Health care IT: Why hospitals need to prioritize cybersecurity

Health care cybersecurity is an issue that has gained more recognition over the past few years, especially as hospitals have become a prime target for cyber criminals. In 2020, more than 600 health care facilities were affected by ransomware attacks, resulting in an estimated $20 billion in damages. About 29 million health care records were compromised in data breaches and the health care sector has seen a 25% year-over-year increase in breaches.  

What is health care IT?

Health care IT refers to the use of physical and digital hardware and technology to support medical services. This includes the use of digitized medical records, order entry systems, and other IT-related equipment that drives health care operations.

Health care IT supports the direct clinical and administrative needs of health care providers and institutions, as well as their patients. These technologies include:

  • EMRs (electronic medical records)
  • Voice recognition software
  • Barcode medication administration tracking
  • Robotic surgery equipment
  • PACS (picture archiving and communications systems)
  • Teleconferencing tools

They have had a profound impact, such as health care becoming more patient centered and focused on better outcomes.

However, health care IT is not without its challenges. Rapid technology advancements and infrastructure updates can be costly and time-consuming, but the increased need for cybersecurity and protecting patient data is critical.

The importance of cybersecurity in hospital settings

The amount of patient data being collected by hospitals means they face strict requirements when it comes to cybersecurity. Many of these standards set by the Department of Health & Human Services are considered very important for any organization operating in the public sector.

Hospitals also need to make sure they follow HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements. All health care entities covered by HIPAA must ensure that their policies and procedures comply, which includes training staff on how to handle data securely. This protects patients’ rights and ensures a safe hospital environment.

The reason these organizations prioritize data compliance in hospital settings is because cyber crime has grown exponentially in recent years. With the number of cybersecurity attacks increasing, hospitals need to take their obligations seriously and implement cybersecurity measures to protect patient privacy and ensure the safe operation of online medical services.

Common types of security breaches in hospitals

Hospitals face a range of cybersecurity threats. These include theft of medical records, ransomware attacks on hospital computers, and the unauthorized access or release of patient data.

Such threats have reached an all-time high in recent years, and there is no sign of cyber attacks slowing. Given the vast disparity between cybersecurity preparedness at hospitals versus other businesses, and the value of the information they store, it is no wonder that cyber criminals continue to target them.

Common types of cyber attacks in hospital settings include:

  • Malware/ransomware
  • Unauthorized access or release of patient information
  • Denial-of-service attacks
  • Medical IoT device breaches
  • Identify theft
  • Phishing attacks

Best practices for hardening health care security

Hospitals have become prime targets for criminal hackers because they store vast troves of personal data.

By following best practices, health care organizations have a much better chance of protecting this data. It will also help protect against ransomware attacks and phishing scams, which could cost the organization even more money in lost revenue from billing delays or business loss.

The first step is to ensure that the hospital teams understand how malware works, what signs indicate an attack, and what needs to be addressed immediately.

Next, ensure all personnel working with patients data are aware of the risks of opening suspicious email attachments, visiting untrustworthy websites, and inserting flash drives as they may contain infected files. The best way to do this is with regular staff awareness training.

Our Phishing Staff Awareness E-Learning Course teaches employees how phishing attacks work, the tactics employed by cyber criminals, and what to do when they’re targeted. Updated quarterly, the course educates your staff on the latest schemes and what to look out for.