Everything You Need to Know About Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Are you a medical organization, wondering if you’re HIPAA compliant?

You’ve probably implemented changes in the past to safeguard the privacy of your data. Have you considered the benefits of cybersecurity in healthcare?

In recent years, there have been over 500 healthcare data breaches annually. An IBM report revealed that the average cost of a US healthcare data breach was $15 million. This is almost double the cost of medical data breaches in other countries.

Cybersecurity in healthcare is more critical than in other industries. Lives often depend on the smooth functioning of the medical systems that are at risk.

We’re going to break down the current trends and types of threats. We’ll also cover risk analysis in healthcare cybersecurity. Lastly, we’ll look at the importance of security awareness training, so read on!

Current Trends

The recent cybersecurity trends in healthcare often center on the coronavirus pandemic. With this fear and urgency, the data of medical organizations are at an elevated risk. Last year, a ransomware attack may have caused the death of a patient in a German hospital.

The increasing reliance of the healthcare industry on technology raises cybersecurity risks.

The internet of things (IoT) refers to smart objects. These physical items often have sensors, software, and web connectivity. This growing list of medical devices poses an expanding vulnerability in hospitals.

To a cybersecurity team, preventing an attack is better than dealing with the damage.

When the worst does happen, effective crisis management strategies must kick in immediately. A cyber kill chain process must trace the attack with real-time alerts. Quick action is necessary to safeguard sensitive information and data.

Unlike other industries, healthcare organizations are unable to go offline during an attack. That’s why advanced diagnostic tools are a key focus for medical cybersecurity specialists.

Types of Threats

What are the top cybersecurity threats in healthcare today?

Protecting email communications is a major concern. Most sensitive data will end up passing frequently through email.

Encrypting this data while in transit through systems and portals is essential. Every transfer of information is potentially susceptible to interception. HIPAA compliance training in handling data is a need for all employees.

Phishing attacks often involve convincing malware. The hacker will usually gain access to a system via a malicious file.

Next, an individual is tricked into transmitting sensitive information through an unprotected channel. This can take place through email, web, social platforms, or a phone call.

When a phishing attack takes place over a text messaging service, it’s referred to as SMiShing.

Employees and individuals should stay vigilant against such attacks.

These attacks can be hard to spot at times. Grammatical errors are one give-away, but also wording that directs urgent action. The suggestion of monetary gain is common, or on the flip side, the use of fear can manipulate victims.

Ransomware involves the encryption of data, with a financial demand attached. In this situation, the data is held hostage by a medical organization. Sometimes, it’s also threatened with deletion. Complying with the demands of the attacker doesn’t always result in regaining access. 

Physical devices carry a very high-security risk.

An attack on an unattended device is called an evil maid attack. This attack may result in undetectable future access. An example of a high-risk device is a laptop that’s left in one location while an employee is elsewhere.

Risk Analysis

The cybersecurity challenges in healthcare should be identified during a thorough risk assessment. These should take place annually at the least and should prompt swift action. Security policy priorities balance the likelihood of an attack against the perceived damage.

Within medical organizations, legacy systems (outdated computer software) are unfortunately all too common. These systems suffer from long-expired updates and a lack of current security patches.

Unsupported systems are often in place because they keep older medical devices functioning.

Legacy software may need a legacy operating system too. This exposes an even greater vulnerability. Budget concerns often motivate the lack of an upgrade to supported devices.

Vulnerability testing is used to remove weaknesses in a current cyber defense strategy.

After risk analysis is complete, various security levels should be in place. These should focus on areas with a greater probability of attack. Many layers of security provide fail-safe warnings if an initial gateway fails.

Time-sensitive alerts enable threats to be stopped and investigated with a rapid-response.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a most-basic but essential security practice. Other recommended cybersecurity policies include: 

  • Training in security awareness
  • Software and OS update policies
  • Offline back-up restoration and data recovery system
  • Firewall and antivirus software
  • Encryption of data at every stage
  • Secure gateway for email and web access
  • System to detect and prevent unauthorized access
  • Secure use of mobile devices

Security Awareness

Improving cybersecurity in healthcare is an urgent undertaking for all medical organizations. Staff and patient education is the core of any successful cyber defense strategy.

A supply chain attack could use the login credentials of a third-party vendor to access a network. All individuals and organizations with access to a medical system need education. Training on secure communication policies is a must.

Healthcare staff is the primary focus for educating on information security safe practices. With the growing field of telehealth, privacy is an urgent concern. As well as internal security policies, a medical organization needs HIPAA compliance training.

Employees should stay up-to-date with current and emerging threats. They also need to know how they should respond. Staff is the front line of defense, so should work closely with cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity in Healthcare

We’ve shown that cybersecurity in healthcare requires education on constant and evolving threats. Don’t assume that today’s cyber attackers will use the same tactics tomorrow.

If you’re a healthcare provider that transmits information, we can help. We help medical organizations and business associates become and stay HIPAA compliant. We provide excellent service from day one with risk assessment, documentation, and training.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.