Cyber security in Healthcare. With data breaches costing the healthcare system approximately $5.6 billion every year, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, there is a growing need for cyber security more than ever before. There has been a report of an average of one cyber breach in the health sector in 2016 that affected more than 27 million patient records according to the Breach Barometer Report.
The costly underinvestment of cyber security in healthcare has left many so vulnerable as they are even unable to detect cyber threats. The main purpose of this article is to expose you to what cyber security is, its importance to the healthcare system, and ways to improve its relevance and services in the healthcare system.
Here are what we are going to be discussing in this article:
- What is cyber security?
- Why Cyber Security?
- Cyber Security Analyst
- Cyber security principles
- Why does healthcare get cyber threats?
- Importance of cyber security in the healthcare industry
- 5 Major Cyber-attacks on the healthcare industry
- 10 Strategies for improving cyber security in healthcare
What is cyber security?
Cyber security refers to the body of technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Cyber security may also be referred to as information technology security.
With the growth projections in cybercrime and data breaches, many organizations and individuals have decided to take up the means in which to secure their data and servers, this in return has increased the ongoing demand for cyber security degrees.
Why Cyber Security?
In the real world, there are ways a hacker can utilize and monetize even the most innocuous information. This can be done through identity theft, stealing of health insurance for medical coverage, etc. Criminals are coming up with creative ways to carry out their nefarious schemes which is why there is a growing need for cyber security in our homes, servers, databases, etc.
Cyber Security Analyst
A cyber security analyst also called an information security analyst is someone that is tasked with protecting a company’s network and systems from cyber-attacks. They keep track f threats and monitor their organization’s networks for any breaches in security.
Cyber security analysts also plan for any form of trouble within the databases by creating contingency plans that will secure the databases information in case of any breaches, Since cyber-attacks are constantly using new tools and strategies, cyber security analysts need to be up to date with tools and weapons this same hacker make use of.
Cyber security analysts also make sure they educate members of the organizations they belong to about security risks and ways to avoid security breaches within the company. Such a case may be educating the members of an organization on the risks of using an unidentified wireless network to reduce the risk of being attacked by ransomware or a worm that can spread through that wireless network.
A cyber security analyst also installs firewall and encryption tools, reports breaches and weak spots, researches IT trends, and also initiates security attacks just to find potential vulnerabilities.
Cyber security principles
Cyber security principles are given and executed to provide a guide on how companies and industries (healthcare) can protect their systems, records, and information from cyber-attacks. There are four major key activities grouped under these principles:
- Identify: Rooting out security leaks.
- Protect: Placing security controls and protocols to reduce security risks
- Detect: understanding cyber security protocols.
- Respond: Responding and recovering from cyber security incidents.
Importance of cyber security in the healthcare industry
With the high reports of cyber security threats in the healthcare industry that daily put patients’ records and safety at risk, it is safe to say that great priority and investment should be placed on securing these areas.
When there is an alignment between cybersecurity and patients safety. It will not only help the organization protect patient safety. But it will also increase the dispensing of quality care to their patients. When clinics’ records are secure and easily accessed. They can focus more on taking good care of their patients. The healthcare system shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their patient records and their clinical health. This will reduce the quality of care rendered to them.
The question now remains, why do the healthcare get attacked or why are they vulnerable to cyber threats?
Why does healthcare get cyber threats?
The healthcare system faces a large number of cyber-attacks because they are privileged with much information on patients’ confidential records like their bank statements, credit card, and bank account numbers, personal identifying information (PII), intellectual property of the hospital, and medical research records and the patients’ medical records.
Most of all this information could be valuable to the right people and some of them can sell as much as millions of dollars most especially the medical research records and the intellectual property of the hospital.
The difficult part of the whole scenario is that it costs a lot more to resolve a medical breach than n any other profession. This is why many medical institutes invest millions of dollars to protect the privacy of their patient’s records and also their intellectual property.
5 Major Cyber-attacks on the healthcare industry
It is predicted that in 2021 the healthcare system is going to experience more targeted attacks by cybercriminals. Below shows major attacks that have plagued medical institutes in the past year.
- Ransomware attacked a hospital in Germany last September.
- Data breach by hackers from five different healthcare institutes was sold on the dark web.
- Ransomware attack on multi servers of the School of Medicine. UCSF was forced to pay a sum of $1.14 million.
- DHS CISA reported Emotet’s resurgence in October 2020, about a cyber-attack that affected 24% of major hospitals.
- UHS, the Universal Health Services suffered a ransomware attack in more than 300 locations in September.
10 Strategies for improving cyber security in healthcare
These are steps to take to improve cyber security in healthcare:
Fixing all Loop Holes
Before a cyber-crime is committed, cybercriminals often look for loopholes in a system. This make occurs due to unpatched vulnerabilities or outdated software. These criminals are trained to detect and exploit these vulnerabilities. Hence it is important to patch up all loopholes and regularly update medical software and antiviruses.
It is also advised to conduct a timely Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing. It will help secure the servers and keep them updated.
Create an Awareness of security
How can a hospital create awareness of security? This is usually achieved by training and educating the medical staff on security protocol. And how to carry them out in the event of a data breach. This will give the staff in the organization a sense of responsibility in protecting the patient’s data.
Securing Mobile devices
Many healthcare providers are making use of mobile devices at work. These devices if not secured can act as a relay point between the hacker’s software and the hospital’s servers. This is why adequate encryption and other protective measures should be used to secure information on these devices.
Mandatory Computer Learning
New medical staff should be put through the necessary computer training. To give them an understanding of how a system work and various steps that should be taken in making sure their system software is up to date.
Using and updating a Firewall
A firewall basically creates a barrier between your system and the internet. As long as you are connected to the internet, there will always be risks of getting hacked. The systems being used in these medical institutes should have a firewall installed and regularly updated.
These will serve as a barrier thereby preventing hackers from easily accessing a patient’s record.
Making use of the latest anti-virus software
Installing the latest anti-virus software would also help in securing the hospital data. Also, the regular update of the anti-virus software will ensure the healthcare system receives the best possible protection at any given time.
File Back up
Backing up the medical files, either to the cloud or an external drive means preparing for the worst. In the event of a data breach or a ransomware attack that causes the files to be destroyed, the hospital should be able to fall back on its backup files.
This will ensure quick and easy restoration of medical files.
Restricting Access to a privileged few
Access to protected and confidential information should be accessed only to those who need it or are given clearance for it. With this, the flow of information will be strict to medical staff who have clearance and therefore increase the level of security in the hospital.
The Verizon report shows that 63% of confirmed data breaches involve exploiting passwords that were weak, stolen, or by default. Healthcare workers should not only make use of strong passwords but they should always be changed regularly.
Restrict Network access to a select few
Any and all activities that are being carried out over the network should be approved and monitored by the proper organization authorities. This will prevent anyone from installing a worm with the software that could create a back door into the system.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of what cyber security is and its usefulness in the healthcare system. It is safe to say that more attention needs to be paid to ensure the effective utilization of cyber security techniques in the medical sectors