The healthcare industry has always been behind the curve when it comes to cybersecurity. The healthcare sector is one of the most attacked verticals; the Cyber Security Intelligence Index by Microsoft reflected that over 100 million healthcare records were compromised in 2015 from over 8,000 devices, across 100 countries. Now that’s a scary statistic!

Statistics like these do unmask a dark truth about the healthcare industry, i.e., they have become the prime target for cyberattacks. But what’s makes healthcare institutions more vulnerable is the fact that this industry primarily depends on technology that is connected to the internet. It ranges from patient records to lab results to radiology and pathological equipment details, which are critical for care and other data integration. These cyberattacks often siphon off patient data, hijack sensitive drug information, or shut down the entire hospital unless and until the one targeted institutions pay up a colossal ransom.

There are worse consequences of such a cyberattack. You have all your details with your hospital that includes your medical history and payment details. Imagine all that information being exposed to a hacker. Who knows what kind of an identity scam can be triggered basis the leaked information!

Reasons Why Healthcare is Behind the Curve:

  • Employee Negligence – Although cyberattacks are the main reason behind such information leaks and data breaches, individual employee negligence cannot be ruled out. The personnel might open an attachment received in an email containing malware to set a chain of events. Hospitals can dodge these risks if they train their employees on cybersecurity. It is imperative to educate them that even a slight oversight on their part can cost the company billions!
  • The BYOD Policy – Most of the leading healthcare companies encourage staff to get their devices to the workplace. Doctors and nurses find it convenient to carry their own laptops and tablets to hospitals/clinics. Once their devices connect to the server, these gadgets are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Neither is the hospital doing much to secure these devices nor is the employee accountable. Many cybersecurity experts believe that the ‘Bring your own Device’ Policy can lead to significant data breaches.
  • Lucrative Healthcare Targets – The complete onus of these attacks cannot be pinned on the healthcare organizations, but the fact that they are incredibly lucrative targets to hackers. Hospitals are susceptible to lose the data of millions of patients in a single swoop. And we all know that seasoned cybercriminals are relentless.
  • Shared Networks – Most hospitals rely on shared wireless networks, making them prone to cyberattacks. All it takes for the hacker is one point of vulnerability to breach in.

Strategies for Improving Cybersecurity:

What the healthcare industry needs right now is a holistic approach to combat such attacks.

  • A reliable system to protect the Protected Health Information (PHI) is a business necessity and not a luxury. The current processes being followed have proven to be grossly insufficient toward managing real-world risks, mass patient record breaches, and significant compliance failures.
  • Establish a secure culture where employees are aware that their negligence will cost the company a staggering amount of money.
  • Encryption and protection of the employees’ devices will diminish the possibility of such breaches.
  • Anything connected to the internet must have a firewall.
  • All the critical information and files should be backed up at any cost because always plan for the unexpected.
  • Only installing anti-virus software is not enough; updating them at regular intervals is a must.

To Sum Up

The healthcare industry, as discussed, is a lucrative target for hackers. It rightly needs to invest in a stringent yet holistic system, which caters to its needs, keeping in mind the healthcare compliance’s and the organizational etiquette.

A whitepaper by Microsoft details the holistic approach required to tackle cyber threats in the healthcare industry. To know more (and we highly recommend it), here is a link to the e-book.