In 2015, two security researchers rocked the automobile industry by hacking into a Jeep Cherokee’s infotainment system. Something that on the surface seemed fairly innocuous, but what they were able to do as a result was every driver’s nightmare.
From the harmless infotainment system, they were able to access and take control of the car’s vital functions, including the engine and brakes – a chilling demonstration of the potential dangers lurking in our increasingly interconnected world. This hack highlighted the urgency of cybersecurity in an age where the Internet of Things (IoT) is pervading every sector, including healthcare.
The Cyber Threat Landscape
The Evolution of Cyber Attackers
With the Jeep hack as a stark reminder, it’s crucial to realize that our adversaries in the cybersecurity landscape are not static. They have evolved, from curious amateurs to organized cybercriminal groups, and even state-sponsored factions employing sophisticated techniques for political, economic, or military ends. The healthcare sector, with its treasure trove of sensitive data and life-critical services, presents a tempting target to these adversaries.
A noteworthy example is the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017. It paralyzed thousands of computers worldwide, with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) being one of its biggest victims. The attack disrupted healthcare services, leading to thousands of appointment and operation cancellations.
The Rush to Embrace IoT
In the race to embrace technology for enhanced patient care and operational efficiency, the healthcare sector is increasingly relying on IoT devices. However, the pace of adoption often surpasses the implementation of necessary cybersecurity safeguards.
The St. Jude Medical pacemaker vulnerability revealed in 2017 is a sobering example of this. If exploited, the vulnerability could allow a hacker to deplete the device’s battery or administer incorrect pacing or shocks, with potentially fatal outcomes.
Each connected device – from an insulin pump to a bedside monitor– potentially serves as a gateway for attackers. This opens a Pandora’s box of threats, not just to patient data privacy, but even to the physical safety of patients.
The Underestimated Importance of IT Departments
Standing as the guardians of this vast and vulnerable digital landscape are the IT departments of healthcare organizations. Yet, they’re often an underappreciated component of the healthcare ecosystem. Their roles, ranging from securing electronic health records (EHRs) to ensuring the smooth operation of IoT devices and defending against cyber threats, are of paramount importance. However, they are often stretched thin, with inadequate resources and personnel to handle the escalating complexity and scale of cybersecurity issues in healthcare.
The Necessity of a Solution-oriented Approach
Given these pressing challenges, a reactive approach to cybersecurity is no longer sustainable. The healthcare sector must get ahead of the curve, implementing comprehensive strategies that anticipate and address evolving threats, ensure secure IoT deployment, empower IT departments, and keep pace with the shifting landscape of cyber liability.
Could a solution come from something the hackers utilize?
Hackers usually demand Bitcoin, because it is almost impossible to trace and it is secure. The blockchain technology it is built on could be one of the more promising solutions to reinforce cybersecurity in healthcare. It’s a decentralized, distributed ledger system that guarantees the integrity of data – once recorded, data cannot be changed without the agreement of the majority of the network. This feature could serve as a formidable barrier against data manipulation and fraud. However, this technology’s integration into healthcare is still embryonic, and there are significant challenges to address before its full potential can be realized.
Strengthening IT Departments
The backbone of a strong cybersecurity posture is a robust IT department. Recognizing this, healthcare organizations must commit to investing in their IT departments, attracting skilled personnel adept in data security, network management, AI, IoT, and potentially blockchain technology. If they don’t move quickly enough, Governments may need to consider regulatory measures that stipulate minimum requirements for IT departments, promoting stronger defenses against cyber threats.
The Future of Healthcare and Liability Insurance
The intertwining of healthcare with technology is revolutionizing not just healthcare delivery but also the associated liability scenarios. When an AI algorithm makes a mistake, or a software flaw leads to a device malfunction, who’s at fault? These emerging complexities call for an evolution in cyber liability insurance, possibly extending coverage to software developers, device manufacturers, and IT professionals.
Reflecting this paradigm shift, insurance carriers might consider bundling cyber liability coverage into broader Errors & Omissions policies. This approach would recognize the multifaceted nature of risks in the digital healthcare era, providing more comprehensive coverage for healthcare organizations.
The future of healthcare is undeniably digital, as technologies like IoT become increasingly woven into the fabric of patient care and organizational operations. As we usher in this new era of innovation, it’s paramount that we confront the multifaceted cybersecurity challenges that come with it head-on. Our success in this digital transformation will be measured not just by technological advancements but also by how effectively we safeguard these innovations and protect patients from potential harm.
For our industry, this evolution presents a fresh set of opportunities and challenges. The landscape of liability is transforming, with new actors such as software developers, device manufacturers, and IT professionals entering the fray. As the industry navigates this shift, insurance professionals must adapt and innovate. The evolution of cyber liability insurance, possibly extending its coverage into broader Errors & Omissions policies, is a critical component of this adaptation.
The future of healthcare and the future of liability insurance are intrinsically intertwined, each influencing and responding to the other in a dynamic dance of innovation and adaptation. For commercial agents and brokers, understanding this complex interplay will be key to navigating the rapidly evolving landscape of digital healthcare and cybersecurity, and to effectively servicing their clients in the coming years. It is an exciting time to be alive!