Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in Healthcare

Even before the pandemic hit, the healthcare industry has been going through a transformative phase through massive digitalization. The infusion of technology into healthcare practices has brought enormous volumes of complex data from various sources like medical records, health applications, medical devices, and more. Although the pandemic has challenged all industries, it has shaken the very foundation of healthcare systems, since patient care has always been based on face-to-face interactions. It was a shock to be suddenly forced to switch to remote functioning and providing healthcare as a virtual service.

While the industry adapted quickly, new challenges emerged with the increase in cyber attacks due to the new vulnerabilities caused by the new ways of working. There has been a sharp increase in cyberattacks on hospitals, pharma companies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the WHO and its partners, and several others. The resilience of the entire global healthcare information system is now being tested. These threats and challenges need to be addressed on a war footing and future-proof defense mechanisms need to be established.

Among the various types of cyberattacks, ransomware is one of the most common threats for the healthcare industry. Cybercriminals can swiftly sell patient medical and billing information on the dark web for insurance or other fraud purposes. Healthcare data records are sold for hundreds of USD per record on the black market. While other industries also face such threats and attacks, here are some of the reasons why healthcare is targeted on such a grand scale: 

  • Availability of huge volumes of sensitive personal information
  • The willingness of the industry to pay the ransom amount to prevent misuse of the sensitive data
  • The use of legacy systems that increases the vulnerability of data
  • Lack of clarity on ownership of data 

HIPAA for Healthcare

There are several stringent regulations that mandate healthcare players to take appropriate measures to secure the safety and privacy of the personal health information gathered and maintained. Industry regulations came into effect to ensure that there is no confusion of ownership of data and liability in case of a breach. In 1996, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was introduced to cover various aspects of data protection, including establishing national standards for electronic healthcare transactions. HIPAA protects sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s knowledge or consent. For healthcare players to remain compliant, these are some of the requirements that HIPAA lists: 

  • Organizational requirement – A compliance committee or compliance officer designated to ensure that the business adheres to the standards and the regulations
  • Employee training – Ongoing employee training to spread awareness of highly vulnerable areas for data breaches and prevent attackers from entering through those channels 
  • Physical safeguards – Proper infrastructure and device safeguards should be maintained while also preventing unauthorized access though tight access controls 
  • Administrative safeguards – Periodic risk assessment of all clinical applications, medical devices, data centers that store and maintain critical information
  • Technical safeguards – Control over the use of information through privileged access that prevents unauthorized access and use of data 

Recommendations for Cyber Attack Prevention 

Aside from the fact that there is a massive demand for privileged patient information on the dark web, the healthcare industry has not evolved enough to have strong security controls that protect the data. Despite the growth and use of technologies for different healthcare aspects, hospitals, medical device companies, and other stakeholders still have gaps in the security measures taken for safe use of these technologies. Healthcare players must understand that the cost of investing in building robust security controls is much better than paying for ransomware – where so many other losses like reputational loss need to be endured.

Some of the recommendations to prevent cyberattacks include upgrading from legacy systems to the latest cybersecurity technologies to strengthen the environment; strict compliance with privacy acts such as HIPAA, GDPR, CCPR; implementing cyber hygiene programs like building firewalls across gateways such as web/email gateways, investing in integrated identity management solutions; continuous real-time monitoring to proactively detect the threats and automatically prevent attacks before they occur; forensic investigation capability to monitor, detect, and stop attacks based on past information, and so on. 

With technology making inroads into all aspects of healthcare, now is an excellent time for the industry to address cybersecurity challenges leveraging leading-edge solutions and emerging technologies powered by AI and Automation. Harnessing Artificial Intelligence helps drive proactive protection through AI-led predictions and prescriptions.

Long 80 delivers end-to-end Cybersecurity and Data Privacy services, helping our healthcare clients manage risk and build an effective cybersecurity program. Long 80 caters to the full suite of organizational cybersecurity and data protection needs – assessment, operations, and/or strategy – and can help you conquer your most critical cybersecurity issues. We work closely with customers to define and address problems, implications, consequences, and solutions of defending assets in today’s highly-connected healthcare ecosystem. To learn more about these offerings, please visit

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