How to Increase IT Security in Healthcare

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How to Increase IT Security in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has been the number one target of cybercriminals for the past twelve years. The average cost of a healthcare data breach is a little over $10 million, making the industry’s lack of online security costlier than those in finance or tech services.

Healthcare is a lucrative target for many reasons. Firstly, hospitals and medical institutions can’t afford downtimes, making it borderline perfect for ransomware: taking over an institution’s systems due to the lack of healthcare IT security. The attackers then ask for a ransom to release the system and allow the victim to return to their operations. Secondly, individual records or protected health information are some of the costliest data that can be stolen, sitting at $429 per record. Finally, the staff working at medical institutions usually receive little to no training related to internet threats.

Due to all the reasons above, it is evident that we need to increase cyber security in healthcare. But first, let’s look at how these attacks happen in the first place.

Healthcare Breaches

There are multiple ways through which cybercriminals gain access to medical information. Hospitals, medical institutions, and associated organizations are all easy targets due to many reasons that make them vulnerable. Below is a non-exhaustive list of how attackers breach medical security:

Plenty of Attack Surfaces

IT security in healthcare is challenged by the expanding medical technologies. Following the adoption of EHRs and cloud migration, not to mention the ever-increasing number of medical devices, the attackers now have a vast selection of potential breaching points into medical organizations or associated institutions.

Lack of Training

24% of health professionals never received any training regarding internet threats. The healthcare sector’s vulnerable and often exploited nature suggests that many professionals fall to healthcare cyber threats such as phishing: the embedded malware in emails that, upon opening, steals personal or account information.

Phishing breaches are so prevalent in healthcare that Interpol released a statement urging industry members to only open emails from trusted sources and avoid downloading attachments from unknown senders.

Legacy Systems

We use the word “legacy” to refer to outdated technologies. Simply put, these systems represent software or hardware that the manufacturer no longer supports. Consequently, the lack of updates to the application, be they related to security or performance, threatens healthcare cybersecurity.

Overworked Staff

Healthcare professionals are struggling. Lack of nurses and assisting personnel resulted in the overworked and drained members of the industry. Including costly and time-consuming cybersecurity training would add to their already full plates.

How to Defend Against Cyber Attacks

Given all the information above, it is necessary to address ways in which you can increase the level of cybersecurity in your organization. Cybersecurity and healthcare are intricately connected due to the many ways to exploit health data. According to HHS, here are ten best standard practices to protect your organization:

Install Email Protection

Put email protection systems in place that could defend your systems against online attacks. Additionally, educate staff and teach them about phishing.

Install Endpoint Protection Systems

Install antivirus software, encryption, and patching.

Access Management

Monitor and establish accounts for each user within the organization to raise healthcare IT security. This encompasses setting up individual accounts and avoiding using ADMIN accounts.

Data Management

Identify the following parameters: how the data is handled, kept, transferred, and removed from your system.

IT Asset Management

Always be aware of all the IoT devices on-premises, active, or in storage. Additionally, keep track of the life cycle of each device.

Network Management

Use network segmentation and install firewalls. Determine multiple network profiles to manage access inside the organization and increase cybersecurity in healthcare.

Vulnerability Assessment

Continually and continuously monitor and scan servers and systems to proactively identify potential points of a breach.

Establish Incident Protocols

It takes approximately 287 days to identify a breach. Moreover, in healthcare, subsequent losses and damages can amount to drastically higher costs when compared to just ransomware. Establishing protocols that will notify members, prevent data loss, and define what your employees should do in the potential breaching scenario is necessary.

Medical Device Security

To increase cyber security in healthcare, you must treat your medical devices the same way as your computers: establish endpoint protection, regular patches, and manage access.

Cybersecurity Policies

For all institutions, big and small, it is essential to establish policies and frequent education regarding cyber threats. It refers to raising awareness, delivering standards on how to handle IT equipment, how to report and act during incidents, and how to assimilate personal devices into your organization.

The Future of Cybersecurity

It is hard to properly manage IT security in healthcare when the industry allocates only 4% of its budget to cybersecurity. This number is significantly lower than it is in other sectors. However, given the upward trajectory of costs of data breaches in healthcare, it is expected that, by 2025, the healthcare cybersecurity market will reach $125 billion.

This increasing budget comes as the result of rising costs of breaches. Organizations can combat cyber attacks in healthcare by utilizing machine learning. Healthcare IT security is drastically improved when organizations rely on artificial intelligence: in fact, using AI results in a 50% cost reduction compared to organizations that don’t deploy AI. Therefore, the development and deployment of new technologies for our protection will be the industry’s focus in years to come.