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Application Security Specialist for the Specific Sectors

Jason Li
Sr. Software Development Engineer
Skilled Angular and .NET developer, team leader for a healthcare insurance company.
December 16, 2019

Why Application Security?

Any organization needs to improve their application security to thwart the threat of hacking. With a lot of information flocking into the healthcare industry minute by minute, it becomes critical to take care of the digital data at hand. The vulnerability and insecurity of losing confidential medical information can wreak havoc in the healthcare industry. All healthcare organizations and hospitals should enhance their application security to stay ahead of hackers who might steal the vast amount of data in their servers.

When an organization is attacked or suffers an application security incident, the application and security team works hand-in-hand to get more information. This aids in implementing a quick fix to whatever issues caused the breach in security, after identifying the damage. A root cause analysis is done for clarity into any application security issues and taken good measures to rectify as soon as possible.

The challenge of prioritizing application security

It is worthy of note that prioritizing application security is indeed a challenge while focusing on the work needed to sustain an efficient healthcare system. However, it is essential to prioritize both healthcare-work and application security to ensure the safety of personal and medical data provided by people. Even when the application vulnerabilities are discovered, it is challenging to fix them. A 2011 research by WhiteHat has prompted them to publish the findings in the WhiteHat Security Website Security Statistics Report. According to WhiteHat, the application security vulnerabilities are on a decline. However, with the software technology getting upgraded and updated almost hour by hour, new issues can crop up out of nowhere. All organizations, especially healthcare and financial industries should be aware of the threats.

Targets of Opportunity

The healthcare industry has emerged as one of the biggest targets for cyber-attacks. This sector is a target of opportunity for hackers as the information one can obtain from a healthcare server is vast and potentially volatile. So, the application security needs to be air-tight in-order to steer clear from cyber-attacks and hackers. The application security team should know about the software development cycle thoroughly in-order to understand and identify the ways via, a cyber-attack can come.

Why the healthcare industry is a "target of opportunity" ?

As we have been discussing, the healthcare industry is under heavy threat from cyber-attack. The organization is regarded as a "target of opportunity" as mentioned above.

The main reasons for the healthcare industry to be a "target of opportunity" are as follows:

• Healthcare staff is very busy to look into software issues and new updates that need to be incorporated into the servers. This can be considered a vulnerability, which cyber-attackers can exploit.

• A collaborative effort, from hospital staff, is essential for day-to-day business in the healthcare industry. However, opening confidential data on insecure portals will help hackers to gain easy entry into the server; a potential application security threat.

• Private patient information can fetch attackers a lot of money. It has been observed that confidential data can be used for various types of blackmail schemes to obtain a ransom. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) works closely with healthcare industries to avoid such situations.

• Attackers find it easy to hack medical devices, which are a sitting-duck to various cyber-attacks. Although these devices do not contain any attractive information, it is easy for hackers to get into the servers of the healthcare industry in this way.

• Healthcare staff is not aware of online threats and risks. With no proper idea about cyber-security, this could become vulnerability as well, which hackers can exploit.

• The vast number of devices in a hospital makes it difficult to stay on top of cyber-security.

• The information in the healthcare industry is shared among each other, which opens up opportunities for cyber-attackers to hack into one or more of the healthcare servers.

• Most of the healthcare industries will be running with old software technology, which make them vulnerable to attacks from hackers.

Along with the healthcare industry, pharmaceuticals, as well as financial institutions, can also be regarded as "targets of opportunity".

In the pharmaceutical industry, the information about various drugs, raw materials, formulations, and marketing strategies are information that hackers look to steal.

In financial institutions, the biggest motivation for cyber-attackers would be getting more information about various financial sources. Also, they might get a potential windfall by stealing money as well.

It is essential to make sure all three industries: healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and financial, should have strong measures that secure the data they have in their servers.

Quick Techniques to Enhance Application Security


Let us look at some quick techniques that enhance application security for the healthcare organizations, pharmaceuticals, and financial institutions.

Be mindful of high-risk applications

High-risk applications should be cataloged and kept an eye on. These applications require constant monitoring as they are important for the functioning of the software. This makes these applications to be kept under regulatory controls. The inventory should be done with perfection and clarity to protect these high-risk applications.

The assessment metrics of an application include Key Risk Indicators and Key Performance Indicators. With proper monitoring of high-risk applications, the application security team can enhance the quality as well as improve the reliability. Also, the application security team can work as fast as possible, when they observe signs of any kind of failure.

Structured, measurable, and reusable approach

There are tests assigned for an application security assessment. These include the penetration test and vulnerability scan. The testing depth can vary according to the applications and the audience. By knowing the vulnerabilities and intricacies of applications and the test, one can identify which areas to improve to obtain a strengthened version of the applications.

Vulnerabilities in application security

The two types of vulnerabilities observed in application security include design and implementation vulnerabilities. Design vulnerabilities are related to the architectural framework of the application. So, a thorough look into the architecture can help fix the design issue.

Implementation vulnerabilities are fixed with a modification in the code, or through additional code, which is added on. A thorough review can bring out all the flaws in a system that will get fixed as soon as possible. An application security assessment is mainly used for high-value applications. For instance, some of the assessment techniques include cryptography, logging, development practices as well as other review criteria.

Application security specialists for the specific sector

Application development practices will be designed and implemented based on the sector. Some of the important sectors include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and financial institutions.

An application security specialist should be appointed to oversee every aspect of applications with the help of a team. This designated person with his ⁄ her team can monitor a list of applications that might develop vulnerabilities. These applications will require oversight and guidance for their proper functioning.

Application development teams should be aware of all risks along with security guidelines and requirements. They must be able to suggest packages and ways that can improve the applications in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and financial sector. Application security head oversees all specialists as well as encourage economic re-use within the specific industry. They deal with all aspects that connect application security with a particular sector.

Scoping is critical

Scoping or investigating the applications is critical for its success. An improper scoping can be disastrous in many ways.

For accurate scoping, the following persons are necessary. These are:

• Application owner – Knows the purpose of the application. Also, recruits an application security team

• Development representative – Knows the design elements of the architecture. Have a clear-cut idea of the environment into which the application is deployed.

• Information Security representative – Knows about various risks and vulnerabilities of the application. Communicates with the application testing team on these.

• Application Security Specialist – Discusses the application with the owner, design and information security representatives to make it as secure as possible.

Assessment teams

Internal and external assessment teams assigned to monitor applications should work together to thwart the threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. Implementing quality assurance check-points will aid in monitoring the applications and their strength. Various assessments are collected from both teams and used in improving the applications.


Proper funding should be obtained for implementing applications as well as the assessment teams. It would be used to get funding for the remediation process too. Delve into fixing as soon as risks or vulnerabilities are spotted, with the right funding.

Development lifecycle and vendor management

Software is used to analyze the development life-cycle of applications. This assessment aids the team to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the applications. Risk assessments on vendor management will help in developing secure applications.

Detection and response capability

Monitoring applications aid in detecting issues before it gets escalated. An audit trail will help in the detection process. An application security specialist will always be on the look-out for fast responses regarding vulnerabilities observed.

What are you waiting for?

Now that you know all about quick techniques to enhance application security in healthcare, pharmaceutical, and financial sectors or industries, it will be easy for you to ensure security to your applications. Be on your toes when it comes to enhancing your security measures for all your applications.