The healthcare sector has always been a targeted source for cybercrime. Hackers have several reasons for wanting to get into healthcare systems. Some want to disrupt the operation of services, while others want to steal medical records or financial information.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic took the industry by storm in 2020, it’s no surprise that cyberattacks targeting the healthcare sector have been on the rise. Unfortunately, most healthcare systems are relatively simple for cyber-attackers to gain access to due to various lapses in security. Here’s everything you need to know about the types of cyber risks in the healthcare sector and what you can do to keep your computers protected.
Types of Cyber Risks in the Healthcare Sector
Many cybersecurity issues are plaguing the healthcare industry today. The most common problems range from malware that compromises patient privacy and the integrity of the system to DDoS attacks that can disrupt the ability of the healthcare facility to provide patient care. Before you can protect your system from attack, it’s helpful to understand the types of attacks that your systems are most vulnerable to.
Ransomware is becoming one of the most severe cyber threats in the healthcare industry. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts and locks up a system’s data and files, rendering them inaccessible until a ransom amount of money is paid to the hacker. This type of attack is particularly effective in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that rely on their computer systems to operate and provide care to patients.
DDoS stands for distributed denial of service. A DDoS attack is designed to disrupt the normal traffic flow in and out of the targeted server, network, or service until it overwhelms the network, essentially clogging it to the point where it’s inoperable. Think of it as an unexpected traffic jam that backs up the highway and prevents traffic from reaching its destination.
DDoS attacks rely on networks of machines connected to the internet, such as computers and IoT devices. Once these machines become infected with malware, an attacker can control them remotely. DDoS attacks typically require a group of bots, which is referred to as a botnet. Each bot sends requests to the targeted machine’s IP address, which causes the network or server to become overwhelmed. This results in a denial of service for regular traffic.
There’s usually a social, ideological, political, or financial reason for hackers or groups of hackers to implement this type of attack.
Reports from Fortified Health Security and Check Point Data showed that during the first ten months of 2020, the healthcare sector accounted for 79 percent of all reported data breaches. Data breaches are one of the leading causes of successful cyberattacks in the healthcare sector.
Since hospitals, urgent care clinics, healthcare providers, health insurance companies, and pharmacies keep records of precious information, they’re a goldmine for hackers. Data breaches in the healthcare sector can expose the susceptible patient and company data, including:
- Social security numbers
- Names and addresses
- Sensitive health data
- Medicaid ID numbers
- Health insurance information
- Patient medical histories
Data breaches are typically caused by malware employed to steal credentials or by an insider who discloses patient data accidentally or purposefully. Employees losing or misplacing laptops and other electronic devices containing sensitive information is another leading cause of data breaches.
Insider Threats, Scams, and Fraud
People who work within the organization might not always have the best intentions. Similarly, there are loads of phishing scams and fraudulent apps and emails designed to infect a system or allow hackers to access confidential information. There are five types of insider threats that every healthcare organization should be aware of:
- Careless workers – while they may not mean any harm, a sloppy worker can bypass privacy and security measures without even realizing it. This carelessness can create significant legal implications and leave the organization’s network vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- Inside agents – an inside agent could be anyone, from a permanent staff member to a third-party contractor. These people may be bribed, coerced, or recruited to pass sensitive data and information to a third party.
- Malicious insiders – malicious insiders will typically act on their motives. They use their privileges to use private information for their own financial or personal gain.
- Disgruntled employees – whether these employees have been fired or are looking for another job, they’re upset with the organization and can leak private data to malicious parties out of disdain.
- Irresponsible third parties – negligence, improper use, and harmful access to the organization’s network through remote access or hardware can compromise security and become especially dangerous.
Tips to Help Institutions and Individuals Stay Protected
Now that you understand the cyber risks that the healthcare sector faces, you can implement the following tools and tips to ensure that your system is protected.
Use Security Tools
Using security tools like two-factor authentication, custom alphanumeric passwords, and a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for the internet will add extra layers of security to your system that effectively keep it safe. It’s essential to understand what a VPN does and how to use one because it’s the best tool for keeping intruders out of a system that’s connected to the internet.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
New versions of antivirus and other system software are rolled out regularly, mainly to fix security bugs and apply new and improved security measures in the system. By keeping your software up to date, you can rest assured that there shouldn’t be any gaps in your system’s security.
Organize Security Awareness Training
Knowledge is power. This is especially true for protecting your system. Not nearly enough time is set aside for proper security awareness training, which means that employees can fall victim to a scam or data breach without even knowing it. By teaching them about the various types of attacks and what they can do to prevent them, employees will know they need to recognize when something is wrong.
Follow the tips above to ensure that your devices and healthcare organizations don’t fall victim to one of the growing types of cyberattacks in 2021.