Here’s Why Healthcare Cyber Risks Continue to Be on The Rise

 

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If there is a time to discuss cybersecurity and risks in the healthcare sector, it is now.

Averaging about 172 targeted ransomware attacks worth more than $157 million in the last 4-5 years alone surely cause for concern. The concern is aggravated when you learn that ransomware is just a small cog in the grand scheme of different attacks which this industry faces.

A top challenge here is where the threats penetrate through. User data is not only stolen from the organization's database itself, but also via employee and patient breaches.

Thus, an understanding of where the attacks are coming from – and what to do against them – is crucial.

Ransomware

We touched on this in the introduction alone.

The cankerworm that is ransomware is a multi-billion-dollar industry globally. Much of that illicit number is contributed by the healthcare sector alone.

It is common advice to reject the attacker's request to make payment in these cases. However, these threat actors know that they have caught the clinics and hospitals which they attack between a rock and a hard place.

Healthcare facilities need unfettered access to the patient records on hand to function well. Disruption to that puts many lives at stake. So, they are most likely to pay.

Besides beefing up security initially, most of these healthcare facilities will have done better with a backup file.

Should such an attack ever occur, they simply have to wipe down their systems, restore from backup and get back to business as usual.

Software attacks

The global healthcare industry demands some of the top-of-the-line software.

With a growing number of companies wanting a slice of that cake, there is a barrage of software solutions around today.

That, in a way, makes it easier for the threat actors to steal data from all cadres of this industry.

From connected wearables for seniors to patient tracking software, a single vulnerability could spell doom for the data on hand.

These attacks seem to be going nowhere because no software is perfect.

However, that is not caused to resign to fate. Going with established software/ hardware manufacturers increases the chances of never falling victim to these classic attacks.

In the same vein, it is important to update this software and firmware as soon as a new version becomes available. Otherwise, you stand the risk of getting exposed to exploits when they do happen.

Insider Threats

Verizon maintained in a report that about 46% of healthcare organizations had a threat actor working within their ranks.

This is one of the biggest threats to plug. Since the threat actor knows all the security protocols in place, they could simply breach them – or give someone else the access needed to steal the data.

The report maintains that some of these insider players might be bribed, coerced, or otherwise manipulated into giving off sensitive details.

Likewise, the inside threat might be solely motivated by the threat actor themselves.

There have been cases of hospital employees who have used their access to steal patient data, mine credit card info, and run elaborate scams for a long time.

If that can happen, anything can happen.

A thorough background check of anyone coming into the healthcare ranks is the first place to look here. Furthermore, restrict access to sensitive data to only those who need it. That way, a threat can be curbed faster since you know where it could have originated from.

Employee Negligence

Sometimes, negligence is not an active thing but a passive action.

For example, consider a healthcare employee who:

●       Connects random external devices to their work computer (maybe to transfer files)

●       Leaves their computer unattended in a public place (such as a coffee shop)

●       Leaves their laptop hanging around without as much as a password to protect it

●       Has a work computer to whom everyone has the password.

●       Now works from home, because of the pandemic, and doesn’t invest in serious network security.

The possibilities are endless.

In each of these cases, the employee is not intentionally putting the data they have at hand at risk.

They might know how confidential they have to be with such data but not how important the data is, overall.

That is why healthcare facilities need to invest a lot into training their staff strength on cybersecurity measures.

The good news is that consumer security options allow these employees to stay safe in the comfort of their own homes. From a simple VPN download to encrypt the network and files sent through it to an antimalware installation to keep the malicious codes out, consumer security is getting easier and more accessible.

Budgeting Crises

We cannot talk about everything else only to forget the role of budgets in the big game.

Healthcare facilities tend to focus most of their allocations on expanding the business. That could mean anything from funding more ground-breaking research to adding more top talents, bringing in more pieces of equipment, and all that.

However, they tend to forget the role of cybersecurity in keeping the very fragile sheet of what they do together.

For cybersecurity issues in the healthcare industry to dwindle at all, top management needs to take a more proactive approach. Cybersecurity experts should be given an audience – and the decision-makers should be ready to listen.

They would be surprised to learn how exposed they are, and how easily their flaws can be patched up before it becomes a serious issue on their hands.

Flip the Switch Today

Healthcare data contains a lot of sensitive data.

It is not only names and addresses, which are sensitive on their own. It is specific diseases that could be targeted by scammers, health profiles that could be targeted by organ thieves, and credit card details on a platter of gold for financial criminals.

Tightening up the loose ends costs less than what the industry would have to pay to rectify a breach, anyways. If there is a better time to start, it would be now.

 

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