IP Information & News

The healthcare cybersecurity arms race — is your IP protected?

Dr Terence Broderick

By Dr Terence Broderick

Senior Patent Attorney

Cyber-attacks are becoming an increasingly familiar part of our landscape. Our data driven existence makes us more vulnerable now than we have ever been before. Sadly, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector faces a disproportionate level of threat. In order for cybersecurity innovators to keep their technologies secure and get products to market efficiently, patent protection is key. Yet while protecting software-based technologies can be tricky, it’s certainly possible, and the breadth of what you could protect may well be wider than you might think…

79% of data breaches happen in healthcare

According to reports from Check Point and Fortified Health Security, healthcare-focused entities accounted for an enormous 79 percent of reported data breaches in the first ten months of 2020.

This is a big problem. Certain cyber-attacks can be devastating, such as ransomware infections of critical systems, which can slow them down or render them inoperable, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which overwhelm a provider’s network and inject malware into supposedly isolated medical devices that can then infect the rest of the network (including life-support equipment).

According to these reports, the most common means of cyber-attack is ransomware. Healthcare providers are thought to be particularly vulnerable because any interruption to their operability is life-threatening, making them more likely to pay the ransom.

Yet while preventing ransomware attacks is key, the nature of cyber-crime means that focusing resources on just one type of attack could expose the same systems to other forms of cyber-crime. It may seem dramatic to say that an arms race is developing between healthcare providers and cyber-criminals — but where lives are threatened, such a statement seems proportionate.

Cybersecurity technologies — what can be protected with patents?

If you’re innovating to develop technology that can help prevent cyber-attacks on healthcare providers, you should consider filing patent applications to protect the underlying technical concept.

Patents safeguard against third parties that may seek to copy your technology. Even if you’ve applied previously known technology to solve a specific problem in the healthcare field, you may still have an argument for securing patent protection around your technical innovations. Cybersecurity solutions can often comprise a mix of hardware and software that require an experienced, knowledgeable approach to enable adequate protection to be sought.

Our software and technology team contains advisors with vast experience of protecting technology in the healthcare space, particularly that which provides improved cybersecurity in technical architectures. This gives us a unique perspective into how cyber threats can manifest.

To discuss further and receive tailored advice for your technology, get in touch with me at tsb@udl.co.uk.

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