Introduction

In the past few years, the world has significantly changed as digital technology has revolutionized almost every aspect of life and transformed every industry. The health sector is no exception; the evolving trend is perhaps more noticeable in the healthcare industry than in others. For instance, AI-enabled frontier technologies enable care providers to diagnose diseases better, extend their lifespan, and save lives. Today, most healthcare organizations are digital, and care providers are employing computer-implemented or enabled hardware and software to allow care providers to offer safe and compassionate patient care.

Although healthcare providers and innovators are dedicated to saving lives and curing disease, their systems are a prime target for cybercriminals, and hospital systems and records continue to be breached. There has never been a more critical time for healthcare data security, as cybercriminals develop increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to attack healthcare organizations. The dramatic increase in cyber-attacks compromises sensitive patient information and undermines patient safety and public confidence in the healthcare industry.

While many healthcare organizations are committed to safeguarding patients’ privacy regardless of the means, some are still lagging when it comes to Cybersecurity and keeping up with modern times. Today more than ever, health care organizations hold a great deal of information about their patients, including their medical records, medical histories, and insurance information. For every advancement in technology, improvement delivered by automation, interoperability, and data analytics, increases the vulnerability to malicious cyberattacks as well. Hence it is necessary for healthcare organizations to have a comprehensive and agile security plan that can mitigate security threats.

Before we move further, let’s look at

What is Cybersecurity in Healthcare?

Health care organizations, whether large or small, are prime targets for cybercrime. Especially in today’s electronic world, Cybersecurity is a critical aspect of the healthcare industry, and safeguarding data is vital for the normal functioning of any organization. The goal of Cybersecurity in healthcare is to protect electronic information and assets against unauthorized access, use, and disclosure.

Healthcare organizations use a variety of devices and systems, including Electronic health record (EHR), e-prescription systems, clinical decision support systems, practice management systems, radiology information systems, computerized physician order entry systems, devices that are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), infusion pumps, remote patient monitoring devices, and more, all these are vulnerable to cyber security attacks.

Healthcare organizations are subjected to many different kinds of cybersecurity threats such as ransomware, malware, phishing & spear phishing, data breaches, DDoS Attacks, insider threats, and business email compromise. Therefore, it is necessary for healthcare organizations to adopt a multi-faceted, sophisticated approach to security such as educating healthcare staff, restricting access to data & applications, implementing data usage controls, log and monitoring use, encrypting data at rest and in transit, securing mobile devices of staffs, mitigate connected device risks, conduct regular risk assessments, back up data to a secure, offsite location, compliance to HIPAA’s privacy and security rules and more.

Let us look at some of the main reasons why healthcare is one of the biggest targets for cyber-attacks.

Patient data is Worth a Lot of Money for hackers

Healthcare organizations store an incredible amount of health records and other patient-related information. However, this patient data is in high demand in the black market and is worth a lot of money to hackers making the Healthcare industry a prime target for cybercriminals. Hackers may be able to gain access to thousands of patient’s personal information in a single cyberattack. There have been instances in which hackers have sold hacked patient information back to the hospital by using ransomware to hold the hospital’s information hostage until they receive funds to return it.

Security of medical records is a primary concern for those working in the healthcare industry due to the prevalence of patient-related information. All healthcare organizations are legally obliged to secure their patient’s data. Failing to do so will likely result in healthcare organizations ending up spending lots of money on ransomware attacks. Furthermore, it’s becoming clear that the cost of securing confidential patient data with solutions like multi-factor authentication (MFA) is dramatically less than the pay-out from ransomware or similar attacks. Furthermore, the multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution helps authenticate the user with more than one piece of data, and then it generates a unique password each time the user logs in. In turn, this makes it harder for hackers to steal passwords and other information.

Healthcare Staff is often aren’t prepared to deal with cyber threats

To enhance healthcare cybersecurity resilience and minimize cyber risks, medical professionals must be trained to be better prepared for all the healthcare cybersecurity risks they will likely encounter. However, medical professionals are usually undertrained, and it’s can be pretty challenging to educate and inform the medical staff about cyber threats as they have competing priorities in varied roles and time limitations.

Healthcare staff must be familiarized with basic online protection, best practices and training to identify common Cybersecurity and medical device risks as medical devices usually collect, store, and transmit protected healthcare information over the network, posing a security risk to patient information.

To empower medical staff, it would be beneficial to provide a simple user interface and a secure network that is quick and easy to access. Furthermore, solutions like SSO and MFA continue to gain popularity as they use a one-time code – adding additional security layers without requiring the user to know anything more than their own login credentials.

Medical devices are an easy entry point for hackers

Medical devices are a convenient entry point for attackers. Despite the numerous benefits of technological advances in the healthcare sector, cybercriminals take advantage of these developments. Medical devices like drug dispensers, ECG monitors, x-rays, insulin pumps, defibrillators, remote monitoring devices and many more can be used by hackers as a means to launch an attack on their connected servers and steal confidential data.

In a worst-case scenario, hackers can either shut down or take complete control over the medical device, which would prevent healthcare organizations from providing life-saving treatment to patients. Medical devices are an easy target since they don’t come with the same level of security as devices such as computers. Unfortunately, most hospitals are unable to maintain their security due to the fact that they have so many devices, and all of their networks are potential access points for hackers.

Staff Accessing Data Remotely

At times, staff members may need remote access to information; these circumstances create a new vulnerability for hackers to exploit. It is dangerous to connect to devices remotely because devices are not always secure, and employees may not be trained to handle cybersecurity threats and secure devices. Additionally, just one hacked device can expose a whole organization wide open. 

Risk-based authentication (RBA) can be used by organizations whose staff use multiple devices at the same time. Using this solution, IT staff can set up policies that indicate whether a given device is at risk based on factors such as the user, the location of the device and more. Furthermore, any unusual activity is flagged to ensure sensitive patient information is never exposed to unsafe devices. 

Healthcare information needs to be open and shareable

At times, it is necessary for staff to have access to confidential patient data, both locally & remotely, and on multiple devices. Due to the urgency of the medical industry, staff members must be able to share information immediately – there’s no time to pause and consider the security implications of the devices they’re using. The primary concern here is that the devices used to share information are not always secure.

If users access data remotely, they may need only certain privileges to perform their tasks, not the access to whole system or full admin account privileges. Such precautions reduce the chances of admin accounts being compromised. For healthcare organizations, any solution that can save time and money by automatically regulating user permissions without compromising patient data is a must-have. A multi-factor authentication solution ensures only authorized users can access sensitive data, preventing attacks from compromised credentials or unauthorized users.

Legacy Technology makes it vulnerable to attacks

Financial constraints and a hesitancy to learn new systems have left many healthcare organizations with outdated technology and legacy devices. While new frameworks, IoT inventories, advanced connected medical device inventories, and predictive maintenance, IoT systems may receive more periodic updates to improve security than Legacy clinical devices.

Medical device manufacturers are not able to keep up with the escalating vulnerabilities in the healthcare environment due to regulatory requirements and software development cycles.

To ensure the security of their data information, healthcare organizations must constantly adapt to the latest technologies that address the cyber threats aimed at their connected medical devices and systems.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity risks in healthcare show no signs of slowing down. While the future of healthcare is constantly evolving as new technologies emerge faster than ever, so healthcare organizations must become more prepared to thwart threats to their IT infrastructure as new technologies emerge. Cybersecurity continues to pose challenges for the healthcare industry, so industry leaders must invest time, effort, and resources to protect themselves. Ensuring that all staff members have received adequate training is one of the most important factors to keep in to consider.

Since cyber-attacks in healthcare are on the rise and becoming increasingly sophisticated, getting outside expertise is critical for minimizing disruption and maintaining the safety of your patients and employees. Sparity is one such cybersecurity service provider that offers focused security solutions that suit your specific organizational needs to help your organization protect itself from cyber-attacks and grow in the years ahead.

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