In recent times, Indian hospitals have found themselves in the crosshairs of cyberattacks, with Chinese hackers targeting their IT systems. This alarming trend has brought to the forefront the pressing need to enhance the security of our healthcare infrastructure. It's disconcerting that many Indian hospitals are still operating on outdated Windows 7, making them susceptible to security breaches. The foundation of sound software security is the regular updating of software, and the use of legacy systems increases the risk of hacking. However, upgrading to Windows 11 is often challenging due to higher system requirements and costs. This blog post will explore an alternative that offers both security and cost-effectiveness: the adoption of Linux-based operating systems in Indian hospitals.
The Legal Imperative: DPDP Bill 2023
It's important to note that the Data Protection Bill 2023 (DPDP) has now made Indian hospitals legally responsible for protecting patient data. Non-compliance with industry norms may result in penalties imposed by the Data Protection Board. Ensuring the security of patient data is a legal obligation, making the choice of operating system even more critical.
User-Friendly Linux Distributions
While Windows-based operating systems have traditionally been the go-to choice for Indian hospitals, the belief in their user-friendliness has been a driving factor. Windows' familiarity has been seen as reducing training costs for hospital staff. However, Linux distributions have evolved over time to offer user-friendly interfaces comparable to Windows. Notably, Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions in India, provides an accessible and intuitive user experience.
The Cost Factor: Open Source Linux
Linux stands out as an open-source operating system, which eliminates the need for licensing fees. This is a stark contrast to proprietary Windows-based systems. The cost-saving potential of Linux is substantial, which can be a boon for hospitals operating on tight budgets.
Security as a Priority
Security is paramount in healthcare institutions. Linux-based operating systems are renowned for their robust security features, enabling the effective management of user-level permissions. This extra layer of security is critical for safeguarding patient data, medical records, and other sensitive information.
Comprehensive Security Measures
It's essential to recognize that antivirus protection alone is insufficient to protect hospital IT systems. Hospitals should employ firewalls and ensure that all software, including their Hospital Information Management Systems (HIMS), is kept up to date. Legacy solutions that are not regularly updated are also vulnerable to hacking. Hospitals should ensure their vendors periodically upgrade their solutions.
Local vs. Web-Based Solutions
For hospitals using on-premise HIMS, the security requirements for their Local Area Network (LAN) are notably higher compared to web-based solutions like Nice HMS a ABDM triple milestone certified HIMS. Meeting these security requirements for small and mid-sized hospitals can be challenging, especially in comparison to major cloud providers like GCP, AWS, or Azure, due to resource constraints.
Consider the Whole Network
It's important to remember that if a hospital uses Linux for its local server while the rest of the LAN is running on outdated Windows 7, the hospital is still at risk. In such cases, upgrading to Windows 11 or choosing the latest Linux distribution can provide a more secure environment, saving on licensing fees and hardware upgrade costs.
In conclusion, the recent wave of cyberattacks on Indian hospitals necessitates a reevaluation of our healthcare IT systems' security. Transitioning to Linux-based operating systems offers a compelling solution. These systems provide a user experience comparable to Windows, substantial cost savings, and an elevated level of security. Recognizing the urgency of fortifying our hospital IT systems in the face of growing cyber risks, adopting Linux-based operating systems is a prudent step toward achieving this critical objective. The choice of the right operating system can make all the difference in securing our healthcare infrastructure and safeguarding patient data.