The Healthcare industry has become critical for cybersecurity experts in recent years. Given the slow adoption of security measures, healthcare has been an easy target for cybercriminals, serving their malicious interests with minimal effort.
One pertinent example is the WannaCry incident which initially occurred in 2017. It affected 40% of healthcare organizations and crippled more than 300,000 machines in 150 countries, including 80 National Health Service hospitals in Britain. Interestingly this incident could have been avoided if a robust patching policy had been utilized throughout the healthcare industry.
Tackling cybersecurity challenges in healthcare is a big hurdle for policymakers in the health industry and requires security officials to identify and focus on vulnerable areas that may expose patients and health systems to threat actors.
Common Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges
Cybersecurity threats in the health sector are significant to address, given the severity for both patients and healthcare firms. Data breaches damage the target IT infrastructure and expose patients to identity thefts, bullying, and other exploitation attempts for their illnesses. Moreover, a halt in the normal working of the healthcare facility can risk patients’ lives.
Some common cybersecurity threats that healthcare firms must deal with include:
- Data breaches
- Exploitation of vulnerabilities in medical equipment
- Malware attacks
- Ransomware attacks
- Poor security of outdated or legacy systems (especially those with unpatched vulnerabilities)
- DDoS attacks
- Phishing/spearphishing attacks
- Insider threats
How To Deal with Cybersecurity Challenges in Healthcare
1. Adopt Basic Security Practices
Regardless of how naïve it sounds, missing out on adopting the essential security best practices is often the reason behind successful cyberattacks.
The most important practice should be to set up a robust patching policy. It will ensure that any publicly available exploits will be patched before cybercriminals have the chance to create their own unique exploits e.g., WannaCry.
Other mandatory security steps in any healthcare facility include:
- Setting up strong passwords for user accounts
- Applying secure login with multi-factor authentication
- Deploying robust firewalls to protect sensitive systems
- Limiting access control to authorized users
- Employing email security measures
2. Utilize Network Segmentation
Segregating sensitive systems and databases from the network is vital in preventing online attacks. While it isn’t possible to airgap every sensitive system, especially in healthcare facilities where swift access is critical for patients’ wellbeing. Healthcare services can instead deploy network segmentation by deploying firewalls, virtual LANs, VPNs, and routers. Organizations can make it difficult for cyberattacks to reach sensitive network areas following an infiltration.
Healthcare firms can also set up separate networks for different resources, such as segregating medical equipment from financial and non-medical systems. Such demarcations also prevent the loss of a multitude of data in a cyberattack.
3. Devise Comprehensive Mitigation and Recovery Plans
Some organizations may feel they do not need to utilize further measures after applying their initial security compliance. However, dealing with sophisticated and ever-evolving cyber security challenges in healthcare isn’t possible by mere compliance.
Instead, healthcare and medical facilities should devise inclusive disaster management, mitigation, and recovery plans to combat potential cybersecurity situations. Organizations must also consider conducting periodic (rather regular) risk assessments, vulnerability scans, and attack simulations to ensure their readiness against cyber threats.
4. Partner with Trusted Security Firms
Since medical facilities host a multitude of devices and equipment from various organizations with varying functionalities, it can be difficult for IT staff to secure and monitor such diversified connections. Partnering with dedicated security providers like Indusface can help healthcare firms ensure adequate network security, including all connected devices. Similarly, healthcare firms should remain careful when collaborating with other medical businesses, limiting their partnerships with firms known for protecting their devices and data.
5. Run Employee Training and Awareness Programs
The last but most crucial strategy for every online business, including healthcare, is ensuring appropriate cybersecurity staff training. The relevant institutions should not confine this security awareness to only the staff dealing with sensitive systems. Instead, healthcare facilities should run periodic awareness and training sessions for all employees, making them ready to detect anomalies, notice and report suspicious emails/messages, and tackle security situations.
The innovative and rapidly evolving cyber threats have made it inevitable for firms to devise robust strategies to tackle the cybersecurity challenges in healthcare. From improving IT security to executing staff training and parting with trusted organizations, healthcare facilities must adopt every measure contributing to their vigilance against cyber threats.