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The Biggest Threat to Data Security in Healthcare in 2021

Josh Moore
06/09/2021
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Information about your health is the most personal and important data there is. In recent years the healthcare industry has become one of the top targets for hackers. Cyberthreats are increasing and securing this information is now the number one priority for IT professionals in the healthcare industry.

According to a recent survey of healthcare providers, 39% of healthcare organizations suffered ransomware attacks in 2020. More specifically, 44% of healthcare providers suffered a phishing attack, 39% were the victims of ransomware and 35% were hit by data theft by insiders.

Since healthcare organizations need immediate access to their data to save lives, they frequently pay ransoms to regain access. And as telehealth services have become commonplace, it has increased the need for cloud technologies in the healthcare sector. As a result, new avenues for cyber threats have opened. 

Current Cybersecurity Challenges in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has a combination of unique factors that make it a favorable environment for cyberattacks. Since the data is so valuable and healthcare organizations have a high likelihood of paying ransom demands, it’s a profitable venture for hackers.

Unfortunately, protecting healthcare systems from data breaches and other threats becomes complicated for several reasons. These include:

Talent Shortage

The cybersecurity talent shortage in healthcare is especially severe because salary and benefits available are often higher in other industries.

Outdated Systems

Operating systems, computers, applications, and devices may be past their end-of-life data but are still in-use at healthcare organizations. Highly specialized medical applications may require older operating systems or lack security features present on modern systems.

Lack of Cybersecurity Training 

Medical professionals may not have role-appropriate knowledge of cybersecurity, which makes them more likely to click on phishing links and fall victim to other manipulation techniques. In addition, connected medical devices helps medical providers with more data and advanced capabilities, but they’re not always optimized for security.

New Risks from Telehealth 

Many healthcare providers switched to telemedicine rapidly when the pandemic hit without implementing policies, procedures and standardized environments.

Preparing for Healthcare Data Threats

2021 may be a rough year for protecting healthcare data. Using a systemic cybersecurity approach to deal with potential threats, ensuring that healthcare data remains available, and mitigating the risk of data breaches involving personal health information and other sensitive information will be critical.

The first step is to provide security training to personnel. Many data breaches start due to clicking a phishing link. Don’t assume that everyone in the organization has basic cybersecurity literacy. Put tools and training programs in place to keep everyone up-to-date on what common attack attempts look like, how to respond in the situation, and how to report the attempts to the appropriate IT security team member.

Many healthcare organizations must account for remote computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices now that telemedicine is more routine. Use security platforms that have appropriate protections and management capabilities for your infrastructure, rather than ones that focus primarily on the perimeter of a hospital or clinic. Endpoint Detection and Response software is one option for improving in this area.

Healthcare providers can also improve security by simply reducing the number of users and systems that have access to healthcare data. Each user or role should only access the information needed for their position, and anyone no longer with the healthcare organization should have their account removed or disabled.

Healthcare organizations are making widespread budget cuts due to shortfalls, so you may be working with limited resources for procurement, recruitment, and operations. Look for ways to make the most of your available resources. For example, you can automate many low-level IT security processes so your team can focus on more complex attacks. In addition, find a partner that can offer an IT security risk assessment. This will ensure you can understand where your security gaps are and prioritize your time, budget, and resources on addressing them first.

If your healthcare operations are vulnerable to cyberthreats, please contact the experts at Elevity. We can provide assessments, strategy and advanced monitoring and response technology to secure your vital healthcare data from hackers.

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