A safe and monitored IT environment for Brussel University Hospital

A safe and monitored IT environment for Brussel University Hospital

“We are very satisfied with the service provided. The integration went smoothly, without any problems and all the apps continued to work. A correct implementation is at least as important as choosing the solution itself.”

Brussel University Hospital, located on the Jette campus, is one of the most important hospitals in Belgium with 721 beds. It was founded by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and several polyclinics at various locations on the outskirts of Brussels are attached to the hospital. These are also supported for various services – including IT – from UZ Brussel.

The mission is obviously to provide the best possible care to patients. UZ Brussel can rely on some 3,800 permanent employees for this. Every year, about 800 students follow an internship in the hospital, because training and research are also important tasks of UZ Brussel. In this medical setting, IT plays an important role.

“As the supporting IT service for infrastructure and operations, we are responsible for the proper functioning of networking, system management, database management and cybersecurity,” explains Robin Demesmaeker, Manager of ICT Infrastructure at UZ Brussel. “In addition, there is also a DevOps team that has developed its own Electronic Patient Record (EPD) system and shares it in partnership with other hospitals, whether or not hosted in UZ Brussel’s data center.”

Digital Transformation: a challenge

One of the major trends in healthcare is the far-reaching digital transformation. UZ Brussel also sees a number of major challenges in the coming years. For example, there is the increasing demand for automation. “Within nursing, we are at the tipping point to relieve people from administration as much as possible. So devices like blood pressure monitors could automatically link the values to the EPR. At present, nurses still have to add them manually,” says Robin Demesmaeker.

He expects that the arrival of 5G networks will also bring about an evolution in the monitoring of patients at home. Think for example of diabetics, cardio data or sleep tests. Other trends that create challenges are cloud services and the exponential growth of IoT sensors in the medical world.

All of which also have implications for IT security and privacy. “Central to this for me is the protection of the identity of the healthcare provider,” clarifies Robin Demesmaeker. “Because of his or her position, he or she can access certain sensitive data and perform specific actions. So if his or her identity is not well protected, any rogue person can misuse this data. Especially if you use more cloud services and therefore no longer keep everything within the walls of the hospital, this becomes even more crucial. Like knowing where and how the identity is being used, which you then also have to log.” The tension between user-friendliness for the user and the strictness of the policy is also a challenge for UZ Brussel. “But I am convinced that with minimal adjustments and efforts you can still be very secure.”

Trend Micro as the best solution

In addition to these challenges, an outdated endpoint security solution (McAfee) was the concrete reason for strengthening the security. Robin Demesmaeker: “It was purely definition-based and we wanted a next-gen solution. We had defined four criteria: it had to be behavior-basedeasy to manage – because our time and focus is on supporting healthcare -, the solution had to be able to handle virtualization, and finally we carried out a benchmarking exercise to determine how the security solution reacts to our own medical software.” In a comparative test of four solutions, Trend Micro Apex One emerged as the best.


You would think that the case was closed, but then COVID-19 emerged. This caused a lot of pressure internally. Also on the IT department. “The rapid scaling up of Intensive Care was a priority for us. In addition, solutions were quickly sought to enable patients, who were no longer allowed to receive visitors, to communicate with their families at home via video calls on smartphones or tablets. This caused an extra load on the Wi-Fi network.

Teleconsultations were also used.” Another problem was that due to COVID-19 hospitals were more targeted by hackers. “Trend Micro then spontaneously came and asked if they could help. They then installed a DDI (Deep Discovery Inspector) solution to see if anything suspicious was happening on the network. That was a trigger to broaden the original scope and not only include endpoint security but also mobile security,” says Robin Demesmaeker

Integration and Managed Services

UZ Brussel finally opted for a bundle of XDR solutions for users (with Apex One End point security, Mobile Security, Smart Protection for Office 365 and ScanMail for Exchange) and Deep Security for their data center. Robin Demesmaeker: “In the file, we also examined whether we would go with an external partner for a Security Operations Center (SOC). But given that the Trend Micro XDR bundle also includes Managed Services, this was the best option for us. There is 24/7 monitoring with notifications via email and a report.”

The implementation of the solution is done in phases. Apex One was completed at the end of October 2020 while other solutions are already largely installed. For the integration and implementation, UZ Brussel relies on one of Uptime Group’s expert center, a trusted Trend Micro partner. “We are very satisfied with the service provided. The integration went smoothly, without any problems and all the apps continued to work. A correct implementation is at least as important as choosing the solution itself,” says Robin Demesmaeker.

A safe digital environment

The overall result is that the digital environment at UZ Brussel is now safer, allowing the IT team to focus on core tasks and leave the rest to Trend Micro specialists. Most visible are the alerts that the IT team now receives from the managed service. “The nice thing about that is that it’s not just numbers. But also recommendations. Sometimes we get a comment about a user’s behavior. It then reads: ‘Make sure that you raise awareness with this user, because he did action X and Y.’ For example, check the URL he clicked on,’ says Robin Demesmaeker.

The bundle of security solutions also provides much more insight into what is happening on the IT infrastructure. “We used to see little or no attempts or lateral movements. Now we can follow them perfectly through the DDI. They are not always malicious attempts – often just blind attempts – but you still want to know where and how many. Thanks to Trend Micro, that’s now possible.”

What’s next?

One of the working points on UZ Brussel’s agenda is to set up internal actions to raise awareness. Concrete campaigns will follow in the course of this year. UZ Brussel is also looking beyond its own doorstep. “In the healthcare sector, you all have the same goal. So if something happens in the security field – an attack, a phishing campaign – you know that it can happen at your or other hospitals as well. That’s why we are thinking of a platform to quickly share such attempts with other institutions in the healthcare sector so that they can also minimize the risk,” concludes Robin Demesmaeker.


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