While almost all industries and sectors are at the risk of cyber threats, the effects on these threats on certain sectors can be disastrous. One of these sectors is healthcare. A cyber attack on a healthcare system can be dangerous and life-threatening – imagine critical care patients being locked out of the system.
The problem is compounded by the fact that some healthcare systems may not spend much on their cybersecurity protection, considering the fact that the data they store can be extremely sensitive and confidential. A normal hospital’s network could store millions of data records about patient health, sensitivities, treatment procedure, etc. – all of which is extremely sensitive.
A 2018 national audit of healthcare preparedness observed that only 45 percent of business followed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, a policy framework of cybersecurity guidance for private sector organizations in the United States. The problem of cyber threats to the healthcare sector has become acute that the US Department of Health & Human Services has also got involved, announcing the official opening of a Cybersecurity Coordination Center in October 2018.
It’s important for organizations in this sector to be aware of the threats they face. Some of the big ones include:
Malicious software that locks systems or encrypts data and demands a ransom in exchange is called ransomware. These can be devastating for a healthcare organization as it not only affects a patient’s life but other components as well. Systems can be held at ransom and considering that it is a matter of life and death, organizations can be even more desperate to pay up – a fact which cyber criminals are aware of and will use. One of the biggest ransomware attacks happened to MedStar Health in the US which attacked 10 hospitals and 250 outpatient centers. The attack was almost simultaneous at all centres and they lost almost complete access to their systems
Insider threats are certainly not a new risk anymore but their threat potential is only increasing. Data is now routinely being stored in the cloud which means employees of an organization have a lot of access to sensitive data within an organization. This is compounded by the fact that humans can often be the weakest link in any cybersecurity framework. Whether it is using easily-guessed passwords, reusing passwords across multiple domains or giving passwords to other people, these are some common mistakes by which hackers can access and steal credentials. To that end, it is critical that organizations continue updating their own employees about the risks such behavior can bring upon.
Advanced Persistent Threats
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are long-term, sustained and relentless attacks mounted by hackers and other cyber criminals at one particular target to get sensitive data. The rationale behind APTs is not really causing damage and debilitating an enterprise – rather, it’s craftier. The main aim of APTs is to steal sensitive confidential data. They enter an organizational network, expand their presence slowly and gather data before finally exiting. Data from a healthcare industry is exceedingly valuable – and hence cyber criminals know it’s worth it to think long-term in terms of securing this data.
A variation of phishing, spear phishing is a big threat to healthcare industries as just like APTs, it gives attackers access to valuable data. Hackers send a targeted email to an individual which appears to be from a trusted source. The agenda of these emails like any other cyber fraud is to either gain access to the user’s system or obtain other classified information. Spear phishing is considered one of the most successful cyber-attack techniques because of the superior level of personalization done to attack users which makes it highly believable.
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