Ensure Covid-19 catapulted the healthcare industry to the forefront of cyber-security in 2021. 

Over the last year, the healthcare industry has become a target of strategic interest amongst cybercriminals. Owing to its troves of valuable data, healthcare has never been as vulnerable to cyber attacks as it is now. 

The increasing incorporation of technology into the health field is leading to greater precision in healthcare. 

With many competing priorities stemming from COVID-19, it’s crucial for healthcare to not neglect cybersecurity measures. The Department of  HHS highlighted that cybercriminals exploited vulnerabilities within hospitals and healthcare providers exposed by the response to COVID-19. 

The dramatic increase in attacks compromises both patient safety and weakens trust in the healthcare sector. 

Some of the reasons why healthcare is the biggest target for cybercriminals are as follows:

Patient information worth a lot

Hospitals store an incredible amount of patient data. Confidential data that’s worth a lot of money to hackers who can sell it on easily – making the industry a growing target.

Increase demand for online consultation 

Incidentally, patient data has been placed at significant risk, with 48% of patients being unwilling to use telehealth solutions again due to a breach. 

Medical devices are an easy entry point for attackers

Medical devices are designed for one purpose like monitoring heart rates or dispensing drugs. They’re not made with security in mind. Devices themselves may not store the patient data that attackers pursue but they can be used to launch an attack on a server that does hold valuable information.

Education on security is missing 

Medical professionals are highly trained. However, education in online threats is not in their schedule. Budget, resources, and time constraints mean it’s simply not possible for all healthcare staff to be fluent in cybersecurity best practices.

Extensive network of connected medical devices

Larger organizations can deal with thousands of medical devices – all connected to their network. Therefore, each one acts as a potential threat for attackers.

Healthcare staffs are often too busy to stay educated on the latest threats to devices. This leaves IT specialists with the task of protecting an entire hardware network against attacks.

Healthcare information needs to be open and shareable

Confidential patient data needs to be accessible to staff, both on-site and remotely, and on multiple devices. The typically urgent nature of the medical industry means staff needs to be able to share information immediately. Hence, there’s no time to pause and consider the security implications of the devices they’re using.

IT staff worries that the devices used to share information are not always protected.  They can’t always be there to assess the credentials of every device, especially in a time-critical environment. 

To curb these scenarios, the healthcare industry must implement a few action plan to change its current direction: 

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Implementation of MFA on all the applicable endpoints across the enterprise networks is an effective way to get rid of some of the most disastrous vulnerabilities.

According to a report by Microsoft, enabling MFA can block over 99.9% of all automated account compromise attacks. Hence, it has become extremely important to adopt MFA as a basic security protocol when billions of stolen credentials for sale. This applies not just to the healthcare industry but everywhere. 

Establish a security culture

Ongoing cybersecurity training and education emphasize that every member of the organization is responsible for protecting patient data, creating a culture of security. 

Control access to protected health information

Limit the protected data access to those who need to view or use the data.

Use strong passwords and change them regularly

The Verizon report found that 63 percent of confirmed data breaches involved taking advantage of passwords that were the default, weak, or stolen. Therefore, health care employees should ensure strong passwords.  

Protect mobile devices 

An increasing number of health care providers are using mobile devices at work. Therefore, Encryption and other protective measures are critical to ensure that any information on these devices is secure.

Vulnerability management

It is imperative to update security patches regularly. Overlooking even a minuscule vulnerability in your organization’s security framework can have severe ramifications. Hence, conducting periodic Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing can significantly help you keep your company’s IT infrastructure free from any weaknesses, mitigating the risk of suffering a cyber attack. 

Backup Storage and Restoration

The best way to minimize damage caused by a cyberattack is to employ backup, offline storage, and restoration. This standard security protocol is especially effective against ransomware attacks. If you are unable to prevent a cyber attack from hitting its mark in the first place, it is essential to have a plan. The next best course of action is to ensure that you have a reliable offline storage and restoration option.

To summerise

Cybersecurity in the healthcare industry is not just about protecting an organization but also protecting those they serve. Consequently, it is extremely important for healthcare providers to enforce strict security policies and keep evolving them according to the changing cyber threat landscape. 

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