The 5 Biggest Risks & Challenges to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Businesses in the healthcare industry are a prime target for cybercriminals. It isn’t the only industry seeing an uptick in attacks, but since the stakes are higher in healthcare than in any other industry, providers must take cybersecurity seriously.

A single breach can bring your operations to a halt — and potentially lead to poor patient care and hinder patient safety. Healthcare cybersecurity should always be a priority, but that isn’t always a reality. Healthcare organizations face unique challenges to protecting both their patients and their business.

Here are the five biggest challenges to healthcare cybersecurity and how your organization can overcome them.

1. HIPAA Compliance

Breaches happen in every industry, yet healthcare is uniquely vulnerable, and particularly attractive to cyber criminals . Whether an employee mistakenly shares patient data or a hacker steals your information, the threat is real, and your organization — and your patients — could be at risk. Healthcare organizations must comply with HIPAA, and every data breach leads to massive headaches and penalties for providers.

HIPAA compliance is an issue that’s specific to healthcare organizations. No other industry experiences this level of regulation, with the inevitable result that the stakes are raised even higher.

Of course, healthcare organizations need to share ePHI to improve the quality of patient care and patient outcomes, but they need to do so securely. You can’t adequately protect and manage ePHI if you’re unaware of it, making HIPAA compliance a challenge.

Tausight’s Situational ePHI Awareness solution identifies all ePHI throughout the healthcare ecosystem and continuously validates cyber preparedness. And should a breach occur, Tausight provides an immutable, off-site audit trail with forensic-level details across all endpoints to shorten the time to cyber recovery.

2. Staff Mismanagement

Your staff is the weakest link in your cybersecurity posture. Healthcare providers are dedicated to high quality patient care, but cybersecurity best practices may not always be top-of-mind.

Human error is a common cause of cyber breaches across all industries. In large, complex organizations like hospitals, the risk of human error is challenging to mitigate, something cybercriminals are happy to take advantage of.

If it means providing better care to patients, your staff may circumvent healthcare cybersecurity practices, which introduces a significant risk vector for your business. They might:

  • Download attachments without reviewing them
  • Create weak passwords
  • Share passwords
  • Open phishing emails or click phishing links

Training is the best way to reduce employee cyber blunders. Instead of training your team once a year (which HIPAA requires), institute mandatory cybersecurity training every month. That might sound excessive, but it keeps your team up to date on cybersecurity best practices, which is what you need to stay secure.

3. Ransomware

Ransomware is a pressing issue for the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks target healthcare organizations for two primary reasons:

  • ePHI has a high value on the black market, making healthcare organizations a target for cyber attackers with a financial motive. In fact, stolen patient health information can sell for $250 to $1,000 per record on the dark web. Credit card numbers and Social Security numbers, meanwhile, sell for around $5 and as little as $1 each, respectively.
  • Healthcare organizations exist to provide essential health services that save lives and improve the quality of life. Therefore, healthcare organizations are more likely to pay ransom so that they can continue providing these life-saving services without interruptions that can harm patient safety.

With an estimated 61% of healthcare organizations paying ransomware attackers, no other industry pays the ransom as much as healthcare.

However, paying the ransom encourages more ransomware attacks as a whole. Since attackers were getting what they want, healthcare is now experiencing a deluge of ransomware attacks.

That said, there’s been a recent trend to discourage ransom payments, and the U.S. government has recently taken steps to discourage it. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an advisory in October 2020 highlighting the risk of civil or criminal penalties for organizations that pay ransom to any entity, group, or individual that has been sanctioned by the government.

4. Out-of-date IoT Devices

Healthcare organizations rely on IoT devices to improve patient care and reduce healthcare costs through telehealth and remote patient monitoring, yet, despite their critical benefits, many of these devices pose cybersecurity risks.

Attackers know IoT devices are often out-of-date and unsecured, so it’s little wonder that healthcare IoT attacks increased by 123% in 2022.

To solve this, it’s a good idea for healthcare providers to eliminate legacy devices and infrastructure. This can be expensive, but recovering from a data breach is expensive too, not just in terms of finances and reputational damage, but also in terms of reduced patient safety. Consequently, organizations should also implement solid backup procedures so they can recover their data in the event of a ransomware attack or other cybersecurity incident.

If you’ve already replaced your legacy infrastructure and devices, make sure you update them regularly by having your IT department install the latest firmware. This will help to ensure all your IoT devices are protected.

5. Insider Threats

Employees across different industries have access to an average of 11 million files. Healthcare employees also have access to sensitive patient data that could be used for identity theft and fraud, and sometimes disgruntled employees will take that data outside of your organization.

Other times, a well-meaning employee might unintentionally share sensitive patient information via an unsecured channel like email. It isn’t unheard of for healthcare employees to gossip about patients or snoop on patient files, either.

These are all healthcare cybersecurity issues and HIPAA violations waiting to happen. To prevent insider threats, you need to implement the principle of least privilege: only give access to employees who need the data to do their jobs and only give them access to the minimum necessary information. You also need audit logs to track which employees access patient information, when, and why.

Rising to the Challenge with Situational ePHI Awareness

Cybersecurity often feels like a daunting task for healthcare providers. The healthcare industry has unique challenges, such as an expanding attack surface driven by information sharing, telehealth, and remote work. That means traditional cybersecurity approaches focusing on locking data inside the firewall fall short.

Tausight’s Situational ePHI Awareness solution identifies and analyzes ePHI and risk across all endpoints in the care continuum in real-time, enabling healthcare organizations to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Developed using leading-edge IoT and NLP/ML technologies, Tausight provides 24/7 telemetry with forensic-level detail on how ePHI is created, stored, accessed, moved, and replicated, creating an immutable off-site audit trail for faster cyber recovery.  Contact Tausight today to learn more.

profile photo of David Ting

David Ting

Founder and CTO, Tausight

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