As technology advances and data volumes increase significantly, hacking techniques also become more sophisticated and pose a risk to valuable intellectual property, trade secrets, and patient health information. However, the healthcare industry has witnessed an increase in the efficacy of patient care through the use of technologies such as big data, AI, machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL). As digital transformation takes place across the industry, there is a fundamental change in the way individuals, companies, and governments operate in accordance with the healthcare sector. Today, patients are increasingly ready to experiment in the transformative space of healthcare technology. They are more accepting of digital innovation and are trying out new concepts, such as virtual clinics, wearable medical devices, medical apps, and home-based diagnostics.
It has become essential for the healthcare industry to integrate their siloed internal processes and assess their digital maturity and digital engagement roles to derive new business models, transform the way digital trials take place, and stay ahead of the competition. The industry has turned to digitization to improve existing operations and create new opportunities, but the tradeoff will hit the industry via increased connectivity leading to increased surface attacks.
In the life science vertical, digital solutions provide robust support for drug discovery and digital clinical trials. The vast amount of data being collected and the critical task of keeping this data safe from hackers is important for providing better treatment outcomes while maintaining patient trust.
The use of IoT devices in the healthcare industry significantly improves the quality of patient care—but at the same time, these devices also present an increased attack surface for cybercriminals. Devices that are connected to a healthcare network need to be adequately protected; relevant cybersecurity solutions include strong process design, access control/logging, antivirus, application whitelisting, version control, and intelligent threat analysis.
Major Threat Actors in Healthcare Industry
Some of the major threat actors which constantly target the healthcare industry are:
- Advanced Persistent Threat (APT): This group of cyber attackers targets the IP and information that can be used by other domestic industries.
- FIN12: As reported by Mandiant, a cybersecurity provider, FIN12 is an aggressive threat actor which deploys ransomware using access to a system obtained via malware injection.
- Conti Ransomware: First appeared in May 2020, the actor scans networks for vulnerable targets and encrypts every file it finds and infects the operating system.
- REvil/Sodinokibi: This is highly evasive ransomware. It encrypts the files and asks for ransom in terms of bitcoins.
Other threat actors critical to the healthcare industry include CL0P, Pysa, Astrol, DoppelPaymer, Hive, LockBit, and Ragnarok.
Healthcare cybersecurity encompasses a huge spectrum of members, including health providers, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare insurers, medical device companies, hospitals, and most importantly, patients. These entities consist of critical information such as patients’ critical health and financial information, innovative medical research data, e-medical systems, IoT connected medical devices, etc., which are at stake when the healthcare industry is under a cyber-attack. Access to such high monetary and intelligence data makes the organizations compromise their confidentiality and integrity. The most common types of cyber-attacks in the healthcare industry are malware, phishing, ransomware, and DDoS attacks. To help the healthcare organizations with such cyber-attacks, government and industry bodies have setup compliance mandates and recommendation frameworks such as:
- Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices: Managing Threats and Protecting Patients – This is a common set of industry-led guidelines and best practices to reduce cyber risk.
- HIPAA Security Rule – The rule is established to protect individuals’ electronic information.
- CISA’s alert – Provides mitigation recommendations to reduce ransomware risks.
Another important aspect while ensuring complete cybersecurity across the healthcare system is endpoint security. Endpoint security management is a key aspect of a robust healthcare cybersecurity strategy. Vital technologies for endpoint security include application whitelisting, user access control, patch management, virus protection, encryption, digital signatures, and firewalling. It is challenging for healthcare organizations to keep track of everything going on in their network, which typically includes countless endpoints and device types. Endpoint devices range from medical devices, operating systems, and mobile devices to devices that operate off-network.
Through strong cybersecurity strategies, the healthcare vertical benefits in the following ways:
- Preservation of patient trust during PHI collection
- Compliance with HIPAA regulations
- Enabling every endpoint to operate as a frontline defense
- Encouragement of due diligence and cyber hygiene
- Elimination of preventable vulnerabilities
- Assurance of adequate incident response capabilities
Healthcare organizations can improve the safety of their data by implementing the following cybersecurity practices:
- IT security skill training for employees
- Constant monitoring of mobile and connected devices
- Use of digital hygiene practices
- Implementation of strict access rights for strong data usage control
- Use of strong cryptography techniques for data transmission and storage
- Use of firewall and antivirus software
- Regular software updates
- Mitigation plan for unexpected cyber incidents
- Use of multi-factor authentication and OTP systems
- Backups and patch management
- Limited network access
- Control physical access
Healthcare companies need to ensure that human behavior goes hand in hand with technology solutions to keep sensitive information secure. Strong security and privacy program can help establish patient trust and protect the company’s reputation. The healthcare and life sciences vertical heavily rely on technology to cure diseases. Sending, storing, retrieving, and sharing sensitive data is a major part of their everyday operations. Data is constantly exposed to security threats, and thus, every organization needs to try and prevent cyberattacks by investing in better cybersecurity solutions.
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