Over the past few years, healthcare organizations around the world have faced an increase in cyberattacks via malware and ransomware.
- In May 2021, a New Zealand hospital saw services brought to a standstill as it struggled to fix its computer systems following a massive cyberattack.
In May 2021, a ransomware attack crippled Ireland’s health service’s IT system, leaving many of the country’s hospitals without computers for over a week.
A patient died in 2020 after ransomware hit a hospital in Germany, delaying their treatment.
There was a ransomware attack at a Colorado hospital in 2020 that left five years’ worth of patient records inaccessible.
In 2017, the WannaCry crypto worm crippled the UK’s NHS, cancelling 19,000 appointments due to the shutdown of MRI machines.
As cybercriminals continue to take advantage of similar weaknesses and find ways to exploit healthcare cybersecurity practices that include high-value patient data and have a low tolerance for downtime. Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has seen a 55% increase in cybersecurity threats.
Cyber threats will continue to disrupt the healthcare industry if providers don’t take proper measures to secure their networks. Let’s examine healthcare cybersecurity challenges as well as how certain efforts can help to improve them.
Cybersecurity Issues in the Healthcare Industry
The most prevalent healthcare cybersecurity issue is misdelivery. This issue is divided into two categories:
- One is when an email is sent to the incorrect email address or distribution list, allowing unauthorized individuals to gain critical information.
- The second issue is its snail mail counterpart, which occurs when address labels for a large mailing are out of sync, resulting in confidential information being sent to the wrong recipient.
Healthcare businesses are the main targets of cybercrime. Small healthcare providers are more vulnerable to hackers due to the increased frequency of healthcare-related hacks.
Large healthcare providers often have the resources required to develop an effective cyber defence plan. It is common for large hospitals and healthcare systems to hire a chief information security officer, staff a security operations centre, and subscribe to the latest threat intelligence services.
In the last year, most healthcare cyberattacks have targeted healthcare organizations. Independent doctors, community hospitals, and dentists may not always have the financial resources to invest in expensive cybersecurity protections.
They face similar cyber hazards and provide the same opportunities for crooks. According to the report presented by the American Medical Association, approximately 57% of medical practices in the United States have ten or fewer physicians, with 10% being solo practitioners.
Due to these cyber-attacks on the healthcare industry, many small healthcare providers are unable to pay high ransoms and are forced to close their doors.
These professionals know that paying a ransom demand does not guarantee that the hacker will release data, nor does it ensure that they will not sell your patient’s data on the dark web.
According to an IBM report, data breaches cost healthcare organizations an average of $7.13 million in their 2020 report.
What makes cybersecurity in healthcare so challenging?
The healthcare industry faces the same cybersecurity threats as any other business with its challenges.
In the healthcare sector, there is nothing more important than the health and well-being of patients and communication between healthcare practitioners and patients across various healthcare activities.
So, the question is: why is the healthcare industry struggling with cybersecurity in healthcare? Here are some cybersecurity problems facing the healthcare industry:
- On the dark web, patient information is essential.
- Medical gadgets lack proper security protections.
- medical data remote access is required for medical workers.
- There is little cyber-risk training for healthcare staff.
- Majorly healthcare institutions employ out-of-date technologies due to the scattered nature of healthcare and multiple small-scale setups which lead to lower operational costs.
Few healthcare professionals are unaware of the cybersecurity threats that the industry faces, and the corporate sector is the most targeted. The healthcare cybersecurity problem has risen to the top of the list of issues.
Top cybersecurity challenges in the healthcare industry
1. Data Breaches
The healthcare sector has the highest number of data breaches than any other industry. In 2021, the average cost of healthcare data breaches was $9.6 million.
So, data breaches are one of the biggest challenges for the healthcare vertical. And the need for proper device management and monitoring, as well as the protection of sensitive information, is equally important to providing medical care for patients.
The problem is that most organizations don’t have the resources to stay informed with up-to-date security measures, protocols, and a knowledgeable IT department.
This provides an open opportunity for cybercriminals to easily gain access to patient’s social security numbers, contact information, prescriptions, and test results, which can cause reputational issues for organizations and trouble for patients.
Healthcare software providers and organizations must comply with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). It helps them secure their sensitive information.
2. Ransomware and malware
Malware is software designed to infect, damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to computers and devices. Ransomware is a high-risk type of malware in which attackers steal information from a system, encrypt it and demand ransom to it have it returned decrypted.
Most ransomware attacks start by clicking on a malicious link, viewing an ad with malware (malvertising), or opening phishing emails with a malicious attachment.
Getting caught up in these traps can lead to massive time and financial losses for healthcare organizations.
As a result of ransomware infection, critical operations and processes are slowed down or inoperable until the ransom is paid. Therefore, this consumes funds that could have been invested in new technology or used to improve care for patients.
Globally, ransomware accounted for 304.7 million attacks in the first half of 2021, an increase of 151% since 2020.
3. Insecure Medical Devices and Equipment
Almost every hospital contains a massive amount of healthcare data. It is common for a healthcare professional to use connected medical devices when treating patients.
Having secure access to medical devices and equipment is extremely important because these are frequently used.
Sadly, most hospitals do not prioritize this issue which causes major cyberattacks. By 2020 there were about five million unsecured medical devices connected to the internet of things and the internet of medical things. It allows attackers to gain complete control over insecure devices.
4. A distributed denial-of Service (DDoS) attack
DDoS attacks attempt to disrupt the performance and availability of websites and networks by flooding them with internet traffic. To bring down the server, cybercriminals use bots to send an unmanageable number of requests.
DDoS attacks, along with ransomware, are among the most destructive cyberattacks.
Furthermore, attackers can keep healthcare sites down for a long period and cause severe panic attacks, as healthcare providers can’t afford to remain unavailable for a long time.
5. Phishing attack
The purpose of a phishing attack is to trick users into disclosing their passwords or other personal information that attackers can use against them.
In most cases, phishing attacks are typically conducted through social engineering and discovered through a message or email. The cybercriminals may send a message stating that the password is invalid and provide a link to reset it.
As a result, the user won’t realize that the page isn’t original but engineered, and they’ll reset their password, sending it to the attackers. Attackers can easily access a user’s account and steal critical data.
6. Cloud-based threats
Many healthcare organizations are storing and managing petabytes of sensitive data in the cloud. However, 94% of healthcare organizations have concerns about their cloud security.
Thousands of users interact with the centralized server because the cloud model allows access from anywhere and at any time.
The more users access websites, the more chances of a cybersecurity attack. Big players like AWS and Dropbox also do not comply with all HIPPA rules.
Cybersecurity Solutions for the Healthcare Industry
Here are some ways you can ensure your organization’s cybersecurity efforts are always safeguarded and managed properly.
1. Establish a security culture
It is easy to establish a security culture when it is ingrained in your organization’s structure. Provide cybersecurity training and education to every team member and emphasize that everyone is responsible for protecting patient information.
2. Implement encryption in the cloud
Encryption is required for any cloud security environment. Cloud Encryption protects your data at rest, in use, and in transit. Essentially, encryption converts your data into code that requires a “key” to unlock—meaning that only authorized users can access the data. The encryption code protects your data from unauthorized or malicious users.
3. Use IAM Platform
Identity and access management (IAM) platforms are effective for cybersecurity in healthcare. IAM platforms allow you to control who has access to certain software, applications, files, and other sensitive data. It can prevent information from being accidentally leaked or shared with the wrong people.
IAM platforms often provide features like:
- Single sign-on
- Multi-factor authentication
- Virtual identity server
- User management system
Additionally, IAMs can improve security as well as create a better user experience, helping your employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. It can be used with in-house, cloud-based, or hybrid data environments, making it a versatile option for many healthcare organizations.
4. Control physical access to health data
Patient data should not be readily available to any employee in the organization. Establish a zero-trust policy and grant access to those who need to view or use the data within their daily work operations.
5. Maintain good password hygiene
Creating strong passwords that are around 15 characters long with a combination of special characters, numbers, and letters must be made mandatory. This could be one of the first steps toward safeguarding sensitive patient information. Maintaining good password hygiene starts with a good structure, so enforce frequent password updates and ensure employees understand the difference between strong and weak passwords.
Healthcare Cybersecurity impacts every part of the sector, from the confidentiality of sensitive health information to insurance costs and patient treatment.
According to industry professionals, healthcare lags in cybersecurity technology, standards, and practices. Most healthcare leaders understand that the only way to avoid extra and often onerous compliance laws is to voluntarily comply with the tightest standard to protect patients and their data.
Even though cybersecurity in healthcare is a concern today, the worst cyber-attacks might still be coming.
The healthcare industry faces significant challenges related to cybersecurity that are unique to that industry.
It is imperative that the best and brightest in computer science, medical research, and business work together to find new solutions to the challenges threatening the future of medical care.
How Techspian Healthcare Solutions can help
As a business improvement partner, Techspian is a cloud application development company that works with you to understand your key business challenges.
This enables us to select the best practice approaches that suit your business and build remarkable resilience in the changing cyber landscape.
From the best practice management system to testing physical infrastructure, we provide a range of solutions to meet your business requirements.
With our wide range of features & solutions, we help you enjoy high levels of cyber security throughout your business.
For more information get in touch with our experts today!