Is cyber security one of the biggest threats to the stability of healthcare?

July 2022

Did you know that hackers hit a whopping 81% of all healthcare organisations in the UK in 2021?

The bad news doesn’t stop there. As our world slowly moves many of its operations into the digital sphere, the attack vectors are increasing tenfold. Data breaches increased by 68% in 2021, and the trend is only on the rise.

The NHS is making big strides with its online booking and NHS app, and yet this progress gives hackers more opportunities to compromise healthcare. Healthcare professionals must adopt rigorous cyber security solutions now. When ransomware threatens to steal confidential records and payment information, the cost of failure is higher than ever.

Healthcare cyber security is more important than ever, but luckily there are solutions to stop hackers in their tracks. In this article, you’ll learn about the healthcare challenges associated with increased cyber attacks, and what we can do.

What Unique Cyber Security Issues in Healthcare Affect This Industry?

The challenges in healthcare give hackers many ways to infiltrate and steal data. It makes healthcare cyber security specialised compared to the typical IT needs of other businesses.

For starters, healthcare is a treasure trove for hackers. It includes personal information and payment information that sells for a premium on the dark net. A user can change their password at any time, but it’s impossible for them to change sensitive personal medical data.

Further, this high-value information is often time-sensitive. Hackers know that they can demand exorbitant sums with ransomware because hospitals and clinics cannot delay. Some of this information is needed to deliver timely, crucial treatment to patients.

To take this further, cyber security challenges in healthcare can lead to the loss of innocent lives. In some cases, hackers can shut down the operations of a hospital for hours or even days. When an emergency room needs these systems to be operational, innocent people could die while waiting.

Finally, healthcare compliance is crucial. A hack could lead to your failure to comply with HIPAA and other security and privacy rules. Lack of compliance leads to a lack of trust with customers, which in turn only soils the service healthcare can provide.

Healthcare is a pivotal component of our society. Cyber security issues in healthcare could cause significant damage.

There’s an adage in the cyber security industry: it’s not a matter of if they hack you, but when. Healthcare providers that are prepared for the onslaught of cyber threats will fare better when that inevitable day comes.

Online Patient Databases

It used to be that patient records were stored on paper, on-site. However, in the modern era, most of these doctor/patient agreements and treatment plans are stored online. Rather than filling out paperwork, many patients do it all on their phones beforehand.

This amazing convenience means that hackers can gain access to this vital information with greater ease. For the reasons illustrated above, this can prove to be a terrifying weakness in the system.

Using the best practice can avoid these headaches. This includes storing medical records in encrypted form, limiting permissions to access them, and following privacy guidelines.

Medical Devices Connected to the IoT (Internet of Things)

The internet of things is a shorthand for the smart devices that make up our everyday life. This can be anything from a digital doorbell with a camera, to an air conditioner that you can control with your phone. These devices talk to each other and allow the free flow of data and coordination between disparate systems.

IoT in the medical industry has been a game-changer. It allows doctors to measure hundreds of patients from afar, with wearables and other monitoring devices that report changes and treatment reminders. Further, IoT allows for improved home care of the elderly.

In a hospital, this can handle everything from asset tracking (wheelchairs, defib units, etc.) to controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

IoT means that the attack surface for hackers has expanded exponentially. Instead of one single infiltration point, a hacker has hundreds of potential infil points. If the IT team failed to upgrade the firmware on a single wearable, that could be all a hacker needs to compromise the system.

Since the IoT is all about interconnectivity and interoperability, that means, compromising one system gives you access to them all. Rigorous cyber security solutions are key to ensuring all these potential holes are patched.

Telehealth and Mobile Health

The pandemic saw the rise of long-distance healthcare. This prevents the spread of infection, keeps sick or injured people at home, and reduces the crowding at the doctor’s office.

This also means that hackers can interrupt this sensitive process. Using end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and other techniques can reduce hackers’ influence in this area.

Tips for Cyber Security in Healthcare Industry

Sometimes the best things you can do are the simplest. Here are a few easy tips anyone can employ to improve their organisational cyber security:

  • Update all software, operating systems, and firmware in a timely manner
  • Update passwords on a regular basis with strong, long passphrases
  • Use two-factor authentication to reduce credential theft
  • Train staff to recognise scams such as phishing emails
  • Limit credentials to trusted staff alone
  • Resort to experts to customise a solution for your organisation

It’s important to note here that solutions to healthcare cyber security don’t need to be disruptive. They won’t reduce the quality of care, and they’ll save you from a lot of headaches in the long run. The NHS can and should improve the care it provides by bolstering it with top-of-the-line cyber security.

Protect Your Patient Information

Cyber security is no longer an option in healthcare, it’s a necessity. Cyber attacks are only on the rise, and those who fail to prepare will suffer severe consequences. Luckily, there is a great deal that your organisation can do to nip these attacks in the bud.

Cyber security challenges in healthcare are increasing with every passing year. Get in contact with experts who specialise in the healthcare industry to build your battle plan for when hackers come knocking.