5 LIMS Security Factors to Consider

Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) Security

The fact that laboratories handle very sensitive information is undisputed. Any breach in the privacy and confidentiality of information can have far-reaching negative ramifications. Consequently, when choosing the best Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), the security features in the LIMS should be a top consideration. You want to be confident that your LIMS supports robust, updated, and multi-layered security features. And to be able to do this, you need to know what entails LIMS security, as will be discussed explicitly in this blog. However, before diving into that, let’s first understand the nature of sensitive information that needs to be protected in a laboratory setting. 

What is Sensitive Data?

Sensitive data may not have the same meaning in different kinds of laboratories. But generally, it refers to all the confidential information relating to a patient or client that should not be disclosed to a third party. When such information is disclosed, either knowingly or unknowingly, a lab and all involved parties are likely to be penalized. Hence, there’s a need to safeguard the privacy and integrity of all sensitive patient information.

Sensitive data can be grouped into four broad categories as detailed below:

  1. Protected Health Information (PHI)

Protected health information applies to laboratories dealing with clinical specimens and refers to all health information related to a patient, whether from past, present, or future health conditions.  

  1. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) 

This is any type of information that can be used to identify a person and hence make specific inferences about them from available data. It may include a person’s name, address, identification number, financial information, and social security numbers among others. Lab data needs to be “anonymized” to ensure that it cannot be traced back to an individual by third parties. 

  1. Commercial Information

A laboratory may hold sensitive information related to commercial partners such as suppliers, creditors, debtors, and the like. This information is sensitive and should never be divulged to third parties.

  1. Clinical Trials and Study Information

This applies to institutions that deal with clinical trials and research and refers to all kinds of information that is collected and generated in the process. 

When choosing a LIMS, you need to ensure that the information handled by the LIMS is secure at all times. Even those with access to the LIMS should not be allowed to access information that does not apply to them. You also need to ensure that the information will still be secure in the case of system failures or cyber-attacks. Here are five LIMS security considerations to have in mind. 

1. Security of Data Centers and Data Servers

Data centers and data servers offer the first layer of security for your LIMS. Your LIMS provider should guarantee that all their servers meet the following requirements:

  • ISO 27001 compliance
  • Up to date with all security patches in place
  • Have a firewall and watchdogs in place
  • Are actively monitored
  • Penetration tests should be run prior to every release

2. Secure Login

Though most LIMS vendors provide User IDs and passwords, this can be easily compromised. Sniffing techniques can be used to compromise passwords, hence the need for extra security measures. An advanced LIMS offers solutions such as digital signatures, two-factor authentication, and audits records of all activities with date and time stamps as an extra layer of protection. 

3.  User Permissions and Groups

User permissions provide the next wall of security after secure login. Remember that security is not just about protecting information from external parties but it also includes protecting the information from unauthorized internal access. This calls for assigning user roles with certain permissions allowed at certain levels only. In other words, what users can access will be restricted to what is necessary for their roles. 

Before setting user permissions, roles and responsibilities have first to be assigned. Determine the nature of the information that each user will need to access to be able to perform their tasks optimally. For example, while nurses may need to access patients’ clinical history and treatment sheets, they may not need to access their financial information. The following steps should be followed when creating user permissions:

  • Creating and assigning user profiles with specific permissions based on roles 
  • Creating user groups with specific permissions for collaboration
  • Limiting access to authorized profiles based on their permissions 

4.  Captcha and Two-Factor Authentication

Captcha is necessary to confirm that the system has not been compromised by software (spam) designed to extract information from a website. It’s usually in the form of a simple mathematical calculation to confirm that a user is indeed human.

Two-factor authentication is necessary when LIMS information is accessed through different devices, including phones and laptops. It adds an extra layer of security to confirm that the first layer of security (login passwords) has not been compromised. 

5. Data Encryption

LIMS data needs to be encrypted end-to-end. Encryption means converting information into an unreadable version where a key is needed to decrypt the information (render it readable). In a LIMS, the data is encrypted so that external viewers will not be able to read it, even if they had unauthorized access. The information is only decrypted via authorized access and that again is limited to the level of permission granted. 

LIMS Security is a Guarantee with CloudLIMS

CloudLIMS offers multi-layered security features including both internal and external mechanisms. Network security is supported by firewalls, IP spoofing, packet sniffing, port scanning, VPN gateway, and JAVA script disabling among others. Different intrusion detection and encryption methods are also used. 

CloudLIMS supports user authentication using unique logins with role-based access. CloudLIMS supports TFA to ensure access to the system from devices is secure. Furthermore, CloudLIMS has passed the Service Organization Control (SOC 2) Type II audit and received the ISO 90001 certification.  

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