As a geek, I’m interested in anything related to computers so throughout June I’ve been following the reports of hack attacks on a number of big names including Sony, Nintendo, the Brazilian government and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Earlier this week, the news website Information Age also reported that Bayer’s Italian website experienced “illegal interference” by hackers last weekend. At the beginning of June, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was also attacked by the hacking group Lulz Security (commonly known as LulzSec). In an email sent on 9 June, LulzSec claimed to have obtained admin passwords from the NHS website. The email also added: “We mean you no harm and only want to help you fix your tech issues.”
Hacking is illegal, but there’s no doubt that the recent attacks have raised some important questions about the security of online data, especially in the digital era we now live. The world of pharma and healthcare is also becoming increasingly digitalised and more reliant on communications technology. Only yesterday, I came across a piece about the US government offering incentives to doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records.
According to a 2010 report from Ernst & Young, pharma has entered the new age of Pharma 3.0, in which data and communication technologies are key players. In 2010 alone, for example, the pharma industry’s investment in smart phone applications, educational websites, social media platforms, wireless devices and other programmes increased by close to 80%. In particular, many companies are partnering with technology and e-health firms to help patients manage and share their health data more effectively and safely with professionals.
The need for the security of IT networks was highlighted in Interface 50, a kind of mini magazine published by product development company Cambridge Consultants. The piece explained how more and more devices are being networked, which, although beneficial, can also be used by the wrong people to steal money, turn devices off or blackmail others with the threat of doing so. Indeed, the latest hacking attempts have shown how real all these threats can be.
So the big question is: are the pharma and healthcare industries sufficiently prepared to defend themselves in the cyber world? LulzSec, which is responsible for many of the latest high-profile hacking attempts, disbanded last week, but other hackers have no doubt been inspired by the group’s actions and media coverage.
And the next group of hackers may not be using the message “we mean you no harm”.