BrandPost: Cybersecurity Threats Shine Spotlight on Medical Data Protection


In December 2020, a large cosmetic surgery chain in the UK fell victim to a ransomware attack as close to 1 TB of patient photo data was stolen. While patients were naturally concerned about their private records being exposed in the public domain, the hospital chain had to consider the economic impact and irreparable reputational loss from such an attack. If you thought that the financial and internet sectors were the most susceptible to data security breaches, think again. According to The Tenable Research 2020 Threat Landscape Retrospective Report, of the 22 billion records of personal information exposed last year, the largest share belonged to the healthcare industry.

The digitalization of the medical industry started later than the financial industry, but progress has greatly accelerated over the last few years. Today, emerging ICT technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things, big data, and artificial intelligence are widely used across hospitals and clinics. Application scenarios such as remote diagnosis and treatment, mobile ward rounds, and medical record sharing are getting more popular because they deliver great convenience to both doctors and patients.

At the same time, increased digitalization has made it more challenging to safeguard hospital information systems (HIS). Apart from external malware threats, business interruptions caused by network and storage failures have often occurred in recent years, rendering paralyzing hospitals’ operations. Consider the following incidents:

  • The pandemic last year led to a surge in patients and their records, posing a great challenge to the servers of a domestic hospital in China. When the hospital’s data system suddenly shut down, technicians were able to restore the system after a few hours, but some critical data was completely lost.
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  • An hour before midnight, a leading hospital reported an error in the doctor’s station system that interrupted diagnosis and treatment. On inspection by engineers on-site, it was found that disk storage was full due to the sudden increase in database system logs. Even after a whole night of emergency repairs conducted in cooperation with hardware and software manufacturers, the system barely returned to a temporary state of operations.

The way forward 

Full-lifecycle data protection is the foundation for consolidating digital transformation and ensuring business continuity. Full-lifecycle data protection requires complete structural design for data protection, including production system disaster recovery and data backup strategies. Different data protection mechanisms need to be adopted according to the types and criticality of healthcare data.

Take the HIS as an example. As the core IT system of the hospital, HIS contains entire processes, from the registration of patients to diagnosis and treatment. It is also the main carrier of the hospital’s hot data, which is needed to respond to business demands immediately, 24 hours a day. This data requires a comprehensive data protection solution with these key facets:

  • A disaster recovery mechanism to create an active or passive full copy of the source data.
  • A backup mechanism to create several time-based copies of the source data.
  • Reliable operations and maintenance of the data.

The challenge is in finding a highly reliable, cost-efficient and zero-compromise data protection solution that meets each one of these parameters. Huawei’s all-flash data protection portfolio is ideal for the core application systems in the medical care industry. At the equipment level, Huawei offers a benchmark-setting all-flash storage system that provides the highest device-reliability guarantee. At the solution level, the company’s all-flash disaster-recovery and backup solutions (OceanProtect) provide all-around protection for business continuity and data availability. Finally, at the operations management level, Huawei’s Data Management Engine provides a methodology of intelligent and automated full-lifecycle management.

  1. Equipment with the industry’s highest seven-nines reliability

OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage delivers the industry’s highest seven-nines reliability. The storage tolerates failures of seven out of eight controllers and the failure of a single controller enclosure without service interruption. Moreover, SSDs yield a 5-year return rate of just 0.8%, which is 10 times lower than HDDs.

When it comes to performance, the OceanStor all-flash storage delivers the industry record of 21 million input/output operations per second (IOPS) under typical frequently used I/O patterns. For example, when data reduction, garbage collection and snapshot are enabled, the performance of OceanStor storage decreases by only about 10% and remains stable. In contrast, the industry average performance of other vendors’ storage decreases by 40%.

In terms of availability, OceanStor all-flash storage provides a 100% data availability guarantee, while the FlashEver hardware subscription model protects the customer’s investment.

  1. Data disaster recovery and backup solutions

Whether data is stored on-premise or in the cloud, disaster recovery preparedness is essential for medical units so that they can guarantee high data availability and seamless business continuity.  

Huawei provides a comprehensive all-flash disaster recovery portfolio including a gateway-free active-active solution, a remote replication solution, and 3DC solutions. These solutions are based on OceanStor BCManager for unified, intelligent, and simplified disaster recovery scheduling and O&M management.

In the backup scenario, Huawei provides an all-flash backup appliance and backup storage, delivering high bandwidth, high capacity and a high data reduction ratio. Because the main purpose of backup is to recover data when needed, Huawei’s OceanProtect backup solutions feature industry-leading backup and recovery speeds.

  1. Going proactive rather than reactive to improve operation and maintenance capabilities 

Traditional operations and maintenance is based on a trigger approach. Only when problems occur, counter measures are initiated to“put out the fire”and troubleshoot the cause. However, the ideal O&M schedule should be proactive: detecting hidden faults in advance through situational awareness in order to fix them in time.

Huawei’s Data Management Engine, or DME, helps ensure automated management through the data lifecycle. It automatically collects the running status of all devices to enable end-to-end storage network awareness. It also predicts and warns about faults to help prevent disasters and can intelligently analyze information to rapidly locate the root causes of these faults. Last but not least, it provides expert suggestions to help optimize systems, thereby achieving end-to-end, trusted automated execution of maintenance tasks.

It all starts and ends with data

Data is an critical core asset of healthcare organizations. If hospitals want to fully utilize the value of data, they must first ensure data availability and security. A complete and reliable data protection solution is thus an urgent need. For now, many customers in the medical industry have deployed replication and active-active solutions in HIS systems, and all-flash based backup system solutions have gradually become an important option for hospital data backup. Going forward, hospitals will be able to achieve full-lifecycle data protection through improved coordination between the three essentials: disaster recovery, backup, and operations and maintenance. 

Huawei provides an all-flash based full-lifecycle data protection portfolio that has been deployed by many customers to accelerate digital transformation and ensure the safe and sustainable operation of medical services. For an overview of Huawei’s all-flash storage products and solutions, click here.