Healthcare industry lags in security effectiveness

BitSight analyzed Security Ratings for S&P 500 companies in four industries – finance, utilities, retail and healthcare and pharmaceuticals. The objective was to uncover quantifiable differences in security performance across industries from April 2013 through March 2014.

The study revealed that the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector has many of the same characteristics as the retail sector, including a high volume of security incidents and slow response times, and that both of these sectors lag behind the finance and utilities sectors in security performance.

BitSight uses publicly available data to rate companies’ security performance on a daily basis. Observed security events and configurations, such as communication with a botnet, malware distribution, and email server configuration, are assessed for severity, frequency and duration and used to generate objective Security Ratings. BitSight Security Ratings range from 250 to 900, with higher ratings equating to higher security performance. Industry ratings are calculated using a simple average of the Security Ratings of companies in that sector.

Retail’s poor performance continues:

  • Within the past year the security performance of the retail industry declined, ending the time period at an average of 685.
  • The number of security events observed by BitSight increased nearly 200 percent from April 2013 to March 2014.
  • Zeus and Zero Access accounted for one third of all malware in the retail industry.

Healthcare and pharmaceuticals demonstrate signs of serious illness:

  • The average rating in this industry was 660. Like the retail sector, the spread in performance across the industry is large, implying that there are many companies that are seriously underperforming.
  • This sector saw the largest percentage increase in the number of security incidents observed by BitSight over the time period.
  • The average event duration, (the number of days between the first time BitSight observes an event to the last time) is longer than any other industry, at 5.3 days.

Finance tops the list:

  • The average rating in the finance industry was 765, the highest of all of the industries analyzed, despite an increase in the number of observed incidents.
  • Zeus malware made up 33 percent of the identified malware that hit the finance industry.
  • The finance industry had the shortest average event duration suggesting that this sector is quicker to detect and respond to cyber threats than others.

Utilities also shine bright:

  • The average rating was 751 for the utilities industry and like finance, the range of ratings within the utilities sector is relatively narrow, meaning the majority of companies are high performers.
  • Redyms, a family of trojans designed to redirect search engine results, hit this sector particularly hard, accounting for 26 percent of all observed malware.
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Healthcare industry lags in security effectiveness