Why Cyber Attacks in the Healthcare Sector On the Rise?

The growing incorporation of technology in healthcare is improving the performance of providers and, in turn, the health of individuals. Innovative technological solutions allow health practitioners to store and retrieve information relating to patients’ health records easily. Technology also improves the communication of up-to-date patient information in a legible format that anyone can use.

Cyber Attacks in the Healthcare Sector

Health information technology improves practice efficiencies leading to better clinical outcomes. But as the reliance on health information technology increases, organizations in healthcare are becoming increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks.

The frequency of cyberattacks in healthcare has been rising since 2010, and healthcare is now one of the most targeted sectors.

Cybercrime Grows During Covid-19

The healthcare sector, under the strain of Covid-19, is facing an increased threat from cybercriminals. Hospitals, medical research institutions, and other healthcare sectors have seen a dramatic increase in data breaches since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services recorded an almost 50% increase in the number of healthcare-related cyberattacks in the first half of 2020.

Cyber Risks in the Healthcare Sector

Healthcare organizations have been heavily digitized due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many have been forced to shift to remote work to maintain social distance and other measures meant to limit the spread of Covid-19.

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Hospitals are changing their operations to enable more digital interactions. For patients, digitization means using telehealth options when medical attention is needed but not life-threatening. Increased digitization of operations in the Covid-19 era has left the healthcare industry vulnerable to a wide range of

  • Cyberattacks—phishing
  • Ransomware,
  • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, etc.

Cybercriminals use the stolen healthcare data to perpetrate other crimes such as illegal access to prescription medication, insurance fraud, identity theft, and other illicit activities.

Tips for Institutions and Individuals to Stay Protected

As the Covid-19 pandemic draws on, digital processes continue to increase in the healthcare industry. The digitization of operations and the rise in remote working arrangements in healthcare organizations create an opening for hackers.

Due to the sensitive nature and depth of medical data and payment information they hold, organizations in the healthcare sector are prime targets for cybercrime. This section looks at the measures healthcare institutions and individuals can take to increase protection against these threats.

Security Awareness Training for Staff

To err is human, and attackers understand that. That’s why cybercriminals target human fallibility for their most effective attacks. They use phishing, spoofing, and other social engineering tactics to exploit human weaknesses.

Healthcare organizations need to effectively address the human element in their vulnerability to cybersecurity risks to defend against these threats. Mandatory cybersecurity training keeps workers aware of the most common cyberattack tactics and how to protect against such attacks.

Use a VPN

One of the best ways to prevent cyberattacks against hospitals is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As an executive in charge of cybersecurity in your organization, using a VPN can improve your security posture significantly.

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A VPN uses protocols, servers, and encryption to hide sensitive data from hackers and other malicious actors on the internet. With its VPN protection, hackers can’t intercept, modify, or steal sensitive personal and organizational data, including login credentials and patient health records.

Install Antivirus

Malware is one of the most prevalent cybersecurity threats in the healthcare industry. When it comes to defending against malware threats such as ransomware, installing an antivirus/antimalware solution is a good place to start. Antivirus programs can detect and

remove malicious software and Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) from your system. Antivirus doesn’t guarantee protection against ransomware, but it can protect from a wide range of malware threats, including viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, and more.

Encrypt Personal Devices

The increased use of personal gadgets in the retrieval, transmission, and collection of electronic health records presents a significant cybersecurity risk to the confidentiality of health information. Healthcare organizations and their staff should take the necessary measures to ensure the security of the data stored on these devices.

One of the most effective techniques to secure data stored on smartphones, tablets, and laptops is encryption. Encryption scrambles data so that only authorized parties can understand the information.

Keep Software Up To Date

Keep your software up to date to ward off cybersecurity threats. Cybercriminals will often try to exploit vulnerabilities within your system to gain access to valuable data. Software vendors consistently release updates for their applications to keep them secure.

Ensure that you apply patches as soon as they are released. Keeping your operating system, applications, and third-party plugins up to date prevents hackers from accessing your system through vulnerabilities in your installed software.

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Backup Your Data

Attackers have become too sophisticated these days. They are coming up with new ways to penetrate defenses every day. Even the most security-aware organizations are still vulnerable to attacks such as ransomware. That’s why healthcare organizations need to back up their data regularly. With a proper backup, you can easily retrieve data and restore operations when disaster strikes.

Cyberattacks targeting hospitals and other healthcare institutions are on the rise globally. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. Organizations in the healthcare industry need to empower themselves to defend against these before they fall victim to devastating cybersecurity threats such as ransomware.

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