Why is the healthcare industry a favorite target for cybercriminals?

Why is the healthcare industry a favorite target for cybercriminals?

The healthcare industry is becoming the go-to target for hackers. In 2019, the sector faced the highest number of cyberattacks and data breaches amongst all industries.

Here’s what that cyberattack statistic looks like in hospitals

A doctor had to provide emergency treatment for a patient suffering from a stroke. But he couldn’t determine whether the stroke was caused by a bleed or a clot — a vital piece of information that could affect the type of treatment a patient receives. This was because a vicious malware shut down the hospital’s scanner and also demanded a hefty ransom for its patient information.

In another case, a medical practice in California had to shut down for good after a crippling ransomware got hold of its medical records. The malware also encrypted the hospital’s backups, causing permanent damage to servers and making file recovery impossible.

Data breaches also increase the chance of death in patients with suspected heart attacks. This is because care centers that have to scramble around after a cyberattack take 2.7 minutes longer to provide electrocardiogram to their patients.

Why are cybercriminals targeting the healthcare industry?

Healthcare organizations handle two types of information that are highly sought after by hackers:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII), which includes everything from complete name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and more
  • Protected health information (PHI), which can range from medical record numbers, health plan beneficiaries, drug prescriptions, blood test results, and any PII related to the provision of health services

With this information, cybercriminals can commit all sorts of fraudulent activity. For starters, they can sell the information to the highest bidder on the black market to turn a profit. Some cybercriminals use PHI to impersonate a patient so they can get a hold of restricted medical equipment, prescription drugs, and fake insurance claims. Sensitive information can even be used to extort money from organizations who can’t afford to have their private health information exposed.

To make matters worse, the healthcare industry tends to have dated and ineffective cyber defenses, making them an easy target for hackers.

In fact, an average healthcare organization spends only 4–7 percent of their IT budget on cybersecurity. Many practices focus all their cybersecurity efforts on keeping patient information safe to steer clear of expensive HIPAA noncompliance fees. They do this without realizing that their internet-connected medical devices can also be hacked, leaving them exposed to more devastating attacks.

It also doesn’t help that a large number of healthcare employees aren’t regularly trained in good cybersecurity practices. Many healthcare practices don’t have full-time cybersecurity staff and only one-third of healthcare employees surveyed by Kaspersky Lab said they have never received workplace cybersecurity training.

This explains why human error accounts for nearly one-third of healthcare data breaches. It also shows why malware attacks and phishing scams have such high success rates in healthcare.

How can healthcare practices stay safe against emerging online attacks?

If there’s one thing that cyberattacks against the healthcare industry have taught us, it’s that fundamental best practices are vital. Healthcare organizations need cutting-edge threat detection, patch management, stringent access restrictions, advanced encryption systems, and secure backup solutions. User accounts, which are often prime targets for attack, must be secured with strong passwords and multifactor authentication to keep hackers from guessing their way into PHI data.

More importantly, healthcare professionals need regular security training. This involves teaching employees proper data sharing and handling etiquette and simulating phishing attacks to keep them on their toes against online scams.

Fortunately, several practices across the United States are catching up to hackers. A survey predicts that from 2020 to 2025, the healthcare industry will be spending $125 billion on cybersecurity. This means they will get a strategic, all-round defense scheme built to patch up the loopholes in their current systems and strengthen their overall security posture.

That translates to significantly reduced risks of stolen medical records, paralyzed heart scanners, and business closure. Now, if cybersecurity improvement is not at the top of your healthcare practice’s IT spending plan, you might want to take another look at what’s at stake.

What’s the best first step to more effective cybersecurity for your healthcare practice?

Naturally, implementing and maintaining an effective defense scheme for your practice will require a lot of resources. It requires in-depth assessments of your risks and current cybersecurity posture, strategic planning, proper implementation, and proactive, 24/7 management of all your systems.

If you are not sure where to start, or can’t afford the demanding tasks that tear away your healthcare employees from life-saving missions, Athens Micro is on standby to provide all the cybersecurity solutions and support you need.

Our seasoned experts will learn your staff and patient needs, identify the weak links in your current systems, and equip your entire healthcare practice with tailored, up-to-date cybersecurity solutions. Contact us today for our hassle-free IT security solutions and let us keep your healthcare practice safe from emerging cyberthreats, so you can provide better care for your patients.

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