While advances in technology have greatly benefited the healthcare industry in marvelous ways, technology has also made healthcare vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. The combination of limited cybersecurity practices, the storage of sensitive data, and the need to maintain business continuity has made healthcare a prime target for cybercriminals.
To safeguard patient information and healthcare data security, your organization must understand and address the biggest cybersecurity threats to the healthcare sector.
What makes cybersecurity threats especially scary to healthcare?
It is not hyperbole to say that when it comes to healthcare, lives are on the line. The healthcare industry strives to meet the medical needs of countless people, and in many cases, that means preserving lives. A hospital or other healthcare provider cannot afford any loss of business continuity when people's health and livelihood are at stake.
In addition, the healthcare industry handles highly sensitive and personal data, including credit card and banking numbers, Social Security numbers, and insurance information, as well as medical data. Such data has been used to target and exploit patients. All of this means cybersecurity should be a chief concern for any healthcare organization.
The 5 biggest cybersecurity threats
Of the many methods cybercriminals utilize to threaten the healthcare industry, these five stand out:
Ransomware is one of the most prevalent cybersecurity threats to healthcare. It's a malicious software that blocks access to a computer system or files until a ransom is paid. These are systems or files that may be needed for any life-saving information they contain.
To mitigate the damage of a ransomware attack, it's crucial to regularly back up data using a cloud-based system. However, even with backups, the potential leakage of patient healthcare information remains a significant concern. Prevention is the best approach to dealing with ransomware. This involves investing in your IT department, keeping software up to date, and training employees to recognize phishing emails and other intrusion attempts.
Phishing is another all too common cybersecurity threat to healthcare. It involves disguising malicious links within seemingly innocuous emails. Given that 90% of most cybercrimes begin with a phishing attack, healthcare information security initiatives should focus on robust phishing defenses.
Advanced cybercriminals will craft phishing emails that appear as replies in existing email threads, disguised as legitimate correspondence. When users click on these links, they are directed to a decoy webpage resembling a login screen for familiar software. Cybercriminals quickly exploit these credentials to gain access to healthcare systems.
3. HIPAA compliance gaps
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) establishes strict requirements for safeguarding health records and sensitive information. However, many healthcare entities struggle to fully incorporate these security controls, leaving gaps for cyberattackers.
To identify these vulnerabilities without overhauling your entire cybersecurity framework, consider using attack surface management. This involves the continuous monitoring of all points in your organization's systems that could be targeted for a cyberattack, as well as the response to any detected attack.
4. Distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks
DDoS attacks flood a targeted server with fake connection requests, effectively taking it offline. These attacks often involve multiple devices capable of interfacing with the internet that are coerced into forming a botnet through malware infections.
While DDoS attacks don't carry the same data exfiltration risks as ransomware, they can cause substantial operational disruptions, which can mean terrible repercussions for a healthcare organization. You can reduce the effect of DDoS attacks through use of reverse proxy servers. These are servers that act as intermediaries between your systems, the internet, and web browsers, monitoring and controlling the requests that go between them.
5. Unauthorized access and disclosure
As per a study conducted in 2022, unauthorized access or disclosure make up 88% of data breaches. In 2023, human error has exposed over seven million health records. These numbers underscore how inadequate staff training regarding data protection procedures puts your practice at risk.
Establish comprehensive security procedures and ensure your staff receives in-depth training from your software vendor. Conduct quick refreshers to regularly update your team on security protocols and evolving healthcare standards. Partner with a vendor who provides one-on-one, custom training for a more significant effect.
By learning to recognize these cybersecurity threats and how to counteract them, they become less scary to you, your healthcare organization, and the patients who depend on you.
If you want to learn more about cyberthreats and how to protect your business from them, consult with one of our IT experts. Contact Kortek Solutions today.