The healthcare industry has seen a skyrocketing number of data breaches in the past few years.
In 2017, the US medical and healthcare sector experienced over 330 data breaches, exposing 4.93 million patient records. Here are just a few examples:
- Commonwealth Health Corp reported a data theft incident that compromised 697,800 patient records.
- Airway Oxygen, a medical supplier, experienced a ransomware attack that affected 500,000 individuals.
- Pacific Alliance Medical Center was the victim of a ransomware attack that compromised the protected health information of 266,123 patients.
The list goes on and the trend is not going to buck.
In addition, the costs of healthcare data breaches are among the highest across industries, topping $380 per stolen record in 2017 (compared to the global average of $141 per record.)
Therefore, it's more important now than ever for healthcare organizations to implement the necessary cybersecurity protocols to protect their sensitive patient data from hackers and criminals.
Why Is the Healthcare Industry Vulnerable To Cyber Attacks?
There are a few reasons why cybercriminals are targeting the healthcare industry:
- Healthcare organizations store a large number of patient records containing valuable and sensitive information, which makes hacking into their systems worth the risk.
- Many healthcare organizations are slow to respond and lag behind other industries when it comes to cybersecurity.
- Healthcare providers that offer services in multiple locations tend to have decentralized IT systems, making them more vulnerable to attacks.
- The proliferation of IoT medical devices, the use of multi-cloud IaaS or SaaS environments, and the rising popularity of Internet-based consultation give hackers more opportunities to breach a network.
- The increase in M&A activities in the medical sector can create vulnerability when different systems are merged.
- The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend increases cybersecurity risks if the necessary mobile security protocols aren't followed.
How To Improve IT Security For Your Healthcare Organization
Thankfully, more healthcare organizations are increasing the budget and resources to protect their IT systems from cybercriminals.
Here's what you should do to improve the cybersecurity of your organization:
1. Automate Software Updates and Patching
The decentralization of many healthcare organizations makes coordinating software patching and updates more challenging. Whenever possible, use automation to improve the speed and thoroughness of the software update process to eliminate vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
2. Provide Employee Training
Healthcare organizations employ a large number of employees and this translates into more opportunities for criminals to leverage social engineering techniques (e.g., phishing) to gain access to a system, network, or database.
Implement a cybersecurity education program for all employees and contractors. The program should offer not only initial training but also frequent updates to make sure everyone is aware of the latest threats.
3. Keep Track of All IoT Devices
Many recent attacks were carried out by leveraging compromised IoT medical devices, which enable multiple and simultaneous attacks by a multitude of malware.
Keep an inventory of all your IoT devices so you can track and cross-reference them against announced vulnerability or exploits in a timely manner.
4. Implement Access Control
All data should be stored in a centralized location and protected with a role-based access control system so employees can only access the information they need to perform their job function.
In addition, implement technologies for tracking and analyzing data access to help detect unusual patterns and identify suspicious activities.
5. Reinforce Network Segmentation
Segmenting your networks, applications, users, and data allows you to institute checks and policies at various points of the system so you can identify and isolate a threat before it spreads to the rest of the network.
This technique can help stop or minimize the impact of intrusions, such as ransomware attacks before they can cause widespread damages across the network.
6. Leverage AI-Driven Technologies
Many traditional security methods aren't fast enough to detect and respond to the increasing speed and intensity of today's cyber attack techniques.
To stay one step ahead of hackers, implement advanced threat intelligence that uses AI and machine learning to detect anomalies and communicate such information across the entire network in real time.
7. Design an Incidence Response Plan
The HIPAA Security Rule requires healthcare organizations to have a disaster recovery plan in place and strategies for recovering or maintaining ePHI (Protected Health Information) access in the event of an emergency.
For example, you should back up your data both locally and remotely (e.g., recovery discs and a cloud-based server) to ensure fast recovery in the event of data loss.
8. Use Data Encryption
Data encryption makes sensitive information unreadable, making it more difficult for unauthorized parties to access that data even if a network is breached or a mobile device is stolen.
Also, make sure to implement encryption for both data at rest (i.e., being stored) and data in motion (e.g., being sent via email) to ensure all the sensitive information is protected at all times.
9. Implement Data Loss Prevent (DLP)
Using an appropriate DLP solution is one of the most effective ways to prevent data breach by ensuring that sensitive information isn't lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorized parties.
DLP software helps you control end-point activities, filter data streams on networks, and monitor data in the cloud to protect data in use, in transit, or at rest.
10. Enforce Mobile Device Management
Whether you have a formal BYOD policy or not, it's likely that employees are using their mobile devices to access work-related information. In addition, many clinicians now use mobile devices to view patient information and/or collect bedside data.
Implementing a mobile device management solution can help ensure device security, offer remote management (e.g., erasing data if a device is lost,) enforce application control, and provide real-time monitoring and reporting.
How's Your Cybersecurity Measuring Up?
Besides staying current with the latest cybersecurity threats, healthcare organizations also need to ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA and PCI DSS -- making the implementation of cybersecurity protocols particularly challenging.
To help you leverage the latest security measures and protect your sensitive patient information, we take the time to stay up-to-date with industry best practices and implement expertly-designed cost-effective solutions to help protect your IT network.
Download our essential cyber security toolkit to see if your IT security is up to snuff in protecting your sensitive patient data from prying eyes.