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IT Security in the Pharmaceutical Industry


In many ways, mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are a part of daily life in the pharmaceutical industry. They accelerate research and development and lead to rapid results within the industry. However, at first glance, what often seems to be an administrative and organisational task turns out to be a real feat of strength for IT departments. Zero trust architectures introduce speed and security into M&A processes.

The pharmaceutical industry lives off continuous innovation and speedy research results. This is where time to market plays a particularly important role: partnerships and takeovers are often the method of choice to gain the upper hand in global competition with clinics, laboratories, and research centres.

However, company takeovers generally go hand in hand with a myriad of challenges associated with the IT infrastructure. Systems and data must be aligned, streamlined, and consolidated. The same applies to the network of the newly structured organisation: IP addresses and DNS hosts don't match anymore, port forwarding doesn't go anywhere, and the Network Access Translation (NAT) fails. In addition, merging networks can lead to or create new weak points and security gaps, as well as compliance issues potentially cropping up or even being created. In summary, mergers and acquisitions are hard work for IT. Moreover, they cost time and money for equipment and personnel.

Fast and secure

Speed and security are concerns that shouldn't be an issue nowadays. As with many other industries, the cloud has the perfect solution for the pharmaceutical sector: a plan based on a software-defined perimeter (SDP) not only simplifies the merging of various IT topologies, it also reduces the attack surface area in a newly merged and large organisation. Basically, instead of placing users on the on-premises network in their own data centres, network access based on zero trust allows for fast and secure access for users through the cloud, without tediously merging two networks.

This means that an SDP approach, such as Zscaler’s zero trust network access (ZTNA) solution, Zscaler Private Access, replaces the on-premises network architecture and provides additional benefits from the cloud. ZTNA provides a secure connection between users and applications. Following a prior policy-based authorisation, users are granted secure access to the application they want by using a cloud security platform. A direct, outgoing tunnel from the application to the user is created by means of a cloud connector. The application itself remains invisible to external parties. ZTNA endorses the principle of least privilege, meaning that specific users are only granted precise access rights needed to do the tasks associated with their job.

Implementing ZTNA in M&A processes means that individual access can be clearly defined for both companies. Therefore, the organisation that has been acquired never has access to the entire network. For example, employees in the personnel department only have access to HR-relevant apps, the finance department can only access financial data, and research and development can view formulae only once they have been authorised to do so.

In other words, the internet becomes a secure company network on which company applications remain hidden from unauthorised users. A principle that satisfies everyone: the company's management team can avoid high costs for network consolidation and optimisation due to M&A. Meanwhile, system administrators can retain oversight of the data traffic from users in real time because migration takes weeks instead of months. 

Additional resources:

Blog: How ZTNA Speeds Time to Value

Video: Introduction to Zero Trust Network Access

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