Security in the healthcare industry is crucial as it involves patients’ personal information and private medical details. The industry is built on peoples’ trust, and any breach may result in unfavorable consequences.
In the last few decades, the healthcare industry has increased the use of advanced technologies, like software for maintaining patients’ profiles, storing healthcare data in the cloud, advanced medical devices, and other tools. These technological advancements have eased the work of healthcare providers and have led to a paperless environment. But in return, the risk of cyber attacks and data breaches have increased.
What are Some Cybersecurity Threats to the Healthcare Industry?
Healthcare is one of the most vulnerable industries when it comes to cybersecurity. In many cases, there are no proper security systems installed to protect the hospital database, and the people dealing with the hospital’s network are often unaware of the cybersecurity threats lurking in the shadows.
Healthcare information systems are vulnerable to the point that it can take weeks and sometimes even months before a cyber attack is acknowledged. The healthcare organizations keep on working with a hacked system without having any clue that it exists. This ignorance often results in billions of dollars of loss and affects millions of patients each year.
The Most Disastrous Cyber Attacks Against the Healthcare Industry
In the last few years, the healthcare industry has been exposed to several cyber attacks. The most noticeable among them are:
NHS Ransomware Attack
One of the major reasons hackers target healthcare organizations and hospitals is to get monetary benefits in terms of ransom.
A major ransomware attack happened in May 2017 – one victim was the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK. At the time, the WannaCry attack was the biggest in history affecting almost 200,000 computers at 16 health centers. The attack downed vital medical equipment and thousands of patients suffered.
Boston's Children Hospital DDoS Attack
DDoS is Distributed Denial of Service, and it happens when the network is overloaded to the point that it denies access to its receptionists. Sometimes DDoS happens accidentally, but most of the time it is created by cybercriminals to harm organizations.
One of the most memorable DDoS attacks in recent years targeted Boston's Children Hospital. In 2014, when the hospital was dealing with the case of parental withdrawal of a 14 years old girl, it was attacked by DDoS. The hospital had to bear the loss of $300,000 to overcome the damage caused by DDoS cyber attack.
Montpellier University Hospital Data Breach
A data breach is one of the most common types of cyber attack. Hackers and cybercriminals use phishing emails and manipulative websites to trick the user. Once the user or website visitor clicks on the link, he/she unknowingly provides the cybercriminal with access to the device and its network.
In March 2019, 600 computers of Montpellier University Medical Center were infected due to the small negligence of its employee, who clicked on a malicious link in the phishing email.
Apart from the external cybersecurity threats, the health industry sometimes has to face internal threats as well. These internal threats to the organizations are either due to human error or as a result of a breach of an employee contract.
Medjacking is manipulating medical devices and instruments. The malfunctioning of medical devices and instruments is distressing and may have fatal consequences.
If the medical apparatus shows faulty results, it could lead to the wrong prescription. Similarly, if respiratory devices are not operating properly it might cause harm to patients, rather than help.
Medjacking is often targeted, especially to harm influential personalities, and to damage the reputation of the healthcare organization.
Top Cybersecurity Tips to Protect Against Cyber Attacks During COVID-19
The rising number of cyber attacks against the healthcare industry is alarming. It is critical, now more than ever, that all healthcare organizations and hospitals must take measures to protect their systems from cyber attacks.
- Raise Awareness
Medical professionals and employees at hospitals are not necessarily technically inclined. It is essential to raise awareness among employees and workers of the healthcare industry to avoid data breaches due to human error.
- Secure the Network
The use of public Wi-Fi and insecure networks is a common practice, but it is a serious threat to cybersecurity. To protect their devices from cyber attacks, all professionals of the healthcare industry must use only secured networks. It is recommended to download a reputable VPN for maximizing network security.
- Maintain Devices
Hacking individual devices is easier than hijacking the whole system. Computers, tablets, smartphones, and any other device being used for professional purposes must be properly maintained.
Portable devices should be avoided while accessing sensitive information. Computers and laptops must have an updated operating system if they are used for professional purposes. It is also important to download only important software and applications on devices, to limit the chances of installing malware.
- Antimalware Software
All the devices that are used in the healthcare industry must be protected with an up-to-date version of antimalware and antivirus software. This will inhibit any malware and virus from entering your device and attacking the system. It will also notify the user about any malicious activity in the device.
- Limit Access to Information
How well the personal and private information of patients is protected can be a liability for hospitals. To avoid unauthorized access to sensitive data, hospitals must limit the people who can access it directly. It will also reduce the chances of a data breach by an employee.
- Use Encrypted Software
Doctors and other medical professionals share data and files with each other, to discuss and refer to other medical cases. They often make the mistake of using open-ended applications to share the files, which makes them vulnerable to cyber theft. It is essential to share only necessary data, and that too through encrypted tools and software only.
The healthcare industry is vulnerable to cyber attacks just like every other industry, although the costs – both human and monetary – can be devastating. The rising cybersecurity threats to this industry can be reduced significantly by taking protective measures.