What Are the Common Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges?

What Are the Common Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges?

The cybersecurity landscape is in constant flux, which presents challenges to all entities engaged in the battle against cyber-criminality. While the attack surface, or the security points attacked by threat actors, remain largely the same (system devices and apps), the entrance vectors or methods of attack are ever-changing.

healthcare cybersecurity challenges

Rather than being driven by “hacktivism,” the primary objective of threat actors, especially in healthcare, is increasingly financial gain (95% by one estimate)1. What is more, the healthcare sector, once considered off limits for security attacks, has become a prime target due to the lucrative nature and lowered opportunity cost of cybercriminal activities.

Several discernible trends have provided fertile ground for threat actors:

  • Development of Generative AI: The emergence of Generative AI has ushered in a tool that can be harnessed for both constructive and malevolent purposes. It boasts the power of rapid learning, capable of crafting specific codes. This technology has emboldened social engineering tactics, with open language models like ChatGPT amplifying the authenticity of malicious interactions.
  • Lowered Barrier of Entry: The variety and availability of resources has expanded, and cybercrime operations have become ever more industrialized, lowering the barriers to entry for potential cybercriminals. The emergence of professional cybercrime nexus, including structured networks and “as-a-service” offerings, has provided a haven for online misconduct.
  • Surge of Cryptocurrency: Infiltrated environments are often held hostage with encrypted data, with demands for ransom issued in cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies confer heightened anonymity and diminished traceability, rendering them an attractive vehicle for ransom transactions.
  • Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: The pandemic, characterized by prolonged lockdowns and social isolation, coupled with a challenging economic climate and heightened levels of device screen time, has inadvertently furnished new prospects for a multitude of threat actors. The confluence of ample time and increased accessibility has formed a breeding ground for malicious intentions.

The Healthcare Sector’s Cybersecurity Challenges

The reasons behind the targeting of medical establishments by cybercriminals have been explored above. Now, let’s delve into the factors that render these establishments more susceptible to such attacks.

Several trends within healthcare facilities amplify their vulnerability to cyber assaults:

  • Internal and External Factors of Dependency: Hospitals inherently possess vulnerabilities stemming from their reliance on critical in-house services for financial stability and external vendors for essential products and services. By compromising a hospital’s financial foundation, cybercriminals attain leverage for ransom negotiations. This leverage extends to attacking both the hospital itself and its third-party vendors linked to pivotal aspects of business operations.
  • Thorny Patient Records Access: HIPAA mandates patient access to medical records, necessitating a nuanced equilibrium between heavily locked down records and easy outside access. Healthcare organizations must enable patient access while ensuring safeguards. Patient providers require access, too, a distinction from internal billing records restricted to select individuals. This dichotomy underscores the intricate dance of securing patient data while facilitating legitimate access.
  • Insufficiencies in Endpoint Security: The notable surge in devices deployed in a hospital context coincides with diminished control, a recent trend being Medical Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Legacy systems—obsolete and devoid of updates—also represent a chink in the armor. “Vulnerable and Outdated Components” constitute a prominent risk category (# 6 on OWASP’s Top 10 security risks2). The spectrum of multi-user devices poses another vulnerability. Shared machines can pave the way for compromised credentials – by one account, the top cause of data breaches in 2022 (19%)3.
  • Vulnerabilities in Software: Plagued by software and data integrity lapses, healthcare facilities contend with vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Mobile apps and telehealth platforms, despite their merits, introduce potential risks. Many hospitals also use in-house software developed for their own needs. Such platforms can exhibit exploitable vulnerabilities. “Software and Data Integrity Failures” are # 8 on OWASP’s Top 10 list2.
  • Reactive vs. Proactive Approach: The relentless pace of patient care, often under tight financial margins, can immerse medical facilities in a perpetual state of crisis management. Consequently, resources that should ideally be allocated to meticulous security engineering might be redirected toward firefighting. This can result in a compromised security landscape.

Cybersecurity Resources for Your Organization

It is imperative for organizations to educate their staff about healthcare cybersecurity challenges to build a robust defense against cyber threats. Medical coding consultants play a crucial role in data security as well, so it’s important they’re regularly briefed on security measures.

Healthcare establishments can strengthen their cybersecurity defenses and make significant progress against potential cyber threats, with minimal time and resources. Check out our latest article with strategies to bolster your cybersecurity efforts. Download our infographic of common healthcare cybersecurity challenges.

Sources:

  1. https://www.verizon.com/business/resources/Tf55/reports/dbir/2022-data-breach-investigations-report-dbir.pdf
  2. https://owasp.org/www-project-top-ten/
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ibm-report-consumers-pay-the-price-as-data-breach-costs-reach-all-time-high-301592749.html; https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach

Nick Youmans

Nick Youmans, PhD – Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
healthcare cybersecurity challenges

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