In 2021 alone, the healthcare industry saw a 123% increase in ransomware attacks and sensitive data breaches likely as a result of the pandemic. It is of no surprise that cyberattacks have only continued to escalate and intensify across healthcare institutions – further destabilizing the medical field, adding to concerns among patients, and creating more headaches for personnel-strapped IT departments.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), industry experts labeled 2021 the industry’s worst year ever for data breaches, with tens of millions of patient records compromised. The continuous blows to hospitals and smaller offices alike were largely successful due to hackers purposefully exploiting burdened healthcare organizations at a time when resources were already stretched.
The financial value that comes along with patient health data means cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and targeting both large hospitals to smaller clinics and medical practices alike. Cybercriminals can easily produce millions of dollars a year through ransom payments and pure extortion, and this often exceeds the cyber defense budgets that most healthcare organizations carry.
As a result, the increase in telemedicine services, remote treatments, staffing shortages, and the inherent challenge that accompanies making healthcare data more accessible to various institutions and networks is creating a vulnerable atmosphere welcomed by hackers. Thus, a refreshed look at the most basic tips for creating a stronger cybersecurity posture is critical in 2022.
Establish Cyber Safeguards to Mitigate Ransomware Risks
Unfortunately, the most consistent reason healthcare organizations and clinics become continuous targets for malicious actors surrounds bad practices that are in place. Such practices can essentially lead to an organization becoming compromised and wreak havoc on networks by downing operational systems and comprising care. Not only does this cost millions in lost revenue and ransomware payments, but it can place doctors and healthcare systems in the middle of legal action from patients.
A solid cybersecurity posture is only as strong as its proven policies, backups and disaster plans. Improving cybersecurity and network architecture will strengthen the healthcare infrastructure by increasing the durability of resources, validated backups, multi-factor authentication and public trust while decreasing overall costs.
This critical improvement first requires IT departments to let go of outdated legacy networks in favor of a more modern framework that consists of an affordable market provider such as a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), or Managed Detection and Response Provider (MDR).
Putting all your security expectations and key business functions in an outdated network infrastructure invites trouble. Hiring an MSSP provides outsourced management and monitoring of security systems that include antivirus protection, intrusion detection, vulnerability scanning, and managed firewall services.
They also help to meet HIPAA compliance requirements that ensure clinicians, patients, and devices are secured from internal and external threats like data destruction, social engineering and targeted attacks.
A provider’s ability to offer high-security operation centers and around-the-clock services also lessens the number of operational security staff that healthcare organizations need to hire, train and maintain amidst a cybersecurity talent shortage.
Network security is also imperative in an industry where digital technology, remote access and cloud storage is the core of their operations. SASE, short for Secure Access Service Edge provides a counter to the increasingly sophisticated and varied cyberattacks that are victimizing patient services.
Its scalable abilities allow it to be monitored and managed through a single portal that significantly improves the administrative experience. SASE’s ability to extend to the edges of private networks and provide persistent security and connectivity creates a harder-to-penetrate wall of protection against hackers.
Implement Threat Awareness Training Among All Employees
Some of the most common security issues in a medical organization stem from the lack of employee awareness of cybersecurity protocols, and because of this, cybercriminals have increasingly preyed on the healthcare sector with distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS).
Through these specific attacks, hackers can extract data and infect systems with ransomware that can lock up patient scheduling, lose patient data and compromise vital systems. Attacks can also be a result of pure human error where an employee may click a button or fall victim to a phishing scheme exposing sensitive data almost instantly.
Unfortunately, most budgets do not allow for IT personnel to be present in all medical offices but keeping a practice safe from ransomware attacks does not have to be an intimidating project. Simply providing your employees with basic threat detection skills and annual cybersecurity training can reduce the vulnerability of your office and mitigate the severity of attacks.
Through this awareness training, employees can strengthen data privacy and passwords while also developing cyber habits that will prove a worthy investment for the organization. By preparing for security incidents ahead of time and investing in secure backups consistently, you can maintain a bolstered cybersecurity readiness.
Possessing an effective cybersecurity defense and training system for your hospital or clinic can be affordable and provide your institution with the strongest safeguards against future attacks.
In an industry that is already overwhelmed, developing simple cybersecurity strategies and proactive preparedness plans can save millions while ensuring the safety of both patients and employees.