No business is immune to the attention of cybercriminals. Recent years have seen rates of cybercrime skyrocketing, and this has placed an onus on all companies to increase their levels of cybersecurity. However, it is arguable that no industry has seen such a significant rise as health care providers.
If you work in the health care sector, you need to ensure that the organization you work for is taking its cybercrime prevention seriously. In this article, we take a closer look at why health care businesses are being targeted by cybercriminals in 2023.
Cybercrime is increasing
It is clear to see that cybercrime has been on the rise across all industries, including health care. The fact that cybercrime has become such a significant problem necessarily means that all companies – no matter their industry – need to take the issue more seriously.
According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, the cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Health care businesses are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime due to the vast amount of sensitive data they hold, making them an attractive target for cybercriminals.
As such, it is imperative for health care businesses to take cybersecurity seriously and implement robust security measures to protect their data and systems from cyber threats.
Highly valuable data
One of the major reasons that health care companies are at more serious risk from cybercrime than operations in other industries is to do with the types of data they keep. Businesses in the sector typically store vast amounts of valuable and sensitive data, including medical records, personal information, financial information, and research data. This data is highly sought after by cybercriminals, who can use it for various purposes such as identity theft, financial fraud, and extortion.
Additionally, health care data is more valuable than other types of data because it often contains information that cannot be changed. This includes things like medical history and genetic information. This makes health care companies a prime target for cybercrime, as the potential profits from a successful attack are significant. As such, health care companies need to take measures to protect their data as stringently as possible.
Reliance on legacy systems
Many health care providers still rely on legacy systems, which are outdated and more vulnerable to cyberattacks. These systems may lack essential security features and may not receive regular security updates, leaving them susceptible to exploitation by cybercriminals.
It is still within recent memory that the UK’s NHS suffered a major ransomware attack that affected over 300,000 computers and disrupted services. The attack was successful because the NHS was using outdated and unsupported operating systems that had not received critical security patches.
This incident highlights the importance of upgrading legacy systems and ensuring that they are adequately protected. Health care providers must prioritize the modernization of their systems and invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect their sensitive data from cyber threats
More devices are used than ever before
The increasing trend of remote work and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies has led to a surge in the number of devices used to handle important data in health care businesses. With more devices being used, the potential number of endpoints that can be compromised increases, putting health care businesses at risk.
Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in regular email threads and in devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets to gain unauthorized access to health care systems and steal sensitive data. It’s also true that the use of personal devices for work purposes can further exacerbate the risk of data breaches, as these devices may not have the same level of security protection as company-provided devices.
Lack of an incident response plan
Many health care companies lack a cybersecurity incident response plan, which is “the process of responding to, managing, and mitigating cyber security incidents”. Without such a plan, companies may be unprepared to respond to a cyberattack, which can result in significant damage to their reputation, financial losses, and potential legal liabilities.
This type of plan defines the roles and responsibilities of key personnel, outlines the steps to be taken to detect, contain, and eradicate the incident, and provides a clear communication plan to keep everyone informed.
By having an incident response plan in place, health care businesses can reduce the time it takes to respond to a cyberattack, minimize the impact of the attack, and ensure that the appropriate actions are taken to protect sensitive data. As such, it is crucial for health care companies to develop and regularly review their incident response plans to ensure that they are prepared to handle any cybersecurity incidents.
Perception as an easy target
While it might not be a fair assessment, health care organizations are often perceived as a soft target by cybercriminals due to their reputation for having inadequate security measures in place.
Many organizations across the sector prioritize patient care over cybersecurity, and this can result in a lack of investment in security technologies and personnel. Additionally, health care providers are often open to sharing information with other organizations, such as insurers or government agencies, which can further increase their vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Moreover, health care providers are viewed as easy targets because they are more likely to pay ransoms to regain access to their data, as patient care is critical and downtime can lead to life-threatening situations. Companies may be less willing to lose data because they may be more likely to be punished by standards authorities.
This perception of health care businesses as soft targets is further fueled by the fact that cyberattacks on health care organizations often go undetected for extended periods, allowing cybercriminals to access sensitive data and exploit vulnerabilities with impunity.
Lack of cybersecurity training
Health care providers often do not prioritize cybersecurity training. This might be because they believe they are at a lower level of risk than other sectors – however, as we have seen, the opposite is true. When companies don’t invest properly in training, it can leave staff vulnerable to cyberattacks. Many employees do not possess a good knowledge of cybercrime or how criminals operate. This ultimately can lead to poor cybersecurity practices, such as weak passwords, sharing login credentials, and falling for phishing scams.
Cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to health care systems and steal sensitive data. Furthermore, the lack of cybersecurity training can result in a lack of awareness of the importance of safeguarding sensitive data, which can further increase the risk of data breaches.
Regular cybersecurity training sessions are essential to ensure that all employees are aware of the latest threats and risks and know how to identify and respond to potential cyberattacks. Training should cover topics such as password management, email security, and phishing scams, and should be updated regularly to reflect the latest threats and best practices. As such, health care businesses must prioritize cybersecurity training to ensure that their staff are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to protect sensitive data.
Read more: How small businesses can address cyberattacks
Cybercrime is an ongoing and ever-changing problem, and businesses must be alert and ready for the constantly changing forms of attack and tactics utilized by cybercriminals. This is especially true of health care providers, so make sure that your organization is doing everything you can to mitigate risk.