DOJ Action Against the Healthcare Threat Landscape Post-Pandemic

Updated on April 22, 2022

The healthcare industry has been under immense pressure for the past two years. Not only due to the overwhelming burden brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also because of the daily increase in cyberattacks. This put the entire industry in a delicate situation, prompting the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hunt down perpetrators and make them accountable for their crimes. 

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Find out what the healthcare threat landscape currently looks like and what the DOJ is doing to help.

What Is a Threat Landscape?

Threat landscape is a term that refers to identified and potential cyber threats that can affect a particular industry or group of users. It includes malware, vulnerabilities, specific groups of attackers, and the various techniques they use to endanger people or organizations. The severity of the danger will depend on how valuable the information attackers are targeting or have obtained, the security level of an organization, or even the specific location of the business involved.

Many factors can contribute to and change the threat landscape. With every new software or hardware introduced to a network, a window could potentially be opened for hackers to breach systems. Events such as the pandemic have caused a major shift in the infrastructure of many organizations—especially the healthcare industry—making the threat landscape even more diverse.

The Healthcare Industry Threat Landscape Is Evolving

In recent years, the healthcare industry has worked hard to advance its technology to meet the needs of patients across the globe. The use of telemedicine, virtual care, and online patient portals has become the norm in most medical settings. While these advancements in care have contributed to better treatment and more convenient communication between doctors and patients, they have also become attractive targets for cyber criminals.

Over 40% of healthcare industries are storing patient data and business-related applications in the cloud. Of those organizations, 35% are solely relying on the built-in security of their cloud network to protect this valuable data. Securing privileged access is also of key concern within the healthcare industry. Most organizations, 86%, feel that they need privileged accounts and credentials to protect the data on their networks. However, 38% don’t have these strategies in place for the cloud, and 44% don’t have them for business-critical applications.

Utilizing digital tools such as the cloud can reap many benefits, but the organizations using them must ensure they are up to date with the most relevant security measures.

2020 Healthcare Threat Landscape: What It Looks Like

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world in a number of ways, and cyber criminals have taken advantage of the situation to attack healthcare institutions worldwide. 

According to data gathered by Check Point, in November 2020, healthcare organizations saw a 45% increase in attacks from 430 to 626 every week. The attacks had become more sophisticated and precise and were evolving seemingly daily.

Methods of Attack: A Fusion of the Old and New

Cyber criminals have evolved their methods of attack in many ways by focusing on the digital advancements in healthcare organizations around the world. They also continue to use more well-known tactics, such as phishing scams via email. As such, organizations must be on guard against all such assaults and boost their network security, as well as educate their employees about all possible threats.

For example:

  • APT and RaaS: Cyber criminals are using advanced persistent threats (APT) and offering Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) to execute more and more attacks. They have advanced from simply encrypting data and asking for money to leaking sensitive files or information onto public domains to force victims into paying the ransom they require.
  • DDoS: Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are also becoming more common and will no doubt continue to rise in popularity. 
  • IoT attacks: The number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) has increased to the point attackers now use remote devices, instead of a traditional workstation, to infiltrate a system and compromise a network.

2021 Healthcare Threat Landscape: What the Reports Say

The start of the pandemic saw a slight adjustment in the threat landscape, with attacks targeting home networks and private devices due to a boost in the number of work-from-home employees. With the growing popularity of RaaS, criminals can share malware and gain access to even more vulnerable networks. Organizations critical to a well-functioning society, such as those in healthcare, have been crippled.

Emsisoft Security’s 2021 State of Ransomware in the U.S. report found that several healthcare providers were severely impacted in 2021, including Sanford Health (600 locations, 46 hospitals) and Scripps Health (24 locations, 5 hospitals). The Scripps attack cost the institution $112.7 million.

The DOJ’s Global Action Against Attackers

The DOJ is keen to stop constant attacks and hold all parties involved responsible. Aside from the healthcare industry, educational systems, government agencies, and large corporations have all been victims of heinous attacks. 

At the start of 2021, the department launched action against a sophisticated form of ransomware called Netwalker. The DOJ caught and charged a criminal who tried to get away with $28 million in ransom money. Over $450,000 in cryptocurrency has been seized, an amount obtained from three separate Netwalker attacks. The DOJ and its local and international partners are working hard to locate all participants and bring them to justice.

What Does the Future Hold?

The healthcare industry has continued to modernize its systems and how organizations deliver patient care, and this trend will no doubt continue even as the pandemic winds down. Healthcare organizations continue to be a target for cyber criminals due to the sensitive and potentially valuable information they hold within their networks. This data must be protected by advancing security strategies and adjusting how they’re implemented as the threat landscape evolves. 

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Some of the strategies for protecting healthcare organizations also apply to other business sectors, especially when it comes to ransomware. Doing your best to maintain a secure infrastructure will aid the DOJ and the many other organizations working diligently to keep your data safe from cyber criminals.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.