We live in an age where the internet has revolutionized everything, from how we shop, bank, and even our healthcare systems. In recent years the healthcare industry, in particular, has seen a rise in the number of cyber-attacks.
Most health institutions prioritize privacy, but some are still lagging in the adoption of cybersecurity measures. The healthcare industry holds the single most valuable item that hackers covet-information. Hospitals and healthcare institutions hold patients’ medical history, records, and insurance records. This makes healthcare the top target by malicious actors, with the risk of internet-connected medical devices in health institutions rising.
Cyber-risks in the health industry
Some of the healthcare industry risks include:
- Third-party associates and vendors
Most healthcare institutions have issues managing third-party vendor risks. The Healthcare industry relies on various vendors for the maintenance of care services. Research by the Ponemon Institute found that it costs the healthcare industry $3.8 million for third-party vendor risk management and almost $3 million to recover from attacks.
Phishing attacks attempt to fish for sensitive information such as passwords and other private details. Phishing attacks occur when employees open infected email attachments or click on links in emails or text messages.
The links lead to bogus sites that attempt to solicit information and are used to steal data. An example is an email purporting to come from a department head in a hospital asking employees to open an attachment with new information on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ransomware is a code that encrypts hospital data, making it inaccessible. The hackers then demand payment in exchange for the decryption key, often in Bitcoin, as it is untraceable.
- Insider threat
All too often, healthcare institutions look at outside threats and forget the biggest threat is in their systems. Risks such as data breaches may happen via negligence or accidents caused by employees. Sending an email with confidential data to the wrong person can lead to a data breach or a fired employee with a chip on the shoulder.
How to mitigate the risks
Healthcare institutions can mitigate these risks by:
- Staff training
Organizing security awareness training for the staff is one way of preventing attacks. When a staff member knows the dangers of clicking on links and downloading email attachments, they can easily avoid attacks. The training teaches the staff how to recognize a phishing scam when they see one and report it to the IT department, even if they had already clicked on it.
- Security tools
Security tools such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) go a long way in securing systems. VPNs use a military-grade encryption system (256-bit) that ensures the hospital data cannot be encrypted by malicious hackers or intercepted in transit. It is advisable to download a VPN to protect the network from malicious actors.
- Password best practices
Only employees with the necessary rank should be privy to confidential information. Employees should also learn how to create strong passwords. The passwords should also change every time an employee leaves.
- Keep software up to date
Keeping software up to date ensures you seal all loopholes and vulnerabilities the hackers might exploit. When software developers release updates, they often release the vulnerabilities that the previous software version had and release security patches. Hackers look for un-updated software and use the released vulnerabilities to hack into any un-updated software.
The healthcare industry is privy to a massive amount of data, which the institutions should protect at all costs. If information like medical history, records, or hospital financial records were to be breached, it could negatively impact the patients and the institution.
The hospital might end up in court fighting lawsuits from patients whose information was leaked. Hospitals should embrace cyber-security and accept we are in the 21st century to prevent this and other losses.
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