patches and updates 
  • Ensuring the full operational readiness of backup and disaster recovery solutions 
  • Crafting improvement plans that define investment priorities, schedules, and budgets.

3. Prioritize Human Factors

In the realm of cybersecurity, human behavior remains an unpredictable element. While it is impossible for any business to fully prepare for its employees’ unintentional mistakes or intentional misconduct, there are several best practices that can mitigate the consequences of their actions. Consider implementing the following proactive cybersecurity measures to reduce associated risks:

  • Establish and reinforce security policies: Putting policies into written form is essential, as unwritten rules hold no weight. Best practices lose effectiveness if employees fail to comprehend the instructions or their specific responsibilities. Each policy should be meticulously documented, providing detailed explanations and step-by-step directives for various processes, encompassing password management, reporting suspected breaches, or addressing cybersecurity issues. 
  • Remain vigilant for anomalies: Maintaining a state of heightened awareness is vital for all individuals. IT teams should diligently monitor network traffic, email systems, computer usage patterns, and employee behavior for any irregularities. While trust is indispensable, the increasing threat landscape necessitates a proactive approach from companies to deter cybercriminals effectively. 
  • Implement awareness training programs: Cybersecurity education enables companies to stay abreast of the ever-evolving threat landscape. Employees who possess a comprehensive understanding of social engineering schemes and recognize the significance of proper password management and data protection practices are likelier to adhere to company policies, thereby minimizing the risk of potentially catastrophic errors.

4. Continuously Monitor and Validate

Regardless of the perceived strength of a company’s data protection strategy, a skilled hacker can bypass those defenses given sufficient time and resources. Businesses can minimize such threats and restrict cybercriminal’s access to valuable information through proactive monitoring of network activity, timely identification of potential issues, and swift response during ongoing attacks.

  • A proactive cybersecurity approach reduces the windows of opportunity for hackers and malware. Effective monitoring and detection services, often provided within a managed IT service, are crucial in identifying and isolating suspected issues and limiting access to critical information systems. 
  • Verification is critical. Even the most well-designed systems and procedures must undergo regular testing to accommodate personnel, applications, and equipment changes. This validation process is mandatory for companies adhering to HITRUST, HIPAA, and GDPR regulations. 
  • Given cybercriminals’ complex tools and highly deceptive practices, IT professionals must counter these threats through comprehensive assessments, including penetration (pen) testing and dark web scans. Penetration testing, often called “ethical hacking,” involves authorized simulated attacks on a company’s technology systems to evaluate the effectiveness of tools, processes, and personnel responsible for ensuring security. This procedure helps identify vulnerabilities and strengths and typically includes detailed recommendations for necessary changes to comply with mandatory regulations and standards.

Contact USDM to discuss your cybersecurity questions. 

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