COVID-19’s Effect on Healthcare Cybersecurity

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The digitization of healthcare operations and the increased use of digital systems to store and manage patient data have made healthcare organizations a growing target of cyber attacks.  With the scientific and healthcare community working for potential vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, the information healthcare institutions hold becomes more valuable to cyber criminals.  This is part of COVID-19’s effect on healthcare cybersecurity.

COVID-19’s Effect on Healthcare Cybersecurity: The Threat

Healthcare organizations collect and store a great deal of information, making them a lucrative target for cybercriminals.  This includes personal, medical, and payment information. Additionally, these organizations are legally required to protect any patient information, meaning that a data breach could expose the healthcare organization to regulatory fines.

Healthcare institutions are constantly involved in research initiatives, which are also valuable to criminals. To make matters worse, healthcare institutions often have tight budgets. Therefore, they are less likely to invest in new, and more secure IT systems.

Medical IoT also creates another risk to healthcare organizations.. Devices such as insulin pumps and x-rays open up additional points of entry to healthcare IT systems. While these systems do not store medical information, criminals can exploit them to initiate attacks on systems that contain sensitive patient information or research data.

The lack of cybersecurity training for employees in the healthcare sector also creates a potential entry point for criminals. Human beings arethe weakest security link for any organization.  Therefore, educating professionals about cybersecurity best practices becomes critical for healthcare institutions that have a lot to lose in case of a data breach.

COVID-19’s Effect on Healthcare Cybersecurity: Types of Attacks

Being aware of the common types of attacks targeting healthcare organizations can help your institution protect itself against these attacks.  For example, this awareness can lead to your installing protective systems, and educating your employees about these threats. These are some common types of attacks against healthcare institutions:

  • Business email compromise attacks

Cybercriminals perpetrate business email compromise attacks through email spoofing, business partner compromise, or client email compromise. Attackers disguise the attack’s source, or impersonate a business partner, client, or vendor to fool the recipient into providing sensitive personal or business data.

  • Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks have multiplied during COVID-19.  Criminals send messages that appear to be from reliable sources to trick victims into sharing personal information or downloading malware. Phishing attacks typically exploit people’s emotions by creating a sense of urgency and fear.

  • Ransomware

Healthcare records are important to criminals, as they can use them to commit insurance fraud. Criminals are aware of the lengths healthcare organizations go to protect their data from unauthorized personnel. Therefore, they use ransomware attacks to encrypt an organization’s data and to hold that data hostage until the healthcare organization pays ransom.

How Healthcare Organizations can Protect Themselves

Healthcare providers have a lot at stake when their data is compromised. This can range from legal action to loss of reputation. It can also include financial losses as they mitigate the extent of a data breach. However, organizations can take preventative measures to safeguard their data. Here are some cybersecurity best practices for healthcare organizations:

  • Ensure that your organization adheres to HIPAA rules
  • Keep a secure backup of your healthcare data at an offsite location
  • Put adequate security measures in place, such as regulating the people authorized to view certain data
  • Regularly conduct a risk assessment to spot weaknesses that criminals could exploit Educate your employees, clients, and vendors on your organization’s cybersecurity policy and common cybersecurity threats they may encounter
  • Enforce strong passwords
  • Install firewalls, antiviruses, and antimalware software





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