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Top 5 Cyber Threats to Healthcare Organizations

by | Oct 29, 2021 | BLOG

Cybersecurity has become one of the significant threats in the healthcare industry. As a whole, IT professionals must continually address health data security issues due to specifications outlined in regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as an ethical commitment to helping patients and harm that health security violations can have on their lives.

Electronic health records, also called electronic medical records, contain a wealth of confidential information on patients’ medical backgrounds, making the security of the hospital’s network a primary IT concern. 

Electronic medical records enable doctors and other healthcare professionals, as well as insurers, to share essential information. This makes it easier to coordinate care and ease insurance issues. Never before have physicians been able to collaborate so dynamically to meet patients’ needs.

While this may sound simple, health data security presents many challenges common to IT and unique to hospital cybersecurity. Keep reading the article and learn more about the 5 biggest cyber threats for healthcare organizations.

Why Are Health Information Systems a Target for Security Threats?

The paradox of shared health information is that it simultaneously makes patients safer and puts them at risk. The larger the network becomes, the more useful it is in providing high-quality healthcare, but their data also becomes more attractive to criminals.

Cyber threats in healthcare are a big problem for a few reasons, such as:

  • In addition to patient records, medical service provider networks can contain valuable financial information.
  • Since there are very few people who do not consult their healthcare providers, almost everyone’s personal information is available in some form.
  • The interconnected nature of electronic medical records means that hackers have access to patient data collected for years. Sharing patient information is essential to providing the best possible care, but it also makes target networks extremely valuable.

In other situations, health organizations face more direct attacks. Once a hacker has access to a network, they can install ransomware to encrypt files or block essential services until the organization pays a specific ransom. 

Healthcare is such a sensitive field that organizations often have little choice but to pay the ransom and hope that the money can somehow be recovered.

In medical situations, where a tiny little change in dosage is the difference between life and death for a patient, health professionals cannot allow these threats to materialize.

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What Are The Top 5 Cyber Threats to Healthcare Organizations?

According to research conducted by Wandera, it was possible to analyze a subset of healthcare organizations in the company’s database, which includes tens of thousands of users, such as hospital employees, hospital care providers, and medical equipment manufacturers. The report analyzed the most common security threats among employees and categorized the risks into high, medium, and low risk.

The biggest risks and percentage of healthcare organizations affected by risk are:

  1. Malicious network traffic: 72%
  2. Phishing: 56%
  3. Vulnerable operating systems (high risk): 48%
  4. Man-in-the-middle Attack: 16%
  5. Malware: 8%

The report’s authors described two variations of man-in-the-middle attacks as the most problematic for healthcare organizations: 

  • SSL Removal: A passthru server uses advanced techniques to look like an authentic service.
  • Targeted certificate spoofing: An intermediary server actively tries to impersonate a genuine service.

Operating system vulnerabilities are on the high-risk list thanks to older versions of operating systems that are more vulnerable due to known security exploits. 

Medium-risk threats and the number of organizations affected are:

  1. Misconfiguration vulnerabilities: 60%
  2. Risk critical points: 56%
  3. Vulnerable OS (all): 56%
  4. Apps loaded: 24%
  5. Unwanted or vulnerable application: 24%
  6. Crypt Jacking: 16%
  7. Installed third-party app stores: 16%

Configuration vulnerabilities include unlocking a device and disabling the lock screen on a device.

How Can Healthcare Organizations Minimize Security Threats to Information Systems and Networks?

Fortunately, it is possible to minimize vulnerabilities in computer health systems. This involves deploying a robust cybersecurity system that covers the entire network, including cloud storage

All data must be encrypted so that third parties cannot access the information during transmission or when in storage:

Understand Your Network Map 

Use technology that provides an overview of the devices and storage on your network. That way you can see exactly what information is vulnerable in what ways, and you will know when new or unauthorized devices have accessed the system. This layout will also help establish access and restrictions for each device on the network, reducing staff misconduct.

Update Your Software 

Make sure all software and operating system information are up-to-date. These updates include critical patches that discourage potential cybercriminals from attacking previously found software weaknesses. 

If you do not use the proper software updates, criminals can still take advantage of vulnerabilities left by previous versions.

Virtual Private Network Encryption

Encrypting your network connection is a great way to increase network privacy and block potential hackers. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your data so that other viewers cannot see what goes out or enters your computer. So, even if they are monitoring your connection, they will not receive anything unless they already have access to your computer.

Perform Regular Audits

System administrators should perform regular audits and there should be two-step authentication that requires anyone to adjust information or enter new data to verify their identity. 

All users should be asked to create strong passwords and change them after a predetermined number of weeks. Access credentials should also be reviewed regularly to ensure that former or transferred employees do not have access to patient data.

Set Restricted Access

Rather than just thinking about what you need to restrict, consider the data from this perspective: What do certain employees need to access to do their jobs? This establishes a context in which the minimum amount of information is available, eliminating the possibility of staff misuse.

Think Like a Hacker

By understanding the basics of how a cybercriminal manipulates a network, you will be in a much better position to stop their efforts. While it may be difficult to explain this without a track record in health data security measures, this crucial step highlights any potential gaps in your plan.

Use Professional Services

Although there are many ways that healthcare organizations can limit potential threats, their area of expertise is in using the information to help patients, not managing healthcare data security measures. 


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