eLabBlog

How to Choose the Right ELN to Survive a Cyber Attack

By Gabriela Sanchez 5 min read 15 Aug 2023

Cyber attacks have become a significant concern for life science businesses and research organisations in today’s digital world. Recently, a cyber attack on a research institution, The Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences in Germany, led to a complete shutdown of their IT network.

And they are not the only life science organisation to suffer such a blow to their operations: The University of Zurich had a severe cyber attack in early 2023, and many others have endured similar issues.

The problem exists across all industries, with cyber attacks increasing since 2019 – more than 300% from 2019 to 2020 – driven primarily by the pandemic and new adjustments to remote work. However, in the life sciences, where laboratories play a crucial role in scientific progress, researchers need to adopt robust security measures. 

Lab heads and managers can help protect their operations by choosing software platforms that take data security into account. For those who work in digitised labs, the electronic lab notebook (ELN) software providers offer different possibilities to ensure data security. In this blog post, we will discuss the essential features to look for, the pros and cons of a cloud-based and on-premise hosting solution,  and what to consider regarding cyber security. 

Security Infrastructure and Dynamic Security Measures

A cloud-based hosting solution offers the advantage of scalable and dynamic security measures and a robust security infrastructure provided by the cloud service provider. As cyber threats evolve, cloud providers can quickly implement and update security protocols to address new vulnerabilities. This includes deploying patches, updates, and enhanced security features across their entire infrastructure, benefiting all users of the cloud-based ELN. These providers invest heavily in state-of-the-art security measures, including advanced firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption protocols, which result in a comprehensive and resilient infrastructure.

With an on-premise installation, customers have more control and customization over the security infrastructure. Organisations can implement specific security protocols and access, which might be regulatory requirements when working with sensitive data. Should you decide to go for an on-premise installation, investing in and maintaining your organisation’s security infrastructure is crucial. This includes regularly implementing and updating security measures, which usually require significant resources and expertise. 

Enhanced Resilience and Disaster Recovery

Another essential point to remember when choosing a hosting solution is what happens in the event of a cyber attack. How fast can you be back on your feet to continue working?

A cloud-based solution usually offers the advantage of resilience and disaster recovery capabilities. Cloud providers operate in multiple data centres across various geographic locations, which minimises the impact of a single point of failure. This ensures that even if one data centre is compromised, operations can seamlessly transition to another location, minimising service disruption.  Furthermore, cloud providers backup data automatically and regularly, allowing for easy recovery in case of data loss or system failures. Additionally, providers have dedicated disaster recovery plans and infrastructure, ensuring that services can be quickly restored after significant incidents. This relieves the organisation from managing its disaster recovery infrastructure and simplifies the data restoration process.

Given that in an on-premise solution, the customer has direct control over its hardware and infrastructure, the level of resilience and disaster recovery strategy will depend on the organisation. It is crucial for customers with an on-premise installation to implement redundant systems, backup power supplies, and failover mechanisms to ensure continued operations in case of a cyber attack. Additionally, these organisations need to have a disaster recovery strategy, which includes performing regular data backups, rigorous testing, and maintaining off-site backup facilities. 

Expert Security Monitoring and Response

Cloud-based ELN software has the benefit of security monitoring and response experts. These providers usually have a dedicated security team equipped with advanced security tools and technologies to monitor the cloud infrastructure for potential threats. This allows them to proactively identify and respond to security incidents, leveraging their experience with a wide range of clients and attack patterns. Cloud providers have also established incident response protocols to swiftly and efficiently handle cyber attack threats. In a security incident, they can quickly contain the threat, investigate the root cause, and implement necessary remediation measures.

In contrast, on-premise solutions require the organisation to establish and maintain its expert security monitoring team. This team is responsible for continuously monitoring the network, system logs, and user activities to detect suspicious or anomalous behaviour. In the event of a cyber-attack threat or breach, the on-premise security team takes immediate action to contain the threat and mitigate the damage. Since the response time and effectiveness heavily rely on the expertise and experience of the in-house team, it is important the organisation invests in hiring and training cybersecurity experts. 

A Final Word on Vetting a Cloud-Based vs On-Premise Hosted ELN

Cloud-based ELNs offer many advantages, but you and your team are responsible for carefully and meticulously investigating the security measures offered by a cloud provider and ensuring that they align with their specific security requirements and the compliance standards you need. 

One way to ensure that a cloud provider follows international standards for quality security and data protection is to check for their ISO Certifications. The most relevant ISO Certification is ISO 27001, which focuses on information security management systems (ISMS) and ensures the provider can effectively manage and protect sensitive data. 

On-premise solutions offer greater control over security measures and allow you to keep sensitive data within the organisation’s boundaries. Still, they pressure your organisation to build and maintain your security monitoring and response capabilities. Implementing all these measures can cost significant time and money.

Ultimately, choosing between an on-premise Installation and a cloud-based solution will depend on factors like an organisation’s resources, security expertise, data sensitivity, and regulatory requirements. While on-premises solutions offer more direct control over general security measures, they also require higher resources and in-house management. On the contrary, cloud-based solutions provide convenience and potential benefits from specialised expertise but require trust in the cloud provider’s security practices.

Contact us today to talk to eLabNext about your ELN and data security needs!

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