loader image

Securing Legacy Systems in the Healthcare Industry

What are legacy systems in healthcare?

Healthcare legacy systems create a special type of vulnerability for the industry. A legacy system is a system that is no longer supported by its manufacturer. In the case of hardware legacy systems such as outdated physical servers, if there is any damage to the server, you may not be able to have it fixed. In the case of software legacy systems, this means there will not be any more security updates or performance updates for that application. Legacy systems can include devices, operating systems, applications, and even processes. From a security point of view, this means that any security issues found in a legacy system will not be resolved by the manufacturer and you will have to compensate for that yourself.

What are the drawbacks of using legacy systems?

One industry where legacy systems is a major issue is the healthcare industry; they have one of the largest legacy system footprints of any industry. This happens for a few reasons:

1) Integration issues: Many healthcare companies can’t afford to replace all of their legacy systems at once. Hence, they face problems with buying new systems and integrating them with the old systems. Many times they will end up keeping their old systems.

2) Non-disruptive operations: Many doctors have tight schedules or sensitive operations, meaning that there must be zero downtime wherever possible. As a result, many healthcare companies are hesitant to try implementing a new system, even if it would be beneficial out of fear of having unnecessary downtime.

3) Expenses: It’s quite costly to buy and implement a new system for any business. Budgeting money can be especially difficult when you need to buy multiple systems to make sure that everything is compatible and has zero downtime.

4) Employee training and understanding: It will take time to train employees on how to use the new systems, which may interrupt important operations and compromise patient care.

How do I secure my legacy systems?

If you’re in a situation where you are unable to get rid of your legacy systems, there are still many options for you to improve your legacy system’s security. Whenever a manufacturer has decided to sunset a system, they usually give an advance notice. This will give you the time you need to either migrate to a new system or implement some changes that will allow you to operate your legacy system in a more secure way. Here are some tips for securing a legacy system:

1) Isolate the legacy system: If you have a legacy system that you know is insecure, isolating it in it’s own network segment can help to limit the damage if it becomes compromised. You also want to limit the traffic that can go from your legacy system to your organization’s network wherever possible.

2) Vulnerability assessments: Even if your manufacturer isn’t putting out security patches for your system, you can still perform your own vulnerability scans to detect any security flaws in the system and then implement controls to make sure attackers can’t compromise the machine.

3) Computer hardening: Hardening is the process of making a system as secure as possible to prevent exploitation. This means getting rid of unnecessary services and applications, closing unnecessary ports, blocking unnecessary IP address ranges, and protecting user login credentials. This is important to make your legacy system as secure as possible.

4) Take an inventory of the data on the system: Given that legacy systems are typically not secure, you want to make sure you only put information on that system that you absolutely need for business reasons or information you don’t mind getting leaked. Therefore, you need to take an inventory of all the data on the legacy system so that you can make an informed decision.

5) Install security software: This means using products such as endpoint solutions, network-based Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and updating firewall rules to make the systems as secure as possible. This way, if an attack does occur, you can detect it and prevent it from spreading to any other systems.

Another thing you can do if your legacy systems contain data that you don’t want to lose is either migrate the data to another online system or archive that data in an offsite backup. Typically, if the data is something like patient records or anything that is needed for business or regulatory reasons, it is best to migrate it to another online system where it can be accessed easily. The benefit of this is quick and easy access to the data, however, it comes at a higher cost than archiving. However, if the data is old or has little business value, it’s probably best to archive it in an online or offline data storage solution.

Archiving is far easier and less costly than data migration, but will take much more time and effort to retrieve the data. Archiving is something you can do when you don’t expect to need access to the data very often. In terms of security, archiving data in an offline backup is a great practice that ensures that even if your legacy system is compromised, you will have a backup copy that is safely stored in an offsite storage solution. This is important for data availability and protecting against ransomware attacks. If you would like a tool that you can use to help test the security of your legacy systems and tell you exactly what you need to do to secure it against a potential data breach, you can request a demo for rThreat’s breach and attack emulation tool here.

Do you want to learn more about cybersecurity? Please subscribe to our newsletter.