The healthcare and public health sector comprises various organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, telehealth vendors, and medical equipment manufacturers. These organizations handle many highly sensitive information, including patient data, treatment documentation, and financial records linked to patient insurance.
Organizations that rely heavily on digital records and third-party software are increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Threat actors specifically target such organizations to gain valuable data or network access, which they can use for profit in illicit communities or through an extortion campaign. The digitization of records and the growing reliance on third-party software only add to this vulnerability, making it highly likely that the number and severity of cyber-attacks will continue to rise. Consult with Healthcare IT Consulting specialists to secure your healthcare industry.
Top 4 Cyber Threats in Healthcare Industry
1. Data Breaches
According to a recent study by Statista, the average cost of a data breach in the healthcare sector amounted to 9.23 U.S. dollars between May 2020 and March 2021. So, healthcare cybersecurity has become critical to protecting patient data from unauthorized access, use, and disclosure. By securing systems, healthcare providers can prevent attacks and ensure essential medical information’s availability, confidentiality, and integrity, ultimately safeguarding patients’ lives and well-being. With healthcare data becoming increasingly valuable to cybercriminals, the importance of cybersecurity in the healthcare industry cannot be overstated.
Healthcare cyber threats have become prevalent due to various factors such as phishing attacks, fraudulent schemes, and vulnerabilities in healthcare vendor systems. These breaches are particularly concerning for the healthcare industry, which holds a vast amount of sensitive and confidential information. As a result, the healthcare sector has become a prime target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit this valuable data.
Data breaches in the healthcare industry are not uncommon. Various factors can contribute to the leakage of sensitive patient information. One is malware that steals credentials, insiders who intentionally or unintentionally disclose data or the loss of laptops or other devices.
2. Insider Threats
Many healthcare organizations overlook the threat of insiders, who pose a significant risk due to their legitimate access to network resources. These employees can easily bypass traditional cybersecurity risks in healthcare, making it a blind spot for many organizations.
An in-depth understanding of the network can allow employees to identify any existing vulnerabilities. However, this knowledge and the practical nature of health information could motivate a rogue employee to sell the information for personal gain. Alternatively, they may sell access codes to hackers, potentially putting sensitive data at risk.
While insider threats are often associated with malicious actors, it’s essential to recognize that not all incidents stem from intentional harm. Security breaches caused by employees who are careless or unaware of security threats, such as clicking on a malicious link or misplacing a device with access to PHI, are likely to occur more frequently. Therefore, it’s crucial for organizations to not only address intentional insider threats but also educate employees on proper security protocols to prevent unintentional breaches.
Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts files and renders devices unusable, causing significant disruptions to patient management and care operations. These attacks are often deployed through phishing emails containing malicious attachments or links and do not require extensive technical knowledge.
To combat this threat, it is highly recommended to implement robust email gateway security measures and educate users on email security best practices to prevent the spread of ransomware.
4. DDoS Attacks
A Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of a targeted server by overwhelming it with a massive volume of fake connection requests. This results in the server being forced offline, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate users. To execute a DDoS attack, the attacker creates a botnet by infecting multiple endpoints and IoT devices with malware. These compromised devices are then used to flood the server with fake requests in a coordinated attack.
DDoS attacks may not pose the same data exfiltration risks as ransomware attacks but can still cause significant operational disruptions. The advantage of a DDoS attack is that it can create the same level of disruption without compromising a network, making it a more easily deployable option on a larger scale.
Best Practices to Prevent Healthcare Attacks
1. Backups and Updates
Safeguard your most valuable data from ransomware attacks by regularly backing up your crucial information. Hackers often target backup copies to increase their chances of payment. To ensure the effectiveness of your backup strategy, identify which data is most critical to your business and regularly test the restoration process. Don’t leave your data vulnerable to cybercriminals – establish a routine backup plan to protect your business from potential ransomware threats.
Keeping your software up-to-date is crucial to protect against potential cybersecurity threats in healthcare. If you cannot update to the latest version of your software, consider using an intrusion prevention system (IPS) with a virtual patch. This system will help prevent cyber criminals from exploiting vulnerabilities in your operating system by blocking their attempts.
2. Expand Cyber Threat Awareness
To ensure your healthcare organization’s security, it’s crucial to help your staff recognize and avoid phishing attacks and other sophisticated techniques. By educating your team on identifying common cyber threats and malicious attack patterns, you can fortify your defenses and reduce the risk of successful attacks.
Enhance your cybersecurity knowledge with the convenience of webinars or by utilizing free resources to promote cyber awareness training.
3. Protect Mobile Gadgets
The emergence of laptops, smartphones, tablets, portable storage devices, and other mobile devices has revolutionized how electronic health records are collected, transmitted, and retrieved. This has undoubtedly brought convenience to healthcare professionals and patients alike. However, this convenience has also exposed a new threat to the confidentiality of health records. With these devices’ increasing mobility and storage capacity, they have become more susceptible to theft than traditional desktop computers.
Smartphones now routinely boast internal memory exceeding 32GB, meaning they can house a vast amount of sensitive data. As such, it is considered best practice to keep all sensitive health data away from mobile devices to prevent potential security breaches.
The healthcare industry faces numerous cyber threats that can compromise sensitive patient data, cause financial loss, and damage the reputation of healthcare organizations. Some of the top cyber threats in healthcare include ransomware attacks, insider threats, and DDoS attacks. To prevent these threats, healthcare organizations must implement robust cybersecurity measures such as cyber threats awareness, backups and updates, and regular vulnerability assessments. Additionally, healthcare organizations should stay up-to-date with the latest cyber threats and employ proactive measures to mitigate the risks of cyber attacks. To protect your patient data and maintain their trust, contact our security experts at IT Support Virginia.