Master Data Management
Emerging gaps in healthcare security
Did you know that 15% of all cyber-attacks were targeted at the healthcare industry in 2020? Cyber security threats are evolving with technological advancements, more so in the healthcare industry. Threats to healthcare data are more concerning due to its sensitive nature.
It is, hence, imperative that security breaches in the healthcare industry are continually monitored and addressed as per the guidelines outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. Not only is there an ethical commitment to patients worldwide to safeguard their personal information, but it is also true that security breaches in healthcare could lead to damage to people’s lives.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) hold sensitive information about patients’ medical history, and, with today’s advancements, make it seamless for healthcare professionals and insurance companies to share information and collaborate to meet patients’ needs. This very nature of EHRs being widely accessible makes it vulnerable to hacking and cybercrime.
Why are healthcare systems soft targets for security threats?
A shared healthcare system makes patients’ lives safer while at the same time exposes them to risk. While more data makes it easy to provide quality healthcare, this very data can be a magnet for criminals. Medical data not only gives access to private information of thousands of patients but also opens doors to confidential financial information of medical providers too.
Cybercriminals often gather data to sell them for ransom or use them for their personal purposes. Insurance information can be used by attackers to undergo expensive medical treatments for themselves or get prescription medication under a patients’ name. They could also directly attack a healthcare organisation by encrypting files or locking services and holding the data for ransom. As healthcare is a time-bound service, and a matter of life and death, healthcare providers are often left with no choice but to pay the ransom to the attackers.
What are some common security gaps that need to be addressed?
Medical equipment and mobile devices:
Identifying security concerns in modern medical devices is a matter of concern for healthcare security professionals. Such modern medical equipment rely on software and the internet, which make it easy for criminals to target them. Medical devices today often share data to the outside world of the healthcare facility, making it vulnerable to attacks. Unsecured or even lost mobile devices can be gateways to malware and phishing attacks unless healthcare facilities enforce strict rules against the use of mobile devices.
Internal and external threats:
Threats can be caused by people within the healthcare facility. Staff often have free access to patient data. While there could be a level of trust placed in employees, there can be no guarantee that information won’t be stolen or misused for personal gain. Besides, hospitals may also engage external vendors for tasks such as maintenance. In such cases, employees from the vendor organisation may be able to easily access sensitive data and misuse it in any way possible.
IoT or phishing attacks:
With technology advancements, hackers find new ways to steal information. Modern medical devices such as heaters and ventilators often have endpoints connected to the internet. Remote hackers can find ways to infiltrate these endpoints and manipulate these devices, thus compromising patient care.
How can healthcare professionals address security issues?
As a first step, employees of the healthcare industry need to be adequately trained and educated on the different cyber security gaps. Strict measures and procedures need to be in place and regularly communicated to employees to ensure that security lapses are contained. Essentially, a networked and connected ecosystem using digital tools to communicate with employees on cybersecurity aspects is needed.*
Regular audits need to be conducted on the network and interconnected devices to curb data loss. Thinking out of the box like a hacker will help put in place measures proactively. Another way to address or close security gaps is to get help from industry experts who can give professional network security and support.
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