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3 digital realities arising from the Covid19 pandemic

The Covid19 pandemic has brought misery to most of the world. Unlike the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic we do have a better ability to surveil the virus ecosystem and process lessons learned through our digital technologies. There are many lessons still to learn, but three digital realities can guide our future outlook.

Hospitals And Healthcare Facilities Are Critical Assets That Need To Be Cyber Protected

During the Covid19 Hospitals and healthcare providers have demonstrated the critical importance to our economy and lives. While doctors, nurses and health workers are in the front lines fighting for patients survival, their medical facilities have been bombarded with cyber-attacks, including phishing emails, malicious malware and ransomware. Recently ransomware took down the website of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in Illinois, USA. NRC Health, a company that supplies software to healthcare organizations was also hit by a ransomware attack.

The reality is that hospitals are logical hacker targets. Medical care has become more networked and interconnected via computers and devices, and the digital landscape of health administrators, hospitals, and patients, has become increasingly vulnerable. Hospitals are  susceptible to cyber threats because of the large data flows many points of vulnerability throughout their various systems. It is not only the enterprise networks, medical devices such as ventilators, monitors, pumps, electrocardiographs, lasers, medical apps, infusion pumps, and diagnostic imaging systems are also hacker targets.

Industry, government, and the entire healthcare community have a stake in the outcome of safe medical care put at risk by cyber threats. The information security networks of medical facilities and hospitals, medical equipment and devices, and the privacy of patients are royal jewels that need to be protected via a digital Fort Knox. This can be done through  public/private cooperation including leveraging larger investments in security processes, technologies, training, and people. It will also require threat intelligence sharing and monitoring from major funded initiatives. Healthcare cybersecurity is more than a recognized need, it is a societal imperative.

Data Is The New Oil And Needs To Be Secured

For nine centuries, the Library of Alexandria stood as antiquity’s shining light, containing over 700,000 manuscripts. The ancient Egyptians understood the power of collected and analyzed data.  Nowadays, data is everywhere, flowing from the sensor networks that surround us and at the root of our routine activities. What, why and how we make choices in our lives are reflected in, and can be discerned through, the collection, organization and taxonomy of data. It is a new oil in terms of value and as a source of power.

Predictive analytics and forecasting surrounding the spread,  infection rates and lethality of the Covid19 virus have been integral factors to mitigation strategies.  Big data and data analytics are collapsing the information gap and giving businesses and governments the tools (enhanced via machine learning and artificial intelligence) they need to uncover trends, support research & development, commerce, build supply chain efficiencies, enhance product and services, and support decision-making. The capabilities to organize, manage, and analyze growing amounts of data are more important than ever for our preparedness and economic prosperity.

Protecting the data is not a small challenge. Businesses are facing growing risks in data loss – both in cost and numbers. According to Statista, last year, the United States experienced 1,244 data breaches and had 446.5 million exposed records.  A report by Risk Based Security noted that in 2019, there were more than 3,800 breaches. Hacker cyber-threats are growing more sophisticated.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that there are many capable technologies, processes, and services that can help protect data wherever it resides. Data protection employing a multi-layered, data centric security approach is trending with CISOs and CIOs. Being able to effectively use and securely optimize data is paramount to our safety.

Digital Transformation Is Accelerating

In 2020, most of our critical infrastructures operates in a digital environment, including the health care, transportation, communications, financial, and energy industries. This digital environment is dynamic and connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) comprised of trillions of sensors and billions of devices. Interconnectivity to these infrastructures and devices was already trending, particularly with enhanced computing, and the advent of the backbone and band-with of 5G networks. It is rapidly accelerating in pace as we enter the new decade.

Digital sensors and artificial intelligence to track the Covid 19 virus and have proven useful for drug discovery and applications for therapeutics.  Covid19 has forced the urgency of digital healthcare transformation. It has impacted commerce too. According to logistics vendor Narvar Inc., E-commerce order volume has increased nearly 47% in the last month. This is not too surprising since we have been relegated to receiving product and food deliveries while we shelter at home under Covid19.

As we continue to evolve into the new and automated digital transformation era from our legacy systems, the components we will rely more on include big data analytics, cognitive tools, and cybersecurity. Our digital future will stand on more than these three digital realities outlined, but they will be pillars in the quest.

Chuck Brooks is a Forbes Contributor and a globally recognized thought leader and evangelist for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies. LinkedIn named Chuck as one of “The Top 5 Tech People to Follow on LinkedIn,” He was named by Thompson Reuters as a “Top 50 Global Influencer in Risk, Compliance,” and by IFSEC as the “#2 Global Cybersecurity Influencer” in 2018. He is Faculty in the graduate Applied Intelligence and Cybersecurity Programs at Georgetown University. He is also a Cybersecurity Expert for “The Network” at the Washington Post, and Visiting Editor at Homeland Security Today. 

Article: 3 digital realities arising from the Covid19 pandemic


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