Organizations that handle healthcare data need to be aware of cybersecurity risks and take steps to protect their patient information. The healthcare industry is growing at a rapid pace, and with that growth comes an increased risk of data breaches. Medical organizations need to ensure that their patient's data is protected by implementing strong cybersecurity measures.
Healthcare cybersecurity protects systems from intrusions by blocking illegal access to, use of, and disclosure of patient data. Cybersecurity for healthcare has great importance because it ensures the proper operation of medical systems and equipment and the preservation of the confidentiality and integrity of patient data. Cybersecurity in healthcare ensures the privacy and safety of the information that patients give to medical providers.
Healthcare cybersecurity attacks statistics are very high. Government Accountability Office reports that the number of cyberattacks on hospitals and other healthcare facilities increased by more than 160 percent between 2016 and 2018. According to a stat, in 2021, healthcare organizations experienced significant cyber security incidents in the US.
However, what exactly is cybersecurity in healthcare? How can you protect your organization from hackers, identity theft, and cyber-attacks? Well, here's everything you need to know about cyber security in healthcare. Let's dive in.
What is Cyber Security in Healthcare?
Healthcare cybersecurity is the practice of protecting health information from unauthorized access. It's the protection from misuse or disclosure.
The goal of healthcare cybersecurity is to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality. It secures the exchange of sensitive health information between healthcare providers. Also among patients and third parties.
A cybersecurity attack can result in the loss of various types of information. When stolen or mistakenly exposed to hackers, patients' medical records may be compromised. In a computer network hack, doctors may lose access to patient information.
Hospitals may experience financial losses if they cannot process payments after a system outage. Pharmaceutical companies may lose millions if they fail to prevent a breach. It could expose patient identities and other sensitive data.
Importance of Cybersecurity in Healthcare
Healthcare is arguably the most crucial industry in the world. Millions of people rely on the work done by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Each year they ensure to keep patients healthy and live their lives the best they can. But what many people don't realize is that the healthcare industry also represents some of the biggest security concerns.
Cyberattacks on hospitals and medical facilities are skyrocketing. Ransomware is becoming a growing concern and putting patients' sensitive information at risk. While health companies are getting better at protecting themselves, they still have a long way to go before they feel secure.
This is where cybersecurity comes in. It's vital for medical organizations to understand precisely what are cybersecurity threats. How hackers target them, and how best to fight back against cyber threats before they impact patient data or even patients themselves.
Healthcare providers risk leaving their patients vulnerable if they don't take precautions. So, cybersecurity is vital to everyone in the healthcare industry today. It defends attacks and allows working closely with legislators and regulators.
Why Healthcare Is a Target for Cyberattacks
Healthcare is a target because it's an industry that is so reliant on technology and is one of the most vulnerable to cyberattacks. It is also one of the most sensitive industries regarding security and privacy. The data generated by medical devices, patients, and medical professionals are highly susceptible and valuable to hackers.
Healthcare is one of the world's largest industries, with an estimated $3 trillion in revenue annually. It means that it's a lucrative target for hackers who want to extract data from healthcare organizations.
On the black market, stolen health records may sell for ten times more than stolen debit card numbers. The average cost of remediation per stolen health record is $410. But the average cost of remediation for each stolen non-health document is $150.
Growing demands for patient data and outdated technology are the main reasons why the healthcare industry has become the primary target of cyberattacks.
1. Attackers Highly Value Private Patient Information
There is a massive amount of patient information stored in hospitals. As a result, the business is increasingly a target for hackers looking to make a quick buck off sensitive data. The confidentiality of patients' information is paramount for these institutions.
Now more than ever before, with the implementation of GDPR this year, healthcare facilities must take measures to protect patient data.
2. Attackers Can Easily Hack Medical Devices
There are a few cons to modern healthcare technology. In addition to X-ray machines and insulin pumps, defibrillators are also essential medical devices. Online security and patient data are at risk with these devices.
Even though the machines don't store patient data, attackers can use them to attack a server. In the worst situation, hackers can take over a medical device, prohibiting hospitals from giving lifesaving care.
Hackers know that medical equipment does not directly store patient information. However, they regard them as an easy target without the security of other network devices like laptops and desktops.
Attacks on medical equipment can have serious consequences for healthcare facilities. They can allow hackers to access different network devices or install ransomware. Secure network devices can mitigate the damage caused by attacks on medical devices.
3. Staff Not Educated on Internet Risks
Health care workers lack the knowledge and skills to identify and counteract online dangers. The ability to quickly and securely share data is essential for medical workers. They must have confidence that patient information is safe.
4. Additionally, Smaller Healthcare Groups Are at Risk
All healthcare institutions are vulnerable to internet threats. Large organizations possess the most data, making them an attractive target for cybercriminals. But smaller firms have lesser security budgets.
Smaller practices are not uncommon to be viewed as a target. They are considered a backdoor into larger organizations. Because their cybersecurity measures are usually less complicated and more up-to-date.
Health care providers are now responsible for handling highly confidential patient information. This makes it imperative to implement robust cybersecurity measures. The healthcare industry is starting to realize the importance of allocating more resources to cybersecurity.
5. Inadequate Healthcare Technology
Healthcare technology has made remarkable advances in recent years, but several areas have lagged. As a result of limited finances and reluctance to learn new techniques, medical equipment often becomes obsolete. So, hospitals must work hard to keep up with the most recent versions of software and security patches.
These updates typically patch security flaws to keep systems functional. Despite this, some suppliers will no longer support end-of-life software. A hospital can still protect sensitive patient information with additional safeguards.
Switching to safer software can be a hassle because of cost or resistance from hospital staff. Healthcare providers must adapt to new online risks to ensure the safety of their patient's personal information.
Setting aside funds and putting money into the best IT solutions for your organization is critical. Think about how your staff wants to work and stay on top of new threats.
In 2018, a significant number of cyberattacks targeted healthcare organizations. The most notable attack was on Anthem, which experienced a total hack in which hackers stole the personal information of more than 80 million people.
There was a second cyberattack against Dyn, which affected parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. These two attacks were so significant that they became known as “The Biggest Data Breaches.”
Wyoming Community Health System
In 2019, a cyberattack victimized a small Wyoming community health system. There are approximately 20 clinics and a 90-bed hospital operated by Campbell County Health in Gillette. Attackers encrypted medical devices and confidential patient information and then demanded ransom.
In the wake of the attack, Campbell County Health canceled several services. It included radiology and endocrinology. We have heard that the organization has transferred patients to South Dakota and Denver facilities.
There were no working cash registers, inboxes, or fax machines. Due to difficulties accessing prescription records, patients needed to bring their actual prescriptions. Doctors used pen and paper to record patients' conditions.
In a video address to the community, Andy Fitzgerald, CEO of Campbell County Health, said, "CCH is not the first hospital to be hit by ransomware." This cybercrime affects every company. We weren't the first or the last to experience this, unfortunately. Individuals and organizations must be vigilant at home and work to avoid this crime. CCH had robust systems before the attack, and we've added measures, but the threat remains.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges
The most significant healthcare sector cybersecurity challenges include:
- Patient information is helpful on the darknet.
- There are often insufficient security controls on medical devices.
- Remote access to medical data is essential for medical professionals.
- Training for cyber risk among healthcare workers is inadequate.
- Many healthcare facilities use outdated technology.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Attacks & Threats
Healthcare cybersecurity is an important topic to understand. It's not always easy to know what threats are most common in healthcare, but we'll help you with that.
Ransomware and Other Malware
A Ransomware attack is one of the most common types of malware that can affect healthcare organizations. It encrypts data on a computer system and then demands payment from the user to decrypt it. This type of malware can attack hospitals and clinics. If you've ever heard of infections caused by ransomware, it's probably because of this type of malware.
Phishing attacks are similar to ransomware. They attempt to steal users' sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers. They trick them into entering their credentials into fake websites.
Such websites are designed to look like something they recognize (like their bank). In contrast, phishing attacks do not encrypt any data on your device; instead, they grab your password to gain access to your account.
Learn more about phishing attacks here.
Healthcare organizations need to be aware that their data is valuable. Unfortunately, attackers are taking advantage of this fact for their gain. It can lead to data breaches exposing sensitive information about your patients and clients.
When this happens, you'll need to take immediate action to prevent further damage. Ensure that you have a plan for responding to any potential repercussions.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks
These attacks involve flooding the target with traffic from multiple sources. It causes the website or application to become unavailable for users or may even crash altogether. DDoS assaults prevent doctors from accessing vital patient data. Then it becomes impossible to provide adequate medical care.
Spear Phishing & Business Email Compromise (BEC)
A Spear Phishing attack involves sending a link to an attachment that looks like it came from a legitimate organization. It tricks people into giving up their personal information. According to reports, the CDC sent emails with links that looked like they were from healthcare organizations.
The main threat to healthcare cybersecurity is malicious insiders working in the system who want to exploit it for their benefit. Insiders can include employees, contractors, and family members.
Unawareness of security risks
A lack of security awareness is also a significant problem in healthcare. It is common for people not to know how to protect themselves from hackers.
To keep your patients safe, you need to know how to prevent bad actors from infiltrating your network. What tools you can use to monitor activity on your network, and how best to respond if someone breaches your system?
Best Practices for Healthcare Cybersecurity
The following are best practices for healthcare cybersecurity:
Each hospital cybersecurity program must begin with a thorough risk assessment. Before taking any measures for risk mitigation, it is necessary to thoroughly assess the risk at hand. At the very least, once a year, you should do or review your risk assessments.
It is ideal for every healthcare business to have both basic & advanced security measures. It will help to ensure layered security so that if one system fails, another will fill its place. A virus, for instance, may breach an organization's security system but be blocked by an anti-virus program.
However, not all security incidents are avoidable. Here, blocking and tackling are essential. A strong incident response plan is required for healthcare cybersecurity. Any security issues should either be prevented or addressed in a timely and efficient manner. A few basic security controls are listed below:
- Virus protection
- Backup and restoration of data
- Data protection
- Email gateway
- Restricted encryption
- Archive files and data encryption
- Transit encryption
- Plan for incident response
- Anti-intrusion system
- Secure disposal
- Policies and procedures
- Web gateway
Security controls that are advanced include:
- Devices that prevent theft
- Disaster recovery and continuity plans
- Multi-factor authentication
- Segregation of networks
- Testing for penetration
- Vulnerability scans
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is an agency within the HHS that is focused on promoting the use of health information technology in the healthcare industry. It is also involved in various initiatives related to the exchange of health information. Here is a document outlining their top 10 tips for Cyber Security in Healthcare.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Laws & Regulations
Healthcare is a massive industry with a lot of money at stake. To protect your organization, you must follow several laws and regulations.
HIPAA protects health information from unauthorized access or disclosure. It imposes strict security standards on covered entities (usually health care providers).
HIPAA requires that covered entities implement strong security measures. When they are dealing with protected health information (PHI), they should include encryption. Along with the authentication procedures, and other safeguards measures. They are created to prevent unwanted access or disclosure of PHI.
HIPAA for cyber security also requires covered entities to provide individuals with notice about their legal rights. It includes giving notice regarding who has access to their PHI. How they can request copies of their PHI, what happens if they change their minds about sharing the information, etc.
READ MORE: What is a HIPAA violation?
2. The European Union GDPR
It goes even further than HIPAA by requiring companies to follow strict data handling rules. Companies must prove that they have taken steps to ensure a person's right to privacy is protected before they can use any data collected from them.
3. Act on Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents
In Canada, companies that gather PHI about individuals must adhere to strict guidelines. They must handle that information under the Private Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act. They must also follow PIPEDA's Privacy Principles, which protect consumer privacy rights.
4. Healthcare Cybersecurity Act of 2022
The Healthcare Cybersecurity Act of 2022 requires CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) to carry out activities aimed at improving the cybersecurity of the public health sector and healthcare industry. To improve the cybersecurity of the public health sector, CISA and the HHS (Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force) must work together. This includes developing and implementing effective cyber-threat indicators and measures.
CISA will also provide training on how to manage the risks associated with cybersecurity in the healthcare industry and the public health sector. They will also conduct a study on the various risks that affect the cybersecurity of the public health sector and healthcare industry. They will look into topics such as the impact of these risks on small and medium-sized enterprises and the availability of sufficient cybersecurity personnel.
READ MORE: Healthcare Cybersecurity Regulations.
Due to government-supported incentives, many healthcare providers have already adopted electronic health records. Some of them are planning to adopt shortly. The adoption of these new systems will likely increase cyber-attack vectors.
Healthcare organizations should take steps to protect confidential patient information. By understanding and anticipating common risks, healthcare cybersecurity providers can help. They can mitigate cyber-attacks against their organization and avoid public embarrassment. Good Healthcare Cybersecurity Solutions can help you in avoiding regulatory scrutiny, and financial loss.