Exploring Cybersecurity Threats in Healthcare

Every day, cybercriminals employ sophisticated methods to infiltrate private personal information (PPI). In the healthcare sector, the prevalent use of tools for patient care management creates openings for security breaches and subsequent data theft. In the following sections, we’ll briefly delve into the ways these malevolent actors may exploit PPI and discuss how industry experts can fortify defenses moving forward.

Advancements in digital technologies within the healthcare industry have empowered medical professionals to deliver enhanced care, improving diagnostics and patient outcomes. However, the increased efficiency and interconnectedness of systems have concurrently given rise to cybersecurity threats. From electronic health records and modern medical devices to virtual care, these innovations, while advancing healthcare, have introduced vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. Additionally, legacy systems pose risks to patient privacy protection.

Today, hackers employ a variety of tactics to breach data, with the most common method involving stolen or compromised credentials. For example, a social engineering scam, such as a phishing email, may deceive someone with access into divulging essential credentials, providing unauthorized access. In June 2022, a data breach at Allegheny Health Network resulted from a malicious phishing email, compromising information for approximately 8,000 patients.

Another prevalent method in healthcare data breaches is ransomware attacks. In 2021, Eye Care Leaders EMR fell victim to a ransomware attack, impacting over 583,700 individuals across various organizations. The unauthorized party not only accessed but also took control of patients’ names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and treatment information. This data was ransomed, and negotiations resulted in a payment, emphasizing the average cost of a ransomware attack exceeding $4.5 million.

To enhance the protection of patient information, healthcare organizations can implement effective administrative safeguards by elevating education and training among staff. A comprehensive understanding of security policies and procedures enables the workforce to collaborate in preventing data breaches.

Furthermore, technical safeguarding measures, such as improved access control, auditing, and monitoring protocols, contribute to bolstering defense. Healthcare facilities are urged to invest in the latest cybersecurity strategies and technology to address potential vulnerabilities and stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

For those interested in delving deeper into cybersecurity in healthcare, an accompanying resource from MCRA provides additional information.

Infographic provided by MCRA,  FDA regulatory consultant

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