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Delivering patient care is made simpler, and more effective, and results are better thanks to digital technological advances. Even so, as digital technologies advance and medical facilities become more interrelated, cybersecurity risks to the industry are also growing.
There is no denying the advantages of digitalization in the medical industry. As reported by HealthIT.gov, 75% of medical personnel say that electronic health records facilitate their ability to offer patient care more effectively. EHRs are now essential for optimizing diagnosis and patient care outcomes.
Medical cybersecurity risks have increased in accordance with providers’ increasing reliance on digitalization. According to the cybersecurity company Emsisoft, there were over 560 cyberattacks against medical institutions in the United States in 2020.
Issues faced in healthcare cybersecurity
Information technology that focuses on safeguarding medical facilities is known as healthcare cybersecurity. These systems include electronic health records, fitness trackers, hospital supplies, and software for managing and delivering healthcare. Healthcare cybersecurity aims to protect platforms from intrusions by blocking illegal entry to, use of, and sharing of patient data. The main objective is to guarantee the accessibility, privacy, and integrity of crucial patient information, which, if affected, could endanger patient lives.
Vulnerable Medical Cyber-Physical Systems
Patch management and vulnerability scanning are two examples of safety protocols that are frequently unavailable or only possible for makers. They are susceptible to compromise because of their inherent limitations. The availability of cybersecurity tools like vulnerability scans and patch management is frequently limited to manufacturers or unavailable altogether. Additionally, the cybersecurity threat to the whole healthcare system is greatly increased by their dependence on and association with the health network. Due to the prevalent adoption of IoT medical devices, medical cyber-physical systems may become susceptible to cyber-attacks.
Security breaches in healthcare
Hackers exploiting COVID-19 worries were seen in the healthcare sector in 2020. One instance engaged an email with a link to a “coronavirus map” that allegedly tracked COVID-19 instances. The link had malware that stole credit card numbers and passwords.
- Phishing: When a hacker pretends to be a reliable email source, they attempt to trick users into clicking a link. Hackers can acquire private data in this way, including passwords and credit card details.
- Malware: Malware is software designed to harm a computer, a network of computers, or an additional connected system. Viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, and adware are all examples of malicious software.
- Ransomware: Malware known as ransomware utilizes encryption to prevent users from accessing data systems or to threaten to make user data public unless a ransom payment is made.
- Theft of patient data: Stolen medical data may be used to commit fraud, like posing as someone else to receive compensation payments for medical services.
- Insider threats: Key systems are threatened by people who unintentionally or voluntarily have access to them. Insider threats in the healthcare industry may originate from current or former employees, contractors, or vendors.
Vulnerabilities of legacy systems in healthcare
Numerous medical facilities maintain old technology despite the advantages that digitization offers for the given reasons:
- Budget constraints for upgrades: Upgrading a system involves spending money on new technology purchases and paying technicians. A healthcare facility may have fewer opportunities to make money if there is downtime.
- Assurance of compliance: Certification procedures for new technology and equipment can be time-consuming. It is possible that organizations that have undergone the process before would prefer not to do so again.
- Upskilling expenses: Training employees on new systems takes time and money, but it is necessary to reduce errors. Programs like the American Hospital Association Team Training program, in conjunction with technical vendor training, can assist leaders in incorporating teamwork values into new medical facilities.
- Complacency: Healthcare institutions might decide to address a problem only in the wake of a system crash or hack when the harm has already been done. The proactive replacement of outdated systems may assist to prevent future issues.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several healthcare organizations are using a short-term approach to combat cyber threats. These organizations ought to make long-term plans, offer sufficient cybersecurity resources to handle rapidly changing circumstances and provide the necessary assurance within those changes.