In 2020, over 81% of UK healthcare organisations were hit by ransomware attacks, which had disastrous consequences on healthcare services, with over 64% stating that they had to cancel patient appointments. What this shows is that today, maintaining digital security and risk management in healthcare sector is not only vital for an organisation’s credibility but also patient safety.
However, it’s worth examining why cyberattacks have become so prevalent, and why, despite many healthcare providers having the resources to combat these issues—a report revealed that the NHS had committed to spending over £250 million to improve cybersecurity—cyberattacks continue to be a major threat to the healthcare industry.
One thing we can be certain of here is that there’s a deep-rooted problem that’s motivating the staggering number of healthcare cybersecurity breaches we are seeing today.
Hence, it’s critical to understand the cause before proposing a solution.
Understanding the rise and effects of cyberattacks on healthcare
In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the adoption of IoT and cloud-based apps in healthcare administration and service provision, which has contributed to the expansion of attack surface, bringing with it troubling implications for ongoing vendor security.
An expanded attack surface is far more challenging to secure because cybersecurity professionals can’t monitor the flow of medical data throughout the network, especially when they work with hundreds of third-party vendors.
This paves the way for subtle but dangerous ransomware attacks, where it can take weeks or even months to detect a breach.
While law enforcement authorities have encouraged healthcare organisations to not pay the ransom on grounds that it only emboldens cybercriminals, healthcare organisations have little choice but to pay the ransom in these situations because patients’ health is at stake.
Also, with cyber criminals having unmitigated access to healthcare systems, it could lead to errors that have disastrous implications on healthcare services, like prolonged EHR downtime, ambulance diversions, and appointment cancellations without patient consent.
Moreover, it’s not just the healthcare organisations but patients themselves that could be in direct danger as cybercriminals can exploit Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices—which are becoming more prominent today—to put people in danger.
Hence, preventing these attacks is critical for not only keeping patient data safe but also ensuring that healthcare service delivery is not compromised.
The best strategies for cyber risk management in healthcare
- Shifting the cybersecurity strategy
Mitigating cyber risk in healthcare requires a shift in strategy; from completely warding off cyberattacks to improving attack surface monitoring.
This has its merits because it allows healthcare organisations to deploy cybersecurity resources in more effective ways to ensure that nobody can gain access to critical patient data through vulnerabilities in vendor networks and third-party devices.
- Investing in attack surface monitoring solutions
With IoT devices and third-party vendors accessing the network, the attack surface grows significantly and as hundreds of parties access healthcare networks, it can be impossible to trace data leaks or determine who is accessing their data.
However, investing in an attack surface monitoring solution allows healthcare organisations to monitor their network in real-time bringing transparency to their cybersecurity operations.
Better insight into their attack surface allows them to detect data leaks, vulnerable vendors, and even intrusions that could be a sign of an attack.
In addition, healthcare institutions can devise a cybersecurity response plan that is critical for ensuring the continuous security of their networks by leveraging insights provided by attack surface monitoring solutions.
Moreover, having such a plan would allow healthcare organisations to have strict protocols on responding to a situation, discouraging employees from following bad practices that could hurt their organisation in the long run.
- Keeping the cybersecurity infrastructure up-to-date
With cybercriminals devising new ways to undermine IT systems, it’s recommended that healthcare organisations allocate resources to finding the latest cyberattack methods and enforce mitigation strategies to combat these novel attack techniques.
This can help them keep their cyber defences updated against new attacks, reducing the probability of successful cyberattacks in the future.
Improving cyber risk management in healthcare is not an option—but a necessity
In the past few years, healthcare organisations have come under fire from cybercriminals putting patients in danger and undermining their credibility as reliable, trustworthy organisations.
Hence, they need to update their healthcare vendor risk management processes by incorporating attack surface monitoring into their security plans to mitigate cyber risks in healthcare.