Hackers and healthcare: a dangerous duo
Few industries contain more sensitive information than healthcare. With a wealth of patient medical records, healthcare industry breaches inflict a copious amount of damage on a personal level. It’s no wonder, then, why they’re highly targeted. In fact, according to Solutionary Managed Security Services, 88 percent of U.S. ransomware attacks focused on the healthcare industry in 2016. These security breaches have a massive impact on health organizations. It’s time for a checkup on the healthcare cybersecurity landscape. To do so, let’s take a quick look at what causes these issues and what healthcare providers can do to help mitigate cybersecurity threats and prevent long-term damage.
Current healthcare security landscape
Cybersecurity attacks on healthcare organizations have grown exponentially in the last few years. For example, Healthcare Dive reports there were 104,056 records breached in January 2016. By June of the same year, that number escalated to nearly 11 million. With this statistic in mind, it’s unsurprising that, in 2015, 89 percent of healthcare organizations had at least one data breach involving the loss or theft of patient data. 2016 wasn’t any better when cybercriminals stole more than 27 million healthcare records. The number of healthcare breaches highlights how hackers have exposed the industry’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and emphasizes the need to bolster protections for patient and faculty data.
It’s becoming even more difficult for healthcare organizations to afford the fallout from cybersecurity risks, considering the Ponemon Institute estimates data breaches cost the healthcare industry $6.2 billion. Malicious security attacks may impact patients the most. The recent Emory Healthcare data breach in February 2017, for example, affected approximately 80,000 patients. Another attack, this time on Urology Austin, potentially revealed over 279,000 patient records, including addresses, sensitive medical information and Social Security numbers.
The consequences of these attacks affect hospitals on a global scale. For instance, the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) security breach compromised approximately 26 million patient medical records in March 2017 alone. The frequency and scale of healthcare security attacks also influence how threats are documented. Per James Scott, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, ransomware in the healthcare industry has become so common organizations have stopped reporting all cases, meaning current statistics are likely an underestimate of actual industry damage incurred.
Protecting private data
With healthcare breaches posing such a threat, there are two key ways organizations can prevent security breaches from exploiting private data:
- File backup
In the event of a ransomware attack, ensuring file systems containing sensitive patient and faculty information are backed up and accessible is critical. This is also true in a general sense, where storing a “clean” format free from corruption caused by cyberattacks is essential for continuity. Employing a strong file backup system means healthcare organizations can effectively access private files from any point in time that have remained untouched by malware or ransomware strains.
- Email security
Encryption and multi-layered email security can help guard organizations against malware and malicious cybersecurity attack attempts, such as ransomware. Including Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance-based templates can help facilitate what emails need to be encrypted and ensure HIPAA privacy standards have been met. For healthcare organizations, it’s essential for security services to meet HIPAA compliance standards to be effective.
As healthcare industries continue to battle cybersecurity threats, it’s important to understand how these attacks impact industry practices and privacy standards. By spreading awareness about the acceleration of healthcare cybersecurity breaches, organizations can effectively aim security solutions toward optimizing healthcare service approaches.
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