As the U.S.'s health care system moves online, it needs to move fast on cybersecurity. In 2021, a healthcare breach impacted 3.51 million people. Hence, improving your cybersecurity strategy is a necessary step in protecting patients and companies from hackers who have increasingly been targeting the industry for ransom payments (a.k.a. "ransomware"). It's also vital because new technology in healthcare presents new opportunities for criminals to infiltrate networks and steal sensitive information that could be used against patients down the road if they're not careful—AI being one example of an area where we've seen an increase in attacks lately. 

Connected devices 

The number of connected devices in the health care sector is snowballing—and they're increasingly being used to improve patient care. In 2018, more than 3 billion connected medical devices were at work in our hospitals and doctor's offices across the country.  

However, as these devices become more common, they also become more vulnerable to attacks: Hackers can remotely access them and alter their settings or steal data from them that could be used for malicious purposes like identity theft or fraud. 

Hackers are increasingly targeting health care systems and companies. 

Unsurprisingly, hackers are increasingly targeting health care systems and companies. As an industry, it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. It also has a lot more money than other industries and is likely to be more lucrative for cybercriminals. 

Additionally, healthcare IT systems store sensitive data like social security numbers and medical records that can be sold on the dark web for hundreds of dollars each—making healthcare systems prime targets for cybercriminals looking to make money off their victims by selling those stolen personal details online. 

Ransomware attacks can be devastating to hospitals. 

Ransomware attacks are a significant concern for healthcare organizations. In fact, they were responsible for $1 billion in losses in 2018 alone. While ransomware is a form of malware that cybercriminals can use to steal valuable data and hold it hostage until you pay them money, other forms of malicious software also target your organization's network infrastructure. 

The most significant consequence of these attacks is downtime—meaning your hospital cannot provide essential services to patients while their systems are down. This can cause severe problems if the downtime lasts long enough because many people depend on hospitals: there may be no other place nearby where they can receive care! If an attack does occur at your facility and you have no backup system available (which would require some disaster recovery plan), then all bets are off; there's nothing left but hoping nothing serious happens during this period when everything else has stopped working correctly. 

The FDA wants to ensure that medical devices are protected from hackers and can withstand attacks. 

The agency has a Cybersecurity Working Group and a Medical Device Cybersecurity Task Force, which work with other government agencies to address cybersecurity issues. 

In addition, healthcare organizations need to incorporate best practices into their cybersecurity programs not to undermine the security of the medical devices they use. 

AI is changing the nature of cyber-attacks. 

The next generation of cyber-attacks will use AI to create new types of malware and ransomware, make phishing attacks more convincing and powerful than ever, and even cause denial-of-service attacks. 

AI is helping hackers craft new forms of malware that can fly under the radar. Many existing security software programs are designed to look for specific patterns in the code of an attack so they can recognize it as malicious. Still, AI can generate random code that can evade detection. That means that traditional methods won't be able to stop these threats from getting past your defenses. 

AI also makes it easier for hackers to target specific individuals instead of making broad appeals to everyone online. They might be able to create a piece of ransomware with particular wording or imagery explicitly meant for you—and even if you knew enough about coding yourself, there's nothing stopping someone else from doing so first. 

Attackers no longer have to be technically sophisticated, meaning more people are trying their hand at criminal hacking. 

You have to remember that attackers are getting more sophisticated and not just technically sophisticated. Many people have a lot of time and want to make money from cybercrime. If you look at the recent attacks on big companies like Equifax, Yahoo, or Target, most of them were not sophisticated attacks but just basic ones that took advantage of a flaw in the system somewhere. These kinds of attacks will continue to grow and become more prevalent as more systems connect over the Internet. 

Hackers are looking for ways into the healthcare system, and it's essential to remain vigilant. 

In the past, hackers were primarily motivated by money. They'd target banks, financial institutions, and retailers in an attempt to steal credit card information or account numbers. But now, a new reason hackers are targeting health care systems and companies: Ransom. 

Cybercriminals have discovered that health care systems hold data that can be extremely valuable for them if stolen—including personal information like Social Security numbers, medical records including diagnoses and treatment plans, as well as payment histories from insurance providers—and they've begun targeting these organizations with ransomware attacks in hopes of extorting money out of them in exchange for not releasing this private data online. 

Cybersecurity Threats in Healthcare 

To understand the urgency of this problem, it's crucial to acknowledge the growing number of cyber threats that healthcare organizations face: 

  • Cybercrime is a serious problem and one that will soon be impossible to ignore. 
  • The healthcare industry has long been a target for hackers because they know how vulnerable it is. Information on patients can be used for identity theft or fraud; access to medical records provides valuable information to make fraudulent insurance claims; ransomware attacks could lead to devastating financial losses when patient data is stolen and held hostage by hackers. 
  • Phishing attacks are one of the biggest cybersecurity threats facing healthcare today—and they're often easy for ordinary users with no tech skills (like doctors) to fall for. 

Ransomware Attacks 

You might have heard the term "ransomware" being tossed around in the news and on social media, but what exactly is it? 

Ransomware is malware that blocks access to a computer system until a large sum of money is paid. Typically, users are tricked into opening an email attachment that contains malicious software. The malware then encrypts all the data on your computer and locks you out of your files until you pay up. The typical ransom demand ranges from $200 to $10,000 depending on your data's value (for example, if you had sensitive patient information).  

Ransomware attacks are often carried out through phishing emails with subject lines like "Tax Receipt" or "Payment Details" or other seemingly innocuous topics designed to fool recipients into opening attachments or clicking links within the message body itself. 

Cybercrime is a serious problem, and it's growing at an alarming rate. 

Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, and it is a global problem that threatens businesses and individuals. In fact, cybercrime has become so advanced that it has become one of the biggest threats to our national security. 

Healthcare organizations are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks because they store sensitive personal data like social security numbers and credit card information. This information can be used to commit identity theft or fraud against healthcare consumers, which can devastate those individuals' finances and reputations. 

Healthcare cybersecurity breaches are on the rise. 

The Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach in 2016 was $3.62 million. But they also found that only 1% of cyber attacks were detected within six months of being initiated. 

Cybersecurity breaches are on the rise for healthcare organizations: 

  • In 2017, about 4% more reported security breaches were reported than in 2016 (2,917 vs. 2,826). 
  • The number of reported privacy incidents rose from 1,732 in 2016 to 2,233 in 2017—a 37% increase over two years. 

The biggest cybersecurity threats to healthcare include ransomware and phishing attacks. 

Ransomware is malware that infects computers or networks and prevents users from accessing their files or systems until a ransom is paid. It's also referred to as "encryption malware" because it encrypts its victims' data, making it unusable until the user pays the attacker bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key.  

Most ransomware variants utilize robust encryption algorithms, making it virtually impossible for victims to recover their information without help from third-party recovery tools — which do not come free. 

Phishing attacks attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes indirectly money). Typically via email spoofing or instant messaging, phishers send messages that appear legitimate but contain links for malicious software instead of opening attachments directly in your browser. Hence, if clicked on by accident, it may grant complete access to your computer, allowing them access to everything you have saved there including documents containing important information such as social security numbers. 

One of the biggest challenges facing cyber criminals in healthcare is the lack of cybersecurity regulation. 

Healthcare organizations are not required to implement security measures like regular patching, proper configuration management, and segmentation. A successful attack can often have devastating consequences for patients, who may receive treatment based on a compromised device or system. 

In addition to this lack of regulation, many healthcare facilities also don't have proper authentication controls in place—meaning they allow anyone who walks through their doors to access their network and data stores. By implementing more required authentication methods such as multi-factor authentication or behavior analytics tools, you can protect your enterprise from threats before they even enter your network perimeter. 

Healthcare needs to take cybersecurity seriously. 

As a healthcare organization, you face the challenge of providing your patients with the best care possible while keeping them safe. This means investing in advanced technology and procedures to protect your practice from cyber-attacks. 

The key here is that cybersecurity is not just about computer systems—it's also about people. You need to train all staff members on spotting suspicious emails or phone calls and make them aware of their responsibility to protect confidential information. 

Conclusion 

The health care system is increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The increasing use of technology in our lives means that hackers are looking for ways into the healthcare system, and it's essential to remain vigilant about cybersecurity.  

The FDA is working on standards for medical devices. Still, hospitals must figure out how to protect themselves from ransomware attacks and other types of malicious software, like viruses or spyware. 

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, so must the way that providers manage their IT infrastructure. At SSI, we understand how important it is for healthcare providers to maintain compliance with HIPAA regulations and other government standards. Our team of expert engineers can help you design and implement a system that keeps your data safe and secure. We'll also be there to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.