Did you know that healthcare organizations in the US get hacked almost every single day? The healthcare industry has become a prime target for hackers, and many are begging the question: what’s so special about healthcare data? Why would hackers target this data instead of other organizations like banks? There are several reasons, and you’re about to learn them.
Healthcare data is valued highly on the black market
Healthcare data is inarguably one of the most sensitive types of information, which makes stealing it a profitable business for hackers. Hospitals and clinics usually have a convenient bundle of a single patient’s data not restricted to just medical information. They store names, social security numbers, credit card information, addresses, etc. Because of this, healthcare data is among the most expensive types of data sold on the black market.
Healthcare organizations are desperate to get their data back
Whenever a business’s data is stolen, panic usually settles in. However, this panic is different in healthcare organizations: getting back stolen data may be the difference between life and death. In 2020, a woman in Germany was the first person to die because of a ransomware attack.
Hackers might steal and encrypt healthcare data and demand the hospital to pay them money if they want to get the data back (this is called ransomware). Since doctors are so desperate to get the data back, they’re more likely to pay the ransom, and hackers know that.
Healthcare organizations generally don’t have strong cybersecurity policies
Healthcare workers typically aren’t the most tech-savvy people with much knowledge on cybersecurity. They certainly have lots of other things to worry about, especially in the COVID era. However, while it may not seem like cybersecurity is something that healthcare workers should focus on, failure to protect patient data can lead to failure to treat a patient, which can sometimes even mean death.
What are some basic ways to increase cybersecurity?
Here are some examples of how healthcare organizations can increase their cybersecurity:
- Enhance password security. Individuals and businesses constantly neglect cybersecurity, and the healthcare industry is no exception. To protect patient data, all accounts handling this data must be locked behind secure passwords.
- Use updated and advanced software. Many healthcare organizations continue to use old software without considering the possible repercussions. Old software is much easier to hack than new and updated software. Therefore, everyone in healthcare (especially those who handle confidential patient data) should update their software as often as possible.
- Understand the risks. The negligence of cybersecurity in the healthcare industry mainly stems from the lack of knowledge in this field. Healthcare workers should have a general understanding of the risks they face. For example, ransomware has been the top threat in the healthcare sector lately.
- Keep sturdy backups. If a healthcare organization ever gets targeted by ransomware or any other form of cyber attack that causes the loss of patient data, a backup will ensure that doctors still have access to this data.
Many organizations that store sensitive customer data (like banks) have solid cybersecurity policies and follow all of the tips mentioned in this section. This makes it nearly impossible for hackers to access their databases. Since healthcare organizations are not as secure but have information that’s just as valuable, hackers have turned their focus here.
IoT devices create vulnerabilities
As medicine keeps advancing, new gadgets are constantly being introduced. These gadgets can serve a range of purposes, such as monitoring patients remotely, keeping track of a patient’s heart rate or glucose levels, etc. Many of these devices require an internet connection to work properly, which isn’t very good for cybersecurity.
Many of these little gadgets don’t have very strong hardware or software. If a heart rate monitor is connected to a hospital’s wifi, a hacker might use it as an access point to the hospital’s database. For this reason, healthcare organizations must carefully choose all IoT devices they use and always opt for the most secure options.
The abundance of data healthcare organizations have on individual patients combined with the urgency for hospitals to get this data back if stolen, and the negligence of the healthcare industry to properly secure patient data is why this industry is so popular among cybercriminals. As long as healthcare organizations continue to neglect data security, cyber attacks will keep happening, and patients will continue to suffer. Hopefully, this will take a shift in the near future.