Cybercriminals are targeting healthcare organizations more than ever, leaving staff with less and less time to learn about online security threats.
Sophos observed a 94% increase in healthcare cyberattacks between 2021-2022 and the effects of these cyberattacks go far beyond financial and reputational damage. Ponemon Institute research found a direct link between cyberattacks and increased patient mortality.
Healthcare spending on cybersecurity is growing at an unprecedented rate as the demand for confidential patient data increases, although, outdated systems leave many vulnerable despite their best efforts. Given eight key reasons why this industry has become such a popular target of attack, it’s critical that healthcare leaders have all appropriate resources necessary to fight back against malicious cyberactivity.
Here are the main reasons why healthcare is under attack:
Private Patient Information Is Worth a Lot of Money to Attackers
Private patient information is worth a great deal of money to criminals, making the healthcare sector a growing target for cyberattacks. Healthcare organizations must secure their sensitive patient data to protect themselves from these threats. This means investing in robust security protocols such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires users to submit at least two pieces of evidence proving their identity before accessing sensitive information. This system has proven far more reliable than traditional passwords or usernames alone, making it much harder for attackers to gain access to critical systems.
Unfortunately, the financial cost of implementing MFA can be daunting for hospitals that are already struggling with tight budgets and scarce resources. Nonetheless, this cost still pales in comparison to the potential costs of a breach.
Medical Devices Are an Easy Entry Point for Attackers
Medical devices, especially older ones, often have firmware and software embedded into the device. Not only do some of these devices eventually fall out of security standards if any were implemented at all but they often don’t receive updates from the manufacturer either. Lack of patching and the ability to even patch in the first place leaves systems vulnerable. It’s only a matter of time before attackers figure out holes in these systems and leverage them to gain access to sensitive patient data, as well as launch attacks on servers with more valuable information. In some cases, hackers may even be able to take complete control of a medical device, preventing healthcare organizations from providing necessary care and treatment for patients. This is especially concerning since modern healthcare technology is essential for life-saving treatments like x-rays, insulin pumps, defibrillators and other monitoring equipment.
What’s more alarming is that while medical devices may not store any patient data within them, they may still be used as a gateway to attack servers that do contain private information. Once the attackers gain access through a medical device, they can easily cause disruption by tampering with databases or systems without leaving any traces behind. This presents serious risks which cannot be ignored and could have severe consequences if left unaddressed.
In order to mitigate this risk posed by medical devices, it is important that they are designed with robust security measures in place such as multi-factor authentication and encryption protocols. This will help protect against unauthorized access and also prevent malicious software from infiltrating the network via vulnerable devices. Additionally, organizations should implement regular checks of their systems in order to identify any potential weak links or threats before they can cause any damage. Finally, healthcare providers should ensure that their staff are trained in basic digital safety practices so that they can recognize any suspicious activity or signs of hacking attempts on their network or systems.
Staff Need to Access Data Remotely, Making Them More Vulnerable
Staff need to access data remotely from different devices, which opens up more opportunities for cyber-attacks. It is crucial for different units to collaborate to find the best solutions for every patient. However, it’s not always the case that those who require access to information are situated at a desk; many of them operate remotely from various devices. Using new devices to remotely connect to a network poses a risk because not all devices are secure. Moreover, healthcare professionals may not be familiar with fundamental cybersecurity best practices and the risk associated with bring your own device “BYOD”. It is essential to ensure that compromised devices are never given access to the network, as a single hacked device can compromise an entire organization’s security.
Without two factor authentication or a BYOD policy, the entire organization can be vulnerable to malicious actors. Organizations should encourage staff members working remotely to practice basic cybersecurity best practices like making use of two-factor authentication when logging in, changing passwords regularly and avoiding clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown files. If employees are using personal devices to access company data, an organization should have guidelines and policies in place for use. With these measures in place, organizations can ensure their remote working environment stays secure from any kind of cyberattack.
The Number of Devices Used in Hospitals Makes It Hard to Stay on Top of Security
The sheer number of devices used in hospitals makes it difficult for IT professionals to stay on top of security. As healthcare organizations become increasingly interconnected and depend on their hardware networks, the influx of medical devices creates an ever-growing potential attack surface. With the rise of connected medical devices, a single breach can lead to a large-scale data loss.
At the same time, IT specialists are often overwhelmed and unprepared to manage the number of medical devices, from infusion pumps to patient care systems that must be secured. Many hospitals lack sufficient staffing levels to manage all these systems and keep up with the latest security threats. As a result, many IT departments are stretched thin while dealing with other network security issues such as malware and ransomware attacks.
Healthcare organizations must take proactive steps to ensure their networks remain secure despite increasing device numbers and rising cyber threats. By taking advantage of MFA solutions and leveraging their self-service capabilities, healthcare professionals can more effectively protect their hardware networks without having to rely solely on IT teams for support.
Outdated Technology Leaves the Healthcare Industry Vulnerable to Attacks
The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks due to its reliance on increasingly outdated medical technology.
An article by Resources 10to8 states, Pagers contribute heavily to lost productivity and increased patient discharge times which consequently costs hospitals over $8 billion annually in revenue. This seems even more surprising when you consider that over 80% of hospitals still use such outdated technologies.
Aside from how expensive and time consuming it is to manage outdated technology, devices without frequent system updates, pose serious threats for protecting against vulnerabilities. This is especially true for devices that are no longer supported by their manufacturers, as they have not been built with the latest security protocols in mind. Furthermore, many medical staff are unfamiliar with updating their systems or lack the resources or budget to do so. This leaves them unprepared for emerging threats, putting patient data and healthcare information at risk of being exposed.
Fast Paced Healthcare Environment Leaves Little Room for Disruptions
Healthcare staff are constantly inundated with new technology and processes that disrupt their daily routines and take away from the time they could be spending providing care for patients. It’s important for healthcare organizations to realize how adding more security measures can disrupt their existing workflows. Adding additional steps in the process of authenticating and logging into multiple applications can be tedious, inconvenient, and time-consuming for medical staff.
Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions offer a way to keep working practices convenient while also ensuring proper security is being maintained across an organization. Using SSO means authorized users only have to remember one set of login credentials, instead of having to create and remember multiple usernames and passwords. This eliminates the need for extra authentication dialogues when logging into different applications – making it easy for workers to access their data without interruption or distraction.
IT teams should strive to ensure any security measures they introduce do not disrupt convenient working practices, but rather enhance them. For example, many authentication solutions integrate seamlessly with popular software like Office 365, allowing medical staff to easily switch between applications without having to log in every time they want to make a change or access patient data.
Ultimately, healthcare organizations must assess the impact of any cybersecurity measures before implementing them across the business. Introducing new technologies without considering how it will affect existing workflows could lead to further disruption and frustration amongst medical professionals – which would ultimately harm patient care. By aligning security measures with existing software and using SSO solutions where possible, healthcare providers can maintain convenient working practices while still reducing the risks associated with cyberattacks.
Lack of Cyber Education for Healthcare Staff
Healthcare staff are not well-versed in the risks associated with online threats, leaving them ill-equipped to protect patient data. Budget and resource constraints mean that medical professionals often don’t have the time or resources to become fluent in best practices of cybersecurity. As a result, they are unable to recognize and adequately mitigate cyber threats before they become security incidents. The lack of knowledge in this area poses a serious risk for healthcare organizations, who must ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive patient data.
Regular training sessions should be provided in which staff can learn how to recognize suspicious behavior and what steps they should take when presented with potential threats. This will help ensure that all staff members are informed about the most up-to-date security procedures, as well as any changes or updates within the organization’s network environment. Healthcare organizations need to make sure that their personnel are well educated on cybersecurity risks to better protect themselves and their patients from malicious actors online.
Healthcare Information Needs to Be Shareable and Easily Accessible
To ensure healthcare information is open and shareable, IT teams need to use secure cloud storage solutions that allow for rapid access. This type of solution should be built with security in mind, meaning that the data is securely stored and encrypted by default. It should also have access control measures in place, such as, two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication—as well as granular user roles and permissions to ensure only authorized personnel can view or edit sensitive data. Additionally, the platform must provide reliable audit trails so that IT teams can quickly trace any suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts. In addition, these cloud storage solutions should also integrate seamlessly with existing systems so that they don’t create an additional layer of complexity.
For example, cloud storage providers like O365, Box, etc. all undergo audits on their end and achieve compliance for different standards like HIPPA for the medical field. This ensures that hospitals and healthcare organizations can find solutions that fit their needs since they’ve already been vetted. All that is left is putting in place the proper controls to ensure that compliance is held from a data and IT management standpoint. By leveraging a secure cloud environment, healthcare professionals can be assured their confidential patient data is safe from external threats while still being readily accessible when needed.
Which Healthcare Sectors Are Most at Risk to Cyber-Attacks?
A survey of one hundred hospital IT executives revealed that small and mid-sized hospitals are most at risk of cyber-attack, with 48% of executives revealing that their organization had been forced to shut down in the last six months due to a cyber-attack.
The survey revealed that for larger hospitals (those with 1,000 or more beds) the average time spent shut down was over 6 hours, at a cost of $21,500 USD per hour. For smaller hospitals however, the shutdowns regularly lasted over 9 hours, with an eye-watering cost of $47,500 USD per hour. Clearly, smaller healthcare organizations are being hit hardest by cyber-attacks. Smaller organizations tend to have smaller budgets for cybersecurity, making them a prime target for malicious actors.
Prevention is better than a cure
The phrase ‘prevention is better than a cure’ is not just true in healthcare, but in IT as well. The phrase refers to the idea that it is better to stop an illness from occurring than it is to treat it after it has happened. This holds true to cyberattacks as well. Healthcare organizations are responsible for reacting to the latest online threats to keep their patient data secure. It’s essential to allocate a budget and invest in the right solution for your enterprise. Consider how your staff like to work and keep on top of new threats as they emerge – before your systems become outdated and you struggle to protect all your devices.
How PSM Can Help
PSM Partners is a Chicago-based healthcare IT company that specializes in providing top-tier managed services and support to hospitals and other healthcare institutions. Our specialized IT professionals have extensive experience working with medical providers, allowing us to customize our offerings to meet the unique needs of each client. We offer a wide range of solutions, from project-based implementations to cloud computing solutions and cybersecurity measures.
Our goal is to ensure the safety and security of your networks and systems, ensuring that sensitive patient data remains secure. We also work with you to develop an effective strategy for staying up to date with the ever-changing IT landscape, so that you can remain competitive without sacrificing patient care. With our help, your organization will have access to cutting edge technology and unparalleled technical support when needed.