At the HIMSS19 healthcare IT conference this month, more than 40,000 attendees discussed the countless roles that technology can play in improving health and medicine. But in nearly every one of those discussions, security lurked as a critical consideration. Healthcare data is a resource of immense value, but it must remain secure.

In a presentation at the event, Tom Stafford, CIO of Halifax Health, summed up the situation: “At the end of the day, cybersecurity is a war. There are people trying to attack you and your data.”

Defending healthcare data is a top priority, and organizations employ a variety of tools to achieve this objective. One of the newer and more powerful tools in this effort is artificial intelligence.

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Growing Interest in Artificial Intelligence

As the technology matures, artificial intelligence is being incorporated in a growing number of solutions. Analysts for Gartner predict that by 2020, AI technologies will be used in nearly every new software product. IT leaders recognize the importance of AI as well and will make it one of their top purchasing priorities in the coming years, Gartner says.

Vendors are implementing AI in numerous security tools. For example, Cisco Systems employs the technology in its next-generation firewalls, its Cloudlock cloud access security broker (CASB) solution, cognitive threat analytics and Cisco Advanced Malware Protection, among other solutions and services.

In his presentation, Stafford noted that Halifax Health is using a firewall that employs AI to detect attacks based on the wrapper that cybercriminals place around their malware payloads. This capability enables Halifax to protect against even zero-day threats, which are attacks that exploit undiscovered (and, therefore, unpatched) vulnerabilities.

How AI Improves Cybersecurity

In another HIMSS19 presentation, Ron Mehring, CISO of Texas Health Resources, and Axel Wirth from Symantec noted that cybersecurity defenses will increasingly use AI and machine learning to spot vulnerabilities and protect against attacks. Among the powerful use cases for AI are the rapid identification of new threats, automated identification of and response to attacks, and the swift analysis of large, complex sets of security data.

AI also can help security professionals by carrying out advanced attack simulations. Organizations that employ AI can stretch the talent of their security personnel further, allowing them to focus on higher value tasks and more complex problems.

Other healthcare organizations are using AI to augment privacy efforts. Pamela Rayne and Carol Richardson of Johns Hopkins Medicine highlighted how their organization used an AI-enabled platform to proactively monitor privacy concerns. The solution collects data from multiple sources and helps them to focus on the most serious threats to patient privacy. They stated that AI has helped Hopkins to detect more potential privacy issues while reducing the time needed to investigate and shrinking the number of false positives.

While the value of AI in cybersecurity is clear, it also represents a potential threat for healthcare organizations. Mehring and Wirth pointed out that cybercriminals also are using AI to help them carry out their attacks. AI can help hackers engage in sophisticated social engineering attacks that are tailored to specific targets, as well as realistic disinformation campaigns. AI also can be used to find new vulnerabilities that can be exploited in attacks or to thwart AI-fueled defenses.

To learn more about how your organization can protect against its most serious threats, download “The Cybersecurity Insight Report” by CDW.

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