Cybersecurity should be a top priority for hospitals, healthcare organizations, and medical practices around the country right now. Cybersecurity breaches in the healthcare industry hit an all-time high in 2021. Ultimately, a record amount of patient health information was exposed because of cyberattacks.
The cybersecurity attacks affected an estimated 45 million individuals in the healthcare realm, increasing from roughly 24 million in 2020. From a perspective, this is an issue that is clearly on the rise. Moreover, in 2018, this number was just 14 million, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Let’s learn more about the importance of cybersecurity in the healthcare industry.
Digital Transformation in the Healthcare Industry
It’s easy to see why the healthcare world is a lucrative industry for cyberattacks. Patient data is some of the most sensitive and comprehensive data available for cybercriminals. Therefore, with the healthcare industry rapidly making a digital transformation (particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic), this data is often more accessible than in other industries. As hospitals and medical professionals enhance their virtual services, online patient portals, medical equipment, and other internet-based enterprises, cybercriminals suddenly have new and limitless ways to access sensitive information for millions of patients from around the world.
How do Security Risks Originate in a Healthcare Organization?
A cyberattack can be initiated in various ways, as hackers find ingenious methods to infiltrate your data. However, there are a few common themes when it comes to risky situations.
Internal and Intentional Misuse
This is especially true for hospitals and large practices with dozens, if not hundreds of employees, who all have connections to your data.
Clicking on a phishing email, or providing information over the phone, is a common way that employees and staff give away sensitive information. Therefore, cybercriminals are becoming more adept at gaining an entry through this method.
For example, in several recent cases, cybercriminals gained access to a company or organization’s system by contacting an employee and pretending to be from the organization’s IT department. By utilizing the employee’s information, (which is readily found online via social media and other sites), the employee trusted that the person on the other end of the phone call or email was indeed who they said they were. Therefore, they provided their username, password, or other relevant information that allowed a hacker to connect to the greater system.
If an employee has remained logged into their online workspace, they can allow others to access when they step away from their computer or laptop. Or maybe they mistyped information or mistakenly sent an email or communication to the wrong person. Human error can cause a number of issues, and it is a mistake easier to make than one might think.
Here’s another example, a new trick that cybercriminals use is to send links to employees, patients, and other parties connected to an organization with a link that looks legitimate. However, it has just a character or two out of place. So, for instance, an employee trying to log into www.MyHealthcareOrganization.com may log into a similar but distinctively different link like www.MyHealthcareOrganizaton.net, either via a phishing email prompt, or entirely by accident. Hackers could easily utilize this incorrect and fake website to gain access into the system, especially if a username and password are required on the fake website.
In addition, many hackers gain access to systems simply because they can correctly identify weak passwords. Furthermore, an estimated 19% of professionals across all industries either use the same password for multiple websites and apps or have very easy to figure out passwords, (like PASSWORD1234.)
Outdated Software and Programs
There’s a reason why some of the most popular software programs have regular updates that users need to install or reinstall. As a result, hackers are always trying to identify ways to access these platforms. If you have not updated the software or equipment your organization uses in a while, you could be at risk for various cybersecurity breaches.
How Can the Healthcare Industry Increase Security?
The good news is that there are steps that healthcare organizations can take to minimize their risks. Even though cyberattacks have reached record numbers in the healthcare industry, there are many ways to remain secure.
An important factor in implementing for your organization is training your employees. From your doctors to your office managers, everyone in your organization should be able to easily identify potential security risks, such as phishing emailsand phone calls or the use of weak or repetitive passwords. A training session can cover the most common ways that hackers gain access to sensitive data – and how to avoid this type of situation – will go a long way in protecting your organization. After all, some of the biggest data cybersecurity breaches in history started with just one or two employees who were outsmarted by an elaborate phishing scam.
An IT Team is Important for Your Healthcare Organization
A specialized IT team is essential especially for the most vulnerable small to medium-sized healthcare facilities. From your medical network and online patient portals to the interconnected devices and equipment that you use daily, all of your tools are at risk of a security breach. That is why it is important to work with experts who are both knowledgeable about the healthcare realm and current cybersecurity risks to be protected.
Remember that you don’t have to have an extensive budget to have a personal IT department that can keep you and a patient’s data secure. At Emeritus, we have specific expertise in healthcare equipment and operations, and decades of experience providing IT and cybersecurity services. Moreover, we are an ideal partner to ensure that you can conduct business as usual, regardless of the new technological tools in your arsenal of patient services.
Ready to Get Started? Let’s Begin with a Cyber Health Check
Emeritus can begin the process of helping you identify any ways that your organization and the sensitive patient information are at risk. With expertise in highly regulated industries like healthcare, we have the unique knowledge base to ensure that your healthcare delivery organization is secure. We provide the highest quality cybersecurity against any cyberthreats on the horizon.