Protecting our health data from cyber attacks

  • Date

    Thu 17 Feb 22

The challenge of protecting our health data from cyber attacks is the focus of a major European-funded research project involving the University of Essex.

Healthcare systems have been transformed in recent years with medical devices increasingly becoming more interconnected at both the physical and virtual level.

Whilst this evolving digital interconnectivity brings significant benefits for patients’ wellbeing, it has also increased the danger of potential cybersecurity attacks.

In the past few years there has been an increase in the number of attacks against the health sector, which continuously grow in sophistication and intensity and traditional security and privacy measures provide limited or no protection.

To help address this urgent issue, the European Commission, under the H2020 programme, has funded the AI4HealthSec project, which aims to develop a state-of-the-art software platform, based on artificial intelligence, which improves the detection and analysis of cyber-attacks and threats on health care information infrastructures, and empowers health organisations to share cybersecurity and privacy knowledge and attack information.

The University of Essex’s role in the project is to provide expertise in cybersecurity and digital health care. The Essex team, led by Professor Haris Mouratidis, Director of the Institute for Analytics and Data Science (IADS), will also support the project pilots and contribute to the practical evaluation of the AI4HealthSec platform.

“The large digitisation of health data allows us to easily share it, which is paramount to our wellbeing, but it also introduces a number of security and privacy challenges, and it significantly increases the opportunities for data breaches and attacks,” explained Professor Mouratidis.

“We therefore urgently need new solutions to improve detection, analysis and mitigation of such attacks and the ability to improve our reaction in case of data breaches. AI4HealthSec will develop such solutions by advancing the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence and data security and privacy.”

The project, which involves 14 partners from nine countries, will also build risk awareness and best practice within the digital healthcare ecosystem so there is the capability to react faster in case of security and privacy breaches.

IADS at Essex is a multi-disciplinary research institute that brings together expertise in analytics and data science with particular strengths in artificial intelligence, machine learning, reinforcement learning, optimisation algorithms, statistical modelling, security and privacy engineering, threat analysis and intelligence and security risk management.