Cybersecurity Risks, Issues & Recommendations in the Healthcare Industry

Sundaramoorthy S | October 5, 2021

There has been a marked increase in the number of cyberattacks reported by organizations post-COVID, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Even with security measures and regulations like HIPAA and GDPR to safeguard PII, PHI, EMR, EHR, Healthcare organizations have fallen prey to various cyberattacks as managing threats becomes increasingly difficult. This article focuses on the cybersecurity risks, issues and challenges faced by the Healthcare industry and recommendations on how to avoid them.

The following graph illustrates the number of breaches in Healthcare industry in last 12 months. 


The following chart illustrates the of number of records compromised in the last 12 months in Healthcare industry.  


The following graph shows the different types of breaches and number of breaches in Healthcare Industry.   


Biggest Risks, Issues and Challenges in HealthcareCybersecurity Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is a malware which attacks the intended target. The target could be files, systems, databases, or other form of data which is mission critical for business. The attacker will demand a ransom from the target owners to restore the business; denial of ransom may lead to the destruction of impacted target, resulting in blocking the critical business operations which could result in loss of millions of dollars.

The rising cases of ransomware attacks on hospitals and other healthcare organizations is a cause for serious concern. When the network is impacted by ransomware, the healthcare organizations are forced to operate offline. Regulatory bodies across the globe are hosting joint trainings to educate on how to defend against ransomware.

 3 major ways in which Ransomware attacks take place –

  • Malvertising (Victim clicking the ad link contains Malware)
  • Malicious links
  • Phishing

Unsecure Virtual Business Operations

In the new normal, a majority of the businesses are operated in remote environments, where the hardware devices like mobiles, tokens, other business critical Healthcare devices, and the identity of the individuals who access the devices are a big question mark. The breach of security might start from here.

Inadequate Access to Clinical Applications

In a sensitive environment like Healthcare, who has access to what applications in the Healthcare network, and duration of the access to clinical and other critical software applications where sensitive data like PHI, PII, EHR and EMR is stored is key to hackers. Inappropriate access to the applications may lead to breach of data and increases the chances of misusing individual roles.

Unsecure Medical devices

Most Healthcare organizations depend on medical equipment connected to the internet. However, a lot of these medical devices are unsecured due to outdated softwares, lack of upgrades, patches, and extended life span. Healthcare organizations using IoT and IoMT devices need to ensure that these devices have the latest threat defenses. Hackers take advantage of these unsecured devices and navigate to the entire network to take control of the critical targets and attack the organization’s IT environment.

Lack of Centralized Governance

The pandemic has accelerated the digitization of most businesses including those in healthcare. The Electronic Health Records are business critical data. Lack of an effective way to collect and organize the information may lead to lack of insight and control over the data, thus impeding business processes, and increased chances of compliance failures. In short, lack of effective information management puts the organization’s long-term success at risk.

Recommended Precautions for Safe Networks

Data Backup

Have multiple backups of mission critical data, applications, and application service and devices. These backups must be stored offline and password protected. It is a must-have for DR environments and high-availability applications.

Matured Identity & Access Management Solutions Implementing end-end Identity & Access Management solutions will give the perfect control over corporate systems in terms of Compliance, Governance, Integrations, Provisions, JML, Audits and Reports. For end-end solutions, the following towers of Identity & Access Management should be implemented –

  • Identity & Access Management
  • Privileged Access Management
  • Single Sign On
  • Multi-Factor Authentications
  • Mobile Device Management

Audit / Penetration Testing

Penetration testing will ensure the networks are secured with the best practices; it is recommended to have the Penetration testing done through third party experts for comprehensive findings on vulnerabilities.

Network Monitoring

Monitoring the IT environment 24/7 for changes to critical files, servers, applications, ports, firewalls, processes and Cron’s will help identifying the risks well in advance to have precautionary measures to avoid attacks.

Scheduled Upgrades and Patch Management

Healthcare is an industry where multiple vendor products are utilized to execute the business, the vendor products should be upgraded, patched for latest security updates released by the product vendors.

Before applying the latest upgrades or patches of the vendor, the stability of the latest version or the version which scheduled to be deployed should assessed for the security and performance.

White/Black Listing Enterprise Applications and Websites

Restrict the users of the network from accessing applications and websites by creating a blacklist of applications where access to such apps and URLs will be denied as a precautionary measure.

Security Awareness program

Educate corporate network users about the current risks and issues in cybersecurity, like phishing attacks and how it impacts the networks, business, patients, and providers. Continuous trainings should engage the network users which will reduce the attacks.

Endpoint Protection Solution

Include protection, detection, and response capabilities for laptops, workstations, and mobile devices. This utilizes antivirus (AV) and antimalware (AM) to block cyberattacks. Quickly detect and remediate any malicious activity or infection that has made its way onto the endpoint.

HIPAA compliance

On top of implementing all the security measures to secure the networks, it must to comply to HIPAA regulations.

Following the mantra “Security Is A Continuous Improvement” along with implementing the suggested best practices will help organizations significantly bring down their security risks and issues, and help secure their IT ecosystem.

About the Author –


Sundaramoorthy S

Sundaramoorthy S has more than 13 years of experience in IT, IT security, IDAM, PAM and MDM project and products. He is interested in developing innovative mobile applications which saves time and money. He is also a travel enthusiast. Back to blogs