Tackling The Critical IT Security Issues In Biotechnology

Biotech Startups

Tackling The Critical IT Security Issues In Biotechnology

#ISSUE: Inadequate IT Infrastructure, Systems and Processes

Biotech startups tend to focus all or a major portion their resources on R & D, clinical trials and advanced lab systems, letting their IT systems and infrastructure take a back seat not realizing how counterproductive or even fatal this misstep can be. When a startup starts growing and scaling, it needs a robust infrastructure to support its growing IT needs. Systems and processes need to be integrated, applications and devices need to be managed, 24/7 IT support is needed and so on. So, how can you build a robust IT infrastructure that can support your startup’s growth?   

➥ SOLUTION: Outsource IT

No two biotech startups are the sameso why should their needs be the same! New applications or devices that become industry trends is not necessarily the right device or application for your startup. Mismanaged IT systems can result in a big dent in your pocketsWhich is why you need to find a trusted technology partner that understands both IT as well as your needs and builds a scalable infrastructure that grows as your startup grows. 

☛ Tips:

✓  Implement a single sign-on solution with lifecycle management (e.g. Oktato allow for complex passwords, central management and improved efficiencies with onboarding and offboarding employees. 

 Implement mobile device management (e.g. Microsoft Intune for Windows & Addigy or Jamf for Macs) to ensure group policies are enforced and application deployment are streamlined. 

Consider implementing an email security protection and continuity solution to ensure your employees are protected from phishing and impersonation attacks. The solution should also ensure continuous access to email when email servers are not available (e.g. Mimecast Target Threat Protection and email continuity). 


#ISSUE: Insufficient Storage Capacity

Even the smallest biotech startups produce tens and thousands of gigabytes of data from high-resolution imaging, expansive clinical trialshigh throughput screening systems, etc. This important and confidential data needs to be stored securely. But even the most sophisticated computers and largest external hard drives don’t have the storage capacity for such massive amounts of data. So, how do you store it?  

➥ SOLUTION: Cloud Storage System

The most efficient and cost-effective way of continuing to have high-speed storage for biotech companies is to go down the local storage plus cloud storage” route. This ensures both longterm retention of data and nearly limitless storage capacity. The added benefits include high speed access to the most recent data, automatic backup, remotes access, and easy scalability. And it mitigates the need to find resources or space to store and manage all that data on-site. Your technology partner can help you set up a cloud storage system that is tailored specifically to your company’s needs. 

☛ Tips:

Implement a cloud backup today. Consider your retention requirements and understand your current recovery capabilities. In some cases, services will only cover up to 30 days. In these cases, you may want to add a backup service to extend that time period.

Just having a backup is not enough. Make sure you verify your backups regularly. There are tools that can provide a scheduled verification and report to provide you with the comfort that you have a good backup.

Consider implementing a SD-WAN solution which will provide better connectivity to cloud services and internet high availability connectivity.  SD-WAN providers like Big Leaf are configured on high speed backbones minimizing the number of internet hops necessary to reach services like O365 and G-Suite.  This will provide better performance when accessing these services


#ISSUE: Data Security

Your Biotech startup’s data and information is highly valuable, but only if it is securely stored in your systems. As soon as that data gets leaked, attacked or is stolen, it loses its value or even worse it causes irreparable damage to your startup. Also, the more you grow and the greater exposure your startup gets the higher the chances of there being a phishing attack, an internal data threat or a targeted cyberattack. Similarly, the more data you produce the higher the chances of something being accidentally or intentionally deleted or infected by viruses.  So, how do you secure your data?   

➥ SOLUTION: Security System & Security Awareness Training

Your outsourced IT partner needs to find a balance between increasing your storage capacity effectively and keeping your data secure. This requires a security system that can be tailored to fit your needs. In addition, your startup needs to consistently take the right security measures and have security awareness training for its employees. Security training often takes a back seat in most startups. But it should not as 90% of cyberattacks that happen are results of human error 

☛ Tips:

All it takes is one weak link in your company to allow a breach. Make sure everyone is aware by providing Security Awareness Trainings. Start with adding this to your New Employee Onboarding and an annual review with all employees.Conduct a phishing attack campaign against your company and learn if there are any weak links. All it takes is one employee giving up the keys to the kingdom.

Establishing a Cyber Security Incident process will help your staff be clear about what to do when hacked, entering credentials on a bad site, phished, tricked in giving corporate information, etc.

Use complex passwordsFor example, replace o,i and s with 0, 1 & $ and change passwords every 90 to 180 days.


#ISSUE: Compliance (SOC, HIPPA, etc.) and IT Audits

If you go through a SOC Type-I audit there are might be some preliminary IT requirements (e.g. you need to have a Firewall installed). And, failing an audit can result in investors backing out, putting your timeline at risk, or losing partnerships. So how do you ensure that you meet all your IT requirements? 

➥ SOLUTION: Security and Technology Infrastructure Assessment

Hire an unbiased third-party (a technology partner) to review your IT environment with an understanding that you may be involved in an audit (requested by a future investor/client/vendor). The goal here is to prevent your company from being caught off guard thus saving it from major financial losses. 

☛ Tips:

Run a vulnerability scan on your network to determine if you are exposed to potential breaches i.e. Qualys scan.

Determine your network hardware’s end-of-life (if security patches are no longer available) so that you can plan your hardware replacements accordingly.

Implement data loss protection technology like Mimecast to prevent sensitive data from being sent outside the company i.e. SSN, credit card information, etc.


The repercussions of cyber attackresulting in a major data breach aren’t limited to just loss of invaluable data or unauthorized access of sensitive data. They include loss of reputation and complex legal issues involving consumers, investors, business partners, and government agencies. Need help figuring out how to mitigate security risks and better manage your IT? ECHO can help. Get in touch today!