The practice of modern medicine has been profoundly transformed by technological advancements. Clinical medicine is full of innovation, from telehealth to electronic patient/health records. However, as with any kind of technology, there are risks in the transmission of information on virtual and cloud systems. In the past five years, the healthcare industry has witnessed data breaches that have grown in both size and frequency. The largest breaches have impacted as many as 80 million people around the world. Healthcare data breaches often expose highly sensitive information, ranging from personally identifiable information such as names, and addresses to sensitive health data such as health insurance information, and patients’ medical histories.

Hospitals, urgent care clinics, pharmacies, health insurance companies, and other healthcare providers keep records of extremely valuable information that can be used for identity theft. Furthermore, the healthcare industry is widely known to have poor security. According to a recent assessment, healthcare ranks ninth out of all businesses in terms of overall security.

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Such reports should be a matter of concern. According to a poll conducted by Accenture in February 2017, healthcare data breaches have impacted 26% of U.S. consumers. In addition, the report found that 50% of breach victims later experienced medical identity theft, with an average out-of-pocket cost of USD 2,500. What is even worse is that half of the study respondents said they discovered the breach after being notified to an issue on their benefits explanation, credit card statement, or other papers, rather than through an official company or law enforcement communication.

According to Reports and Data, the global healthcare cybersecurity market size was USD 7.66 billion in 2018 and is projected to surpass USD 27.10 billion by 2026, registering a 16.8% CAGR. Stolen health information and ransomware attacks on hospitals are examples of cybersecurity flaws, which can go so far as to involving assaults on implanted medical devices. These are crucial factors to consider as more healthcare providers begin to incorporate technology into their daily operations.

Why do attackers target healthcare facilities?

Private patient information is extremely valuable

A staggering amount of patient data is stored at hospitals. Hackers can easily sell sensitive information worth a lot of money, making the healthcare business a major target. These organizations have a responsibility to safeguard the personal information of their patients. Financial penalties, whether in the form of fines for failing to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or paying to recover data held hostage by ransomware, are a real concern for a healthcare provider that is already struggling to meet daily work demands.

Attackers can easily gain access to medical devices

Few industries have seen such rapid and widespread adoption of linked devices as the healthcare business. In the modern healthcare setting, 15 to 20 connected medical equipment are found in any given hospital room. Connected medical gadgets outnumber even mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones 4 to 1 in some hospitals. Up to 85,000 connected gadgets could be found in a large hospital. While each of these connected devices plays an important role in the delivery of care and operational efficiency, they can also be vulnerable to malevolent cyberattacks.

For so long, safety from cyber attackers had not been the initial concern for medical device manufacturers. Although the devices themselves may not contain the sensitive medical information sought by attackers, they can be utilized to initiate an assault on a server that does. A medical gadget might be entirely taken over by hackers in the worst-case scenario, prohibiting healthcare organizations from providing essential life-saving therapy to patients.

Healthcare Cybersecurity Market Overview

The sheer number of gadgets used in hospitals makes maintaining security difficult

Massive volumes of patient data, as well as a vast network of connected medical devices, are the responsibility of modern healthcare organizations. Larger organizations may have to cope with tens of thousands of medical devices, each of which is connected to their network and serves as a possible entry point for hackers. Healthcare workers are frequently too preoccupied with providing care and therefore they are often unaware about the latest device risks, leaving IT professionals to defend an entire hardware network. If just one device is hacked, the entire network is vulnerable to data breaches and medical device hacking.

Smaller healthcare providers are particularly vulnerable

Online attacks pose a concern to all healthcare organizations whether large or small. Large businesses store the most data, making them a lucrative target for cybercriminals. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, have lower security expenses. Smaller businesses are generally considered as an easy target, also because backdoor-access chance to target larger firms, due to their less complex and up-to-date cybersecurity solutions are lesser than doing the same to smaller firms.

Advancement in healthcare cybersecurity to combat ransomware threats

In 2021, ransomware is projected to remain a significant element of the cybercriminal’s arsenal. In some cases, the ability of an attack to shut down operations at a medical facility has life-or-death implications, motivating victims to pay the ransom. Cybercriminals are well aware of this, which explains the expected increase in healthcare-related ransomware attacks in 2020. According to a joint advisory issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the FBI, credible information of an elevated and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and healthcare professionals has been found to exist. Fortunately, there are also continued improvements in healthcare cybersecurity defenses.

For instance, MedicalDirector, an Australian software business, released its latest cybersecurity solution for healthcare organizations in June 2021. The MedicalDirector Shield is said to contains six important components that protect a healthcare practice’s IT systems and data. It comes with an initial security evaluation to identify a system’s vulnerabilities to internet hacking, as well as a plug-in intrusion detection device that stops possible attacks and 24/7 monitoring by a cybersecurity operations center. It also publishes monthly incident reports with in-depth analysis of cyber incidents and network flaws; offers online cybersecurity training for care teams to help them identify and understand their practice’s vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of unintentional data breaches; and provides staff with guides on how to handle cybersecurity incidents.

Investment in healthcare cybersecurity and platforms that provide such security is also on the rise. For instance, Cynerio, a leading provider of Healthcare IoT cybersecurity and asset management solutions, announced in May 2021 that it has raised USD 30 million in Series B funding led by ALIVE Israel HealthTech Fund, Israel’s first and largest healthtech investment fund. Cynerio plans to use the funds to expand its channel program, form strategic partnerships with leading solution providers, and expand its clinically-intelligent toolbox of preemptive and proactive Zero Trust solutions into a full-service, responsive security platform, with the goal of becoming the healthcare industry’s go-to cybersecurity and asset management solution.

Healthcare facilities themselves are becoming more aware of the threats and revamping internal systems to meet the cybersecurity need of the moment. For instance, for years, healthcare providers have struggled to strike a balance between the requirement to enforce strong password regulations and the simplicity of use and capacity of users to remember them. Lately there has been a rise in number of healthcare organizations that provide or require users to use password management software. As long as these technologies are simple to use, there will be increased adoption in this sector.

Research Author: Paroma Bhattacharya

Paroma Bhattacharya has dabbled in the realm of content production for over half a decade and possesses extensive experience in penning down pieces related to healthcare, technology, banking, and a wide range of other industry verticals. Her articles focus primarily on balancing relevant data while never neglecting to make the material engaging. She believes in providing objective facts to help people make important business decisions.

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