As hospitals and small- to medium-sized healthcare organizations in Georgia grow more dependent on modern technology, they become prime targets for malicious cyberattacks. These organizations find cybersecurity challenging because of several factors: they're stuck with legacy technology, they focus more on patient care rather than cyberthreats, and making the move from traditional paper to electronic health records (EHRs) is putting an additional strain on their budgets.
Why are healthcare organizations targeted?
Healthcare organizations have increasingly become the main target of cybercriminals because of the data they store. To a cybercriminal, patient information equals big bucks. This is because it contains a patient's personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI), credit card information, and social security number (SSN). A hacker can use all this stolen information to extort money from the patient, commit credit card or banking fraud, or sell it on the dark web.
On the dark web, a patient's SSN is worth around a couple of cents to a dollar, credit card numbers go as high as a hundred dollars, but a patient's private information can fetch prices reaching up to a thousand dollars.
Issues faced by healthcare organizations
Both large- and small-scale healthcare organizations in Georgia face many of the same issues when it comes to cybersecurity. These include:
#1. Phishing attacks
Phishing is the most common type of cyberattack and the most preferred method of most hackers. Phishing involves cybercriminals disguising themselves as a trustworthy entity to trick you into clicking on a compromised link that will take you to a malicious site, which will then prompt you for your login credentials and other personal information. Unfortunately, a lot of people still fall for this attack, resulting in major and sometimes debilitating data breaches.
#2. Legacy technology
Another challenge facing small healthcare organizations is aging technology. Outdated systems were not designed to handle current threats and can be easily breached by today's hackers. Small healthcare companies, especially those located in rural areas, simply can't afford to fund both patient care and cybersecurity efforts at the same time.
#3. Biomedical devices
A lot of biomedical devices today, such as insulin pumps and pacemakers, come with third-party software that allows them to connect to the internet. Most of these devices are also designed to access protected health information (PHI), making them potential entry points for stealing a patient’s healthcare data. Since a huge number of these devices don't use a familiar operating system (OS) like Windows, issuing patches or security updates can be very difficult.
#4. Finding the right people
For small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) working in healthcare, recruiting and training IT personnel takes too much time, money, and effort. There are instances where SMBs will invest in a potential IT specialist, only to see that individual move to a large and better-paying company.
How to protect patient information
A good way of improving the security of patient data is by sharing information. A report released by the Institute for Healthcare IT (IHIT) said that creating regional online "IT Safe Zones" will allow healthcare providers to confidentially trade information regarding threat and incidence responses. Also mentioned in the report is the creation of a cybersecurity resource center that will focus mainly on healthcare providers. Once completed, this center will offer:
- Electronic alert systems for ongoing threats
- An online resource center
- Incident response kits
- A statewide security operations center
Preparation is key
When it comes to cyberattacks and data breaches, it's not a question of if, but a question of when. Hackers will always find ways to infiltrate your network — all it takes is human error or a network glitch. Below are some useful tips to ensure your organization is prepared for a data breach.
#1. Create a response team
This team should include a chief information security officer, a lawyer, and an insurance provider. This team is responsible for keeping your data secure and should react quickly in the event of a data breach.
#2. Familiarize yourself with current cybersecurity regulations
The regulations on data breaches depend on where the patient resides, not the location of the hospital. So you should find time to familiarize yourself with what regulations apply to your particular business.
#3. Team up with law enforcement entities even before a data breach
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with help from the private sector, has set up the InfraGard program. This program provides information and workshops on emerging technology trends and threats to help business leaders and owners defend their critical assets.
#4. Contracts with external parties should include security-related standards and provisions
Savannah attorney Diana McKenzie states that most of the contracts she sees are lacking some sort of commitment to security standards, particularly those related to cybersecurity.
#5. Reevaluate your company's cybersecurity insurance policy
A majority of healthcare organizations' cybersecurity insurance policies are reviewed and agreed upon by legal and compliance teams without ever passing through IT specialists. As a result, business leaders are not fully aware of their risks, what they think is covered, and what is actually covered by their cybersecurity insurance policy.
#6. Stay up to date
Staying up to date with the latest cybersecurity trends and threats will help you take the necessary precautions in ensuring the safety of your healthcare organization, as well as the patient data it keeps.
One security breach is all it takes to compromise your patients' confidential data, and with the growing number of security threats, you'll need an impregnable wall to keep them all at bay. Here at Athens Micro, our IT security solutions are tailored to ensure your business systems are well-protected and secure. Get your free consultation today.
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