Healthcare leaders have a vested interest in completing strategic investments to safeguard their organization’s data against the growing risk of cybercrime

Data breaches, ransomware events, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against critical healthcare infrastructure have become one of the most critical risk management topics for executive leaders to contend with.

The exponential growth of cybercrime in recent years has been nothing short of meteoric — between 2004 and 2021, the fifty largest data breaches resulted in the loss of 17.5 billion patient health information (PHI) records. However, in just the first 6 months of 2022, 337 separate data loss events at healthcare organizations resulted in more than 19 billion individual records being lost.

Since 2019, 50% of all healthcare enterprises have suffered at least one data breach event. The impact of cyber threats has been so pervasive it has changed the insurance criteria for many businesses requiring greater due diligence when it comes to elevating senior cyber security leadership and implementing a modern threat reduction strategy.

According to IBM, the average cost to respond to a healthcare data loss event in 2022 reached $10.1 million — the single highest cost associated with data breaches in any industry. Yet, as staggering as these costs can be, they pale in comparison to the damage caused to the reputation of the medical professionals and organizations connected to the most devastating breach events.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, criminal organizations are involved with targeting healthcare organizations in pursuit of lucrative payouts. While many healthcare enterprises are finally beginning to prioritize cybersecurity best practices such as zero-trust frameworks, there is still heavy lifting needed across the industry for enterprises to be able to safeguard their organizations against cybercrime.

Adequately addressing the persistent threat of cybercrime requires enterprise-wide ingenuity, substantial financial investment, and considered attention to ensure that vital hardware, software, technologies, devices, and critical IT infrastructure are safeguarded against malicious actors.

Top 10 Cybersecurity Threats Facing Healthcare Enterprises in 2023

Malware

In just the first 6 months of 2022, there were more than 2.8 billion malware attacks recorded globally. Malware refers to a wide variety of different types of software designed to penetrate defensive systems, compromise system data, and provide attackers with lateral access that allows them to move through different elements of a digital health technology stack.

Cybersecurity researchers estimate that there are 560,000 new pieces of malware found every single day with more than 1 billion unique programs in operation around the world. Every minute 4 enterprises are targeted with ransomware, one of the most prevalent forms of malware, and the type associated with some of the costliest and most devastating data breaches to hit the healthcare industry,

Ransomware

Ransomware has become one of the most widely discussed and feared cyber attack variants for healthcare executives to contend with. Designed to take control of a victim system’s data and request a ransom sum be paid to return access, ransomware attacks place executive leadership teams in an extremely challenging position that exposes their organization to highly complex and potentially organization-destroying risk.

As of the first week of December 2022, Columbia Health’s subsidiary Keralty, one of the nation’s largest healthcare organizations, reported being victimized by a ransomware attack launched by the RansomHouse criminal organization which resulted in the loss of 3TB of lost data. Chaos, Dharma, Xorist, Trigona, STOP, and MedusaLocker are just a few ransomware programs with new variants attacking medical service providers in recent months.

Data Breaches

Data breach attacks against healthcare providers can be launched for a variety of different reasons. Some of the 337 attacks levied in the first half of 2022 were executed merely as crimes of opportunity meant to deliver profits. However, these cyber threat events are frequently being launched as a form of corporate espionage and warfare.

The evolution of cybercrime has made it extremely easy for threat actors to infect digital systems, cloud services, mobile applications, hardware devices, and every other touchpoint that links an organization to its patients, employees, third-party contractors, and suppliers. Protecting health organizations against data breaches requires a holistic end-to-end approach.

Data Poisoning Attacks

One of the newest forms of cyber exploitation involves the use of purposefully infecting artificial intelligence-powered data collection tools to compromise and falsify data at scale. This cyber threat event has been termed a data poisoning attack. The main reason attackers launch this type of threat event is to limit the ability of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to produce valid and reliable results.

All across the healthcare landscape, AI/ML adoption has been seen as a major opportunity to streamline operations and achieve better outcomes for patients. Efforts to manipulate AI-generated data create a new challenge at the cutting edge of cyber security research.

Cloud Security

As digital health comes into its own and hospital operations shift towards software-as-a-service (SaaS) driven service provisioning, there becomes a greater and greater need for increased cloud security measures.

Cloud-based services offer users a great deal of utility but without endpoint security measures in place, every single user and program which interacts with a cloud network could be used to launch an attack.

Biometrics

The adoption of biometric services has been extremely high across the healthcare landscape. These new technologies promise to offer an added layer to multi-factor security which ultimately should create safer and more secure environments. Nonetheless, biometric security software and hardware devices are relatively new and have not been proven at scale.

In a large variety of cases, biometric security is handled by third-party providers placing an increased need on healthcare systems to vet their providers and ensure that adequate measures are in place to limit the ability for biometric systems to be tampered with and defeated by attackers.

The Internet of Things

The numbers are staggering—as of 2019 more than 82% of healthcare organizations had experienced an internet of things-based cyber attack with 30% of those incidents directly threatening end-user safety.

IoT adoption across the healthcare landscape has been significant with many technologies sharing access credentials, user data, and operational resources which are vital to safe and reliable service delivery.

By the beginning of 2022, it was reported that as many as 70% of all medical devices were still running outdated and vulnerable versions of Microsoft Windows.

Social Engineering Operations

Insider threat remains one of the most significant cyber security attack vectors facing healthcare providers. All it takes is one employee to click a single link and attackers can gain lateral access to system resources within a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, spear phishing scams are being launched at scale targeting executive leaders in an attempt to gain access to their contacts and the vital system resources contained on their devices.

Social engineering operations succeed where organizational policies fail. When people, processes, and platforms are run with cyber security best practices then the threat of attack remains much lower. However, everyday hackers get better at mimicking actual corporate communications to commit criminal acts.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Modern organizations need to be responsible not only for safeguarding their system resources but being sure that their partner’s systems are up to snuff as well. Supply chain attacks in healthcare are particularly significant to the massive troves of personal, medical, institutional, and financial data involved.

Supply chain attacks on third-party vendors emphasize the necessity for healthcare organizations to implement cybersecurity best practices and consider measures such as zero-trust frameworks. Every client relationship and touchpoint can be a source of risk and measures need to be in place to limit the damage third-party interactions can have.

Digital Health Ecosystems

As health providers develop digital health ecosystems across consumer and business-facing applications, cybersecurity needs to be a top-line priority. Connected health systems provide a great deal of flexibility that matches consumer expectations and demands. However, the fastest way to erase record profits is to find your healthcare organization embroiled in the latest scandal involving the loss of personal health information.

Strengthening Digital Resilience is the Key to Successfully Mitigating the Risks Posed by Cyber Crime

The rise of global cybercrime targeting healthcare organizations in recent years has been nothing short of astronomical and there is no sign that it is slowing down.

As business enterprises continue to adopt cloud-powered computer services, utilize mobile applications, and implement technologies such as the medical internet of things (mIoT) they are increasingly exposed to risk which threatens reputational damage, patient harm, and catastrophic financial losses.

Successfully mitigating those risks requires proactive operational decision making and the adoption of cybersecurity best practices in many different business domains involving people, processes, and platforms.

Healthcare leaders must balance the need to release digital services as quickly as possible with the necessity to protect investments and ensure that network resources are secured against cyber threats. In today’s heightened threat environment, it is essential for enterprises to gain real-time visibility into all the activity taking place across their networks including data paths and all touchpoints with patients, customers, suppliers, and partners.

Achieving more robust digital resilience empowers organizations to identify, understand, and respond to cyber risks before they exceed corporate risk management criteria. Asahi Technologies is proud to be a custom software development firm that specializes in helping competitive healthcare organizations successfully mitigate cyber risks by enhancing digital resilience.

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