Why cyber security is essential for healthcare providers
Cyber attacks are increasing
Cyber attacks on healthcare providers have been increasing in recent years. The healthcare industry is a particularly attractive target for cybercriminals because healthcare organizations often have a large amount of personal and sensitive information, such as patient medical records, on their systems. This information can be highly valuable to cybercriminals who may use it for financial gain, identity theft or other malicious activities.
In addition, healthcare providers are heavily dependent on technology and the internet to provide care and access patient information, making them vulnerable to cyber attacks. The move to digitalization of records and telemedicine has also exposed many healthcare organizations to digital threats as they are not well equipped to handle these.
Healthcare providers may also not have the same level of resources or expertise as other industries to implement strong security measures and defend against cyber attacks. All these factors make the healthcare sector an easy target for hackers.
In recent years, there have been many reported incidents of data breaches and cyber attacks on healthcare organizations. According to a report by Protenus, a healthcare security firm, there were a total of 477 data breaches reported in the healthcare industry in 2019.
The report also found that the healthcare industry had the highest rate of data breaches per organization of any sector, indicating that cyber attacks on healthcare providers are a serious problem.
The impact of cyber attacks on healthcare providers
Cyber attacks can have a significant impact on healthcare providers. Some of the ways that these attacks can affect healthcare organizations include:
- Disruption of services: Cyber attacks can disrupt the delivery of critical healthcare services, leading to delays in care and increased costs. For example, a ransomware attack that encrypts data on a hospital’s computers can prevent doctors and nurses from accessing important patient information, such as medical records and test results.
- Loss of data: Cyber attacks can result in the loss of sensitive information, such as patient medical records and personal identification numbers (PINs). This can have serious consequences, including identity theft and financial loss.
- Financial loss: Cyber attacks can be costly to deal with, requiring organizations to invest in new software and hardware, as well as hiring experts to help them recover from the attack. In addition, organizations may also face legal costs if they are found to have been negligent in protecting patient data.
- Reputation damage: Cyber attacks can also harm the reputation of a healthcare organization. The public might lose trust if they know that a medical center got hacked and personal data was exposed.
- Compliance issues: The healthcare sector is heavily regulated, healthcare providers that experience data breaches may face heavy fines and penalties for non-compliance with regulations such as HIPAA.
How to safeguard against cyber attacks
Healthcare providers can take a number of steps to safeguard against cyber attacks, including:
- Implementing strong security protocols: This includes using firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and encryption to protect against unauthorized access to sensitive data.
- Training employees on security best practices: Employees should be educated on how to identify and respond to phishing attempts, as well as the importance of maintaining strong passwords and keeping software and antivirus programs up to date.
- Conducting regular security assessments and audits: Regularly reviewing and testing the security of networks and systems can help identify vulnerabilities and ensure that any issues are addressed in a timely manner.
- Maintaining strict access controls: Only granting access to sensitive data to those who need it, and regularly monitoring and revoking access as necessary can help mitigate the risk of data breaches.
- Having incident response plan: having an incident response plan in place will be beneficial to minimize impact of cyber attack and also helps in fast recovery, having an incident response team to take actions during any attack.
- Making use of multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires users to provide two or more pieces of identification before gaining access to a system, making it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access.
- Regularly monitoring and tracking network activity: Using tools such as network monitoring software to track network activity can help detect unusual patterns or anomalies that may indicate a cyber attack is underway.
- Backing up critical data: Backing up data regularly can help minimize the impact of a data loss event and expedite recovery.
- Maintaining software security: keeping software and systems updated and patched with latest security upgrades to avoid any known vulnerabilities.
- Compliance with regulations: ensure that the organization is compliant with industry regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act)
- Ensure you are covered with a good Cyber Liability Insurance policy. Insurers often help implement safeguards against cyber attacks as part of their policy package. Contact Westwood for more information about cyber liability insurance.
By taking these steps and remaining vigilant, healthcare providers can better protect themselves against cyber attacks and minimize the risk of data breaches.
Given the importance of healthcare organizations in providing essential services, and the sensitive nature of patient data, it’s vital that they take steps to protect themselves against cyber attacks. This includes implementing security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption, as well as regularly training employees on how to detect and prevent cyber attacks. Additionally, having a comprehensive incident response plan in place and adequate cyber insurance coverage can help minimize the damage caused by a cyber attack.