Cybersecurity: How to Minimize Risks to Lab Data

LIMS System to Strengthen Lab Cybersecurity

May 19, 2022

Cybercrimes have been actively increasing with the advent of the digital era. Continuous data exchange through the Internet and the emergence of cloud-based data warehouses have increased the risk of cyberattacks. Although it is necessary to shift from paper-based data management methods and spreadsheets to digital data management tools, it is also crucial to take cybersecurity seriously. Labs need to identify and mitigate existing and potential security risks as they store and share a considerable amount of data daily.

Types of Cybersecurity Risks & Preventive Measures

Types of Risks Description of Risk Security Measures
1. Physical Access This refers to physically breaking into a lab or its data center to access confidential data.
  • Implement security measures such as locks, surveillance cameras, and a trained security team to prevent unauthorized access to your lab data center or equipment.
2. Software Access This refers to accessing software by interfacing computers via the Internet or a local network to steal data.
  • Monitor network traffic, actions, and suspicious behavior on the network.
  • Update antivirus software whenever a new version is released.
  • Avoid connecting to unsafe networks.
  • Avoid responding and acting on unknown email addresses.
3. Privileged Users Privileged users refer to the authorized staff members who have access to lab data.
  • Properly authenticate and authorize staff who deal with crucial data.
  • Provide role-based access to staff.
  • Regularly audit activities of all authorized staff.
4. Data in Transit This refers to data traversing between source and destination over the Internet or Intranet.
  • Ensure end-to-end encryption of all data.
  • Avoid connecting to unsafe networks.
5. Social Engineering & Human Errors

This refers to manipulating staff to extract confidential data or inadvertently disclosing data.

  • Keep an eye on the suspicious behavior of employees.
  • Conduct training sessions to demonstrate data management best practices to all employees.

How to Protect Your Lab from Cyberattacks

The lab staff quickly becomes the target of email phishing scams. Therefore, it is necessary to educate the staff and conduct regular training sessions to have a culture of cybersecurity throughout the lab. A lab should also adopt new approaches to counter cyberattacks. Listed below are a few crucial measures to protect your lab from cyber fraud.

1. Share Information Carefully

A lab shares data with stakeholders internally and externally. For example, information exchange with third-party vendors, customers, and internal staff is a regular practice. Labs should securely share information with stakeholders to ensure data security. Additionally, labs should preferably work with only those vendors who follow cybersecurity best practices.

2. Administer Cybersecurity Practices

Cyber attacks can cause risks to all labs, irrespective of their size. Therefore, labs should incorporate precautionary steps to overcome the challenges of cyberattacks. Labs should ensure safe remote access through a virtual private network (VPN) for staff who access lab instruments remotely. It is essential to identify the vulnerabilities in advance to administer the security measures as soon as possible.

Lab staff should use strong passwords for accessing data stored in computers or cloud databases and update them frequently. Lab personnel should be well trained on system access and the policy for password changes. Labs should implement two-factor authentication mechanisms to strengthen data security.

3. Introduce Hackers’ Schemes to the Staff

Lab managers should conduct training sessions for the staff to create awareness of routinely used schemes by hackers to infiltrate labs. A few of the routine schemes used by hackers are:

  • Spear phishing - Hackers send fraudulent emails to extract confidential information.
  • Watering hole attacks - Hackers can discover websites commonly used by the lab staff and infect those websites with malware to collect information and credentials from the database.

4. Take Regular Data Backups

Labs should take regular data backups to ensure data safety. Backups reduce the risk of losing digital data. Another good data safety practice is data replication. Data replication is copying the data to storage devices or cloud servers located at different physical locations and retrieving it if the data is corrupted or lost. Having a robust data management system at your lab secures data handling and sharing. Labs should have a system to automatically take regular data backups at defined time intervals to minimize any chances of data loss due to fire, theft, or natural calamities.

5. Deploy a Secure LIMS System

Labs must deploy a Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS) with foolproof security mechanisms to safeguard data. A cloud-based LIMS system is more prone to attack by hackers as it is connected to the Internet. Therefore, your LIMS system must include all security features to safeguard your lab data. A LIMS should take automatic backups at regular intervals, scan all files for viruses, and record all activities to identify unauthorized data alteration or access. A LIMS system should be able to assign role-based access to staff to avoid data loss, errors, and tampering.

A LIMS system hosted on a highly secure cloud server is an ideal solution for labs to address all potential cybersecurity risks and meet day-to-day operational challenges.

Conclusion

Labs should pioneer a proactive approach to cybersecurity. It can be accomplished by fostering cybersecurity best practices and working closely with customers to address distinct security needs. Discounting cybersecurity could lead to the loss of essential data and information. In the healthcare industry, data breaches can lead to hefty penalties running into thousands of dollars.

Follow cybersecurity best practices and deploy a secure, cloud-based LIMS to assure the security and integrity of data at all times.


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