Cyber Attacks on Healthcare Soar: What Lies Ahead in 2024

Updated on January 15, 2024
A programmer is typing a code on a keyboard to protect a cyber security from hacker attacks and save clients confidential data. Padlock Hologram icons over the typing hands.

According to recent estimates, more than 100 million people were impacted by cyber attacks on healthcare organizations in 2023. For comparison, roughly 44 million people were affected by breaches in 2022. As cyber attacks continue to surge, what’s in store for healthcare and its patients in 2024? Neal Quinn, head of Radware’s cloud security services business, weighs in with a few predictions for this high-value target.

Budgeting for security will expand beyond privacy

Traditionally, healthcare security budgets have focused on addressing patient confidentiality and meeting HIPPA regulations. While this will remain a high priority in 2024, escalations in the threat landscape will require boards to increase their security budget and defenses across two areas of rising threat—ransomware and DDoS attacks. 

During the last several years, healthcare providers have become a center for financially motivated ransomware attacks. According to the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), there was a 93% increase in large breaches between 2018-2022, with a 278% increase in large breaches involving ransomware. 

But 2023 rang in a year of new threats. Healthcare providers also became a target for religious and politically motivated nation-state actors and hacktivist groups launching global distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) campaigns to create a direct threat to public health and safety. And they were successful. According to the U.S. Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center, more than 90 orchestrated DDoS attacks took aim at healthcare organizations across the U.S., including Level 1 trauma centers, in late January 2023 alone. 

What healthcare organizations discovered this year is that these aren’t your typical DDoS attacks. They are a new type of aggressive, layer 7, HTTPS Flood attack, also known as a Web DDoS Tsunami. More sophisticated and illusive, these attacks masquerade as legitimate web requests, making them more difficult to detect and mitigate. Unfortunately, traditional protections based on pre-existing signatures or rate-based detections are not designed to defend against this emerging type of attack without blocking legitimate traffic. For healthcare that means without more modern protections, the availability of mission-critical systems will continue to be threatened; patient care disrupted; and sensitive data left exposed. In 2024, expect the standards for effective DDoS protection to be even higher as solutions with behavioral-based algorithms and real-time signature generation become a must.

Availability will become an even bigger concern

As more healthcare goes online, availability will become an even bigger issue. Electronic healthcare record (EHR) systems, hospital information systems (HIS), electronic prescribing systems, picture archiving and communication systems, telemedicine and telehealth platforms as well as patient portals and engagement platforms are just a few of the critical applications and technologies that form the backbone for healthcare services today. Any disruption to this digital setup poses a serious risk not only to delivering quality patient healthcare, but also to maintaining regulatory compliance, and optimizing operational efficiencies.

As 2023 draws to a close and budgets are finalized, look for more healthcare boards and providers to reevaluate the kinds of services supported by their digital channels and whether these channels provide the right level of security. More organizations will be compelled to dial up their investments in application security, including bot detection and management, web application firewalls, and API and application DDoS protection.

The demand for cloud and managed security services will rise

With more healthcare services going online, providers are under mounting pressure to strengthen their security posture. However, many healthcare providers can’t afford the technology or the experienced security staff needed to protect their digital infrastructures. In 2024, expect providers to increase their focus on the cloud and managed security services. The move toward the cloud and managed security services reflects a strategic and practical response as providers try to figure out how to cost effectively and proactively protect critical assets, including patient data and services. The rise in political and religious hacktivism, shortages in skilled security staff and challenges involved in protecting multi-cloud environments also will continue to be major motivating factors. 

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Neal Quinn
Head of Cloud Security Services at North America at Radware

Neal Quinn is Head of Cloud Security Services for North America at Radware.