Technology has managed to completely change the landscape of healthcare for the better. Today’s medical facilities are high-tech operations that use the latest equipment to perform complicated tasks. However, as these organizations become more reliant on digital solutions, they also grow more vulnerable to cyber threats.
A security report from IBM found that healthcare cyber attacks more than doubled in 2020—partially due to opportunists taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one out of four of all cyber attacks last year were ransomware attacks. But ransomware isn’t the only cyber risk healthcare organizations have to worry about.
The Top Cyber Threats
There are a variety of cyber threats all healthcare providers should be aware of. Capable cyber criminals know how to use different types of attacks to infiltrate networks and devices. Here are a few of the most common types of attacks used against the healthcare industry.
- Web Application Attacks: Web applications are incredibly useful for business operations. One of the most popular web applications is Google Suite. These applications make it easy for employees to share files and collaborate. Conversely, these services are vulnerable because of their ease of accessibility and reliance on user input.
- Malicious Network Traffic: Malicious traffic is any suspicious link, file, or connection that is created or received on a network. When opened, the threat can negatively affect security or compromise the personal computer by creating a pathway for more malware.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is one of the biggest threats facing the healthcare industry. This type of malware encrypts your files or even your operating system (OS). If your files or OS is encrypted and you don’t have the key, you effectively become locked out of your documents or the device itself. It’s called ransomware because the hacker often demands a ransom be paid to decrypt your system.
- Phishing: Phishing attacks are just about as common as ransomware attacks. These attacks use social engineering to trick your employees into performing an action that allows malware to be installed on your network.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Regulations
With the merging of IT and healthcare comes the need for protective security measures. These measures have come in the form of strict regulatory standards. The main IT security guidelines the healthcare industry follows are provided by the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
It is a series of regulatory standards that outline the lawful use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI). This is different from personally identifiable information (PII) in that it contains an individual’s health records. As such, PHI is seen as more valuable than PII. According to the Center for Internet Security, the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $355 per stolen record compared to $158 for non-healthcare related data.
The stipulations set by HIPAA call for:
- Physical Safeguards: These are best practices for managing physical equipment that contains sensitive information.
- Technical Safeguards: Technical safeguards focus on how healthcare information is communicated. It defines how to secure the data and what needs to be done for authorized users to authenticate their identity.
- Administrative Safeguards: This is about the selection and implementation of strategies that keep a healthcare facility compliant with the HIPAA Security Rule.