Importance of Cybersecurity and Data Protection in the Healthcare Industry
Digital technologies are transforming the industries and are now making a profound impact on healthcare industries as well. The global pandemic has also pushed them to process their data and move towards digitalization. Though it makes the work relatively easy, a new question arises, whether the patient’s information is secure and their privacy is protected.
Hospitals and clinics record sensitive information like ePHI (electronic protected health information), and other healthcare providers like physicians and pharmacists use EHRs (electronic health records) for medical information. If not handled properly, they become a target of various cybercriminals. There has been a rise in data breaches by 25.24%, and the healthcare institutes reported over 416 significant data breaches in 2020, as per the Infoblox 2022 Healthcare Cyber Trend Research Report.
Which Cyberattacks are the Major Concern for the Healthcare Industry?
The medical data are pretty sensitive, and if a patient’s medical data is leaked, it will be impossible to cancel, like blocking a bank card. Also, failing to secure the patient’s sensitive medical information can even endanger their life. Healthcare providers and their business partners must comply with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA to provide quality healthcare services and secure patient information. It makes the integration of security measures complex, and threat actors take advantage of it.
Here is a list of top cybersecurity attacks that are of significant concern for the healthcare industry:
Phishing is an attack where the threat actor pretends to be a legitimate user and sends malicious links through an email or SMS. That link contains malware to infect the system and will gradually spread through the network, infecting other systems connected to it.
MITM (Man-In-The-Middle) Attack
Threat actors inject themselves into a piece of detailed user information whose authorization is not provided to them. But they inject themselves intending to carry out any unauthorized data transfer or steal sensitive data that can cause a heavy loss, and penalties are issued for a confidentiality breach.
Threat actors infect the systems or servers with malware to encrypt the data so the user cannot access them. Threat actors can even block the entire hospital or clinical system by neutralizing the work equipment and life support systems. Then, they can demand ransom to restart the equipment or to decrypt the data. Sometimes, these threat actors even threaten to release sensitive data online if their demands are not fulfilled.
Threat Actors Exploiting the Network Vulnerabilities
Attacks like ARP (address resolution protocol), cache poisoning, HTTPS spoofing, and more target the vulnerabilities in wired or non-wired networks of the medical institutes to gain access to sensitive and private information of patients.
Social Engineering Attack
In social engineering attack, threat actors target a victim to get familiar with them. It is done so that they can easily manipulate them into sharing sensitive information or gaining access to any secure device. It is a psychological attack, does not require any technical knowledge, and is effective.
How Can the Healthcare Industry Prevent Cyber Threat?
Here are some steps that are recommended by the experts which will help in preventing cyber threats that are looming over the healthcare industry. These steps will protect the networks, digital systems, and data storing ePHI.
Proving personal training to the staff to enhance their IT security skills is considered one of the significant factors affecting the security of healthcare institutes, clinics, and hospitals. The IT personnel should have expertise in identifying the threats and be able to distinguish between authentic and phishing emails. In addition, they should religiously follow practicing digital hygiene and create backups for sensitive information with strong encryption.
Control of Data Usage
There should be restrictions on data usage, i.e., only limited personnel should have access to information, as it will help control and monitor any malicious activity by prohibiting unauthorized people from gaining access to any sensitive information. In addition, logs will help identify breaches if they occur, and immediate actions can be taken to eliminate further threats. Also, using advanced cryptography by encrypting data while transferring sensitive information will help secure the information.
Monitoring all Connected Devices
Several devices are connected to a healthcare server or network. Devices like mobile phones and IoMT devices are considered standard practice for administrative personnel and doctors. However, attackers can use this opportunity to steal private information by establishing a connection to those devices and reconfiguring them. So, creating a separate network for IoMT devices and monitoring them constantly for any suspicious activity, and removing nonessential devices is recommended. Also, using multi-factor authorization, remote locking, and data encryption for devices.
Conducting Regular Risk Assessments
Regular risk assessments will help identify vulnerabilities or any area of concern before any incident occurs and help take security measures. In addition, it will help identify and mitigate any potential risks so that extra costs due to a data breach can be avoided as it damages the reputation and penalties from regulatory firms/ agencies.
Maintaining Protection Against Cyberattacks and Threats
HIPAA and other regulations recommend having a data protection strategy. A response plan helps take immediate action to avoid severe damage by providing proper roles and responsibilities, regularly conducting risk assessments, and integrating CSFs (Cybersecurity framework). In addition, they will help in limiting the security risks and managing data management processes.
Threat actors are always busy looking for loopholes and vulnerabilities to exploit. Therefore, the best defense against them is maintaining proper cyber hygiene and creating an incident response plan beforehand. Lastly, it is essential to maintain a patient safety environment as any data breach exposes sensitive information and can endanger a patient’s life.
Varutra Consulting Pvt. Ltd.