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How to protect and improve cybersecurity for Healthcare Industry?

Updated Mon, January 30, 2023 12:27 EST

In the first quarter of 2021, 11 million health-related information of individuals got compromised due to the acts of cybercriminals. This data in itself shows a staggering 491 % increase in the intensity of cyberattacks in the health domain compared to the attacks reported in the same period in 2020. 

Cyber attackers have always shifted goalposts, and during the lockdown, newer targets got identified. Malicious attackers see medical records as an easy way for identity thefts and extortions. The healthcare industry is massive, and hence cybercriminals see this as a lucrative target. 

According to the IBM security data breach report, the average cost of a data breach in healthcare was $7.13 million in 2020 globally. The frequency of cyber-attacks and the monetary losses make cybersecurity a critical business function in the healthcare industry. 

Role of Cybersecurity in the Healthcare industry

Nowadays, the healthcare sector is highly dependent on technology. 

Some of the common areas where technology is involved are as follows: 

  •  E-prescription, practice management, Electronic Health Records (HER) of patients, etc., are handled by software.
  • The IoT technologies are responsible for air conditioning, ventilation, smart-end heating, smart-elevator, remote monitoring of patient devices, etc. 
  • Use of legacy systems that include operating stems, applications, and devices.
  • Healthcare organizations have to meet regulatory compliances to handle technology. Hence, the role of cybersecurity becomes critical. Cyber attackers target healthcare organizations because high-value information is available to them belonging to the patients. Secondly, a ransomware attack can cripple several critical healthcare-related functionalities, thereby leading to the loss of lives. In other cases, attackers can extort ransom and get away with it. 

    Types of Cyberattacks 

    • Phishing - Phishing refers to malicious links sent via email to unsuspecting users. In the healthcare sector, phishing attacks are widespread. The medical staff is too busy to notice, and patients are stressed which leads to clicking malicious links inadvertently. It gives the attacker access to sensitive information. 
  • Malware and Ransomware - this is a grave threat to the healthcare industry. By accessing the system through phishing, attackers plant malware in the system that encrypts sensitive data. By crippling the system, the attackers force healthcare companies to pay the ransom for restoring the data and infrastructure as patient’s life are at stake. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) attacks 

    Patient monitoring devices, including other essential healthcare facilities, are part of the IoT-connected infrastructure at the healthcare center. By attacking IoT and crippling the operations, attackers bargain successfully for ransom amounts. Hence, in the healthcare sector, IoT security plays an indispensable role over any other business, as apart from monetary losses, the lives of individuals are also under threat. 

    How to prevent cyber-attacks and boost cybersecurity? 

    Like health itself, prevention is the best medicine. The best anti ransom strategy would be to detect the threats before they breach the system. 90% of Ransomware uses the DNS to gain control of the system by infiltrating. Exfiltration data or redirecting web traffic is used by hackers. Having DNS-layered security is the first line of defense against ransomware attacks. 

    DNS-layered security solutions block requests from malicious destinations even before connecting is established. They protect the entire network devices irrespective of their locations. 

    As a cloud-delivered service, DNS-layer gains visibility into all internet activities across devices and locations. They identify devices that are targeted or already infected and take remedial action. Any unauthorized access or threats to data gets identified. Continuous monitoring provides threat information at any point in time.  

    Improving Cybersecurity in Healthcare through best practices

    Regular Risk assessment of cybersecurity 

    Not only is risk assessment for cybersecurity a business requirement, but it is also Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) necessary compliance. Regular assessments help to analyze and evaluate the risks, prioritize them and take actions. It reduces attack incidents, data breaches, downtime, and resultant costs. 

    Mobile Device management 

    Mobile devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones are used extensively in the healthcare industry. The security risks and device management are a challenge, and mobile device management solutions ensure that each device is configured and used as per the usage policy of a company. 

    Multi-factor Authentication 

    Username and password combinations are no longer secured as hackers breach them because of poor password hygiene practices. Multi-factor authentication requires another factor like One-time password or biometrics or favorite question before access is allowed. This method is cost-effective and excellent security against phishing. 

    User Identity and access management

    The adoption of new technologies such as cloud, IoT, access, digital identity management, and SaaS applications has led to new challenges in healthcare. An organization needs to use the device and data security and control how users assign the necessary roles and permissions to access information.

    The IAM solutions are significant in a sector like healthcare where the sensitive personal information of patients is required to be protected. This security tool effectively filters and identifies the access rights of users and authenticates them only if they are authorized to access certain information.  

    IoT Security 

    As mentioned earlier, IoT plays a primary role in healthcare as it increases the efficiency of the infrastructure and patient care. It is also vulnerable to a security breach, particularly to ransomware attacks.

    Here are some of the measures for securing your IoT infrastructure:

    • Putting in place security standards for IoT devices.
  • Creating a separate network for IoT devices.
  • Preventing IoT devices from initiating network connections.
  • Implementing access control of IoT devices.
  • Regular Security Awareness Training 

    Employees in healthcare organizations are the essential cog in the functioning of daily operations. Hence, organizations must create a security-conscious culture to secure the personal information of the patients. The objective of the organization must be to make their patients feel protected. Hence, they must ensure that the crucial information is safeguarded and not breached due to casual behavior. 

    Use of Big Data analytics

    Big data analytics help prevent security threats by identifying changes in the network traffic or any behavior that indicates a cyber-attack. Big data has issues, but with encryptions, firewalls, anti-virus security, the benefits are immense. It can also help to prevent fraud and inaccurate claims by streamlining the insurance claims processing. 


    Personal information is valuable to cybercriminals, and they command high value in the black market. Therefore, a comprehensive security solution can set up the first line of defense at the internet gateway. It will help monitor any lateral movement detected in the network that could be Ransomware within the system. One can eliminate its proliferation and reduce the options of any attack in the network.   

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