Cybersecurity issues in the health industry

The healthcare industry continuously offers life-critical services while improving treatment and patient care with new technologies. Unfortunately, these connected and online technologies, the resources they guard, and the data they capture are key targets for cybercriminals.

Although every industry with critical infrastructure can potentially also experience a cyber-attack, the nature of the healthcare industry’s mission poses unique challenges. Cyber-attacks in the healthcare industry can have consequences beyond financial loss and breach of privacy, slowing medical processes, delaying treatments, interrupting research, and rendering files and systems inaccessible.

The reality is, many web applications, especially in the healthcare industry, do not adequately protect sensitive data.


Why the health industry is the target of cyber attacks

Three reasons why the healthcare industry is the biggest target for cyber-attacks include:

  1. Private patient data is worth a lot of money to cybercriminals, who can quickly sell it on the dark web
  2. Staff need remote access to data, presenting opportunities to attack unsecured devices with network access
  3. Hospitals find it hard to stay on top of cybersecurity with hundreds or thousands of connected medical devices


Types of cyber-attacks on the healthcare industry

There are three types of commonplace attacks that can lead to sensitive data exposure:

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects systems and files, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Ransomware can be introduced through phishing emails containing a malicious attachment, via a user clicking on a malicious link, or by viewing advertisements containing malware, which is an approach known as malvertising.

When ransomware penetrates your network, critical processes are slowed down or completely stopped. This can cause a loss of patient data that can put lives at risk. In the short term, hospital staff might have to resort to manual record-keeping and retrieval. In the long-term, life-saving hospital funds are spent on ransoms instead of patient care.

We recommend keeping anti-virus software up to date, introducing email filtering, and performing regular backups.

  1. Data Breaches

The healthcare industry experiences more data breaches than any other sector. Data breaches can be caused by credential-stealing malware, an insider who purposely or accidentally discloses patient data, or lost laptops and mobile devices.

We recommend implementing encryption and ensuring all third parties and vendors with access to your healthcare network or databases correctly handling patient data. Training should cover the proper use and handling of patients’ health information and reporting procedures for lost devices.

  1. Insider Threats

Insiders pose just as much of a threat as external cybercriminals. They already have authorised access, have knowledge of the systems, or readily have the means to obtain knowledge outsiders could not. 

The insider threat isn’t always intentional. A healthcare worker might unknowingly click on a malicious link that compromises the IT network and purposefully causes destruction with malice.

We recommend delivering training to staff on how to report an insider threat. A penetration test conducted by a cybersecurity specialist can highlight vulnerabilities and recommend resolutions.

Cyber-attacks are not limited to those on this list. This is just a summary of the most common and costly cyber-attacks the healthcare industry faces.


Lifting your cybersecurity game


Is your business in the healthcare industry? 


Penetration testing is an essential service that tests your security and how you handle data to identify vulnerabilities and rectify them before you fall victim to a cyber-attack. If you are looking to get your business protected, contact us, we have the solutions for you.

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