Why the Healthcare Industry is the Latest Target of Cyberattacks

healthcare cybersecurity

Any organization can be the target of a cyberattack, but the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to these types of threats. Despite enhanced security measures designed to keep important information confidential, the volume of sensitive data is too tempting for hackers and virtual trespassers to resist.

According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Report, data loss is increasing in the healthcare sector at a rapid rate, with ransomware and web applications being the most popular way for external threats to strike.

But why is the healthcare industry so vulnerable to cybercrime? Read on to find out why healthcare organizations are falling foul of cybercriminals and learn how to stop them in their tracks:

1. Data is valuable

For hackers and cybercriminals, stored data is an extremely valuable commodity. Healthcare organizations store eons of data, so it is an obvious place for cybercriminals to target. Personal, non-medical information can be used to steal identities or clone documentation, for example, which means the data can be sold on or used by the hacker to generate vast amounts of money.

Furthermore, the unauthorized access of private, medical information puts healthcare organizations in the crosshairs for ransomware and crimeware attacks in general. When unscrupulous internet users can effectively hold this data hostage and demand a ransom, the healthcare industry becomes a prime target for such attacks.

2. Numerous personnel

It’s not unusual for hundreds or thousands of staff to work at one medical facility, which means IT systems must facilitate numerous logins. As technology advances, remote access to systems is expected, which further increases the risk of cyberattacks.

In addition to this, a lack of training or vigilance among staff can increase the risk of someone gaining unauthorized access to the system.

When the personnel using an IT system are unaware or unable to implement effective security measures, the likelihood of a successful attack increases. In healthcare environments, where staff are working in a fast-paced and high-pressure setting, it’s not surprising that human error can contribute to the rate of cyber infiltration taking place.

3. Lack of updates

Perhaps understandably, many healthcare organizations are slow to update their IT systems. Hesitant of downtime and with the need to access data 24/7/365, it’s easy to see why healthcare managers are reluctant to facilitate planned IT updates.

Of course, failing to implement timely updates inevitably means that many healthcare organizations are using outdated and ineffective security measures. As a result, the industry with arguably the most valuable data to hackers becomes one of the easiest to access.

4. Varied security protocols

In a survey conducted by HIMSS, healthcare organizations often showed a sporadic approach to cybersecurity and, in many cases, security protocols varied within the same organization. One department may enact a firewall, while others may work without this online protection, for example. Similarly, anti-virus software may be used by some facilities, but not others.

With no end-to-end IT security in place, systems remain vulnerable to attack. In fact, a lack of security could mean that far more cyberattacks have taken place that have yet to be identified.

Additionally, this ad hoc approach to security means staff are consistently switching from one security measure to another, thus increasing the likelihood of them eschewing online security altogether.

Increasing Cyber Security in the Healthcare Industry

Although the healthcare industry is subject to enhanced data protection regulations, this has done little to protect the sector from data breaches and cyberattacks. Conversely, the perceived value of the data makes them a prime target for attacks.

However, there are ways for healthcare organizations to protect their patients, staff, and reputation. With support from a managed IT provider, for example, healthcare firms can access the real-time protection they require. Additionally, early threat identification, multi-factor authentication, and personnel training can be undertaken to increase cybersecurity within the healthcare industry.

Managed IT services give healthcare organizations the opportunity to reassert their cybersecurity and develop new strategies to create impenetrable systems. However, it’s vital that action is taken now.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Health and Social Security have issued statements in recent weeks, warning of the ‘increased and imminent threat’ to healthcare organizations. If healthcare companies and government agencies want to mitigate risks, it’s essential that organizations take action now and seek expert advice to secure their systems and protect against further threats.