In Healthcare, Data is Gold.
Data is the key as healthcare providers continue to transform and look for new ways to address the growing need for their services and limited resources. Through it, they can develop new digital tools, investigate ways to enhance patient outcomes, and improve business operations and processes.
For example, electronic health records (EHR) and its promise of improving communications between practitioners and institutions, streamlining insurance processes, aiding in the move to self-directed care, reducing fraud and substance abuse — the list goes on. At the same time, having all that patient information stored digitally introduces new privacy concerns some aren’t ready for.
The Growing Need for Healthcare Transformation
The combination of an aging population and a rise in chronic illness is fueling the need for healthcare practitioners to find new ways to operate lean while improving patient care, privacy, and compliance. Despite these pressures, some healthcare organizations have remained slow to digitize based on competing priorities, only exacerbating cybersecurity issues. Healthcare providers must find a unique balance when it comes to their data.
It’s susceptible and highly regulated, so it must be protected. But, at the same time, it must be easily accessible to physicians, nurses, health scientists, and others to improve care.
Healthcare’s Security Challenges
For many providers, securing that data can feel like a problem of epic proportions. Ransomware, malware, phishing, zero-day attacks, insider threats — there seems no end to what healthcare providers must contend with.
As providers try to take more significant advantage of their data, they must move to the cloud, where cost-effective infrastructure is needed. Automated tools support the analytics required to improve patient care. But does the cloud introduce new security risks? It’s hard even to know where to start.
Meanwhile, where to invest the limited healthcare funds is always a challenge. It’s not uncommon for cybersecurity to draw the short shrift when up against tools seen as more directly related to patient outcomes. Is it time to invest in better data protection or a new MRI? Even when cybersecurity is invested in, it’s often a piecemeal approach that results in a misunderstanding of the security posture of the healthcare organization. To add to the challenge, finding great, expert cybersecurity talent today seems more complicated than brain surgery.
Those organizations with existing cybersecurity expertise must closely guard against them becoming burned out due to being overwhelmed with low-value activities or leaving for greener pastures as part of The Great Resignation, or Big Quit, of 2021 and 2022.
You need to protect the data entrusted to your organization, compliances like HIPAA require it, but how? It starts by understanding the adversary and what they’re after.
Why Health Data?
As valuable as healthcare data is to healthcare organizations, it also is for cyber threat actors.
Hackers seek to disrupt your business or steal your electronically protected health information (ePHI). When a hacker steals a credit card, online payment information, or social security number, they only get that. Steal healthcare information, and they’ve hit the jackpot — a wealth of personally identifiable information, much of which can’t be easily changed, dubbed “fullz” on the darkweb (where you will find around 140 million patient records up for grabs).
This makes healthcare information remarkably valuable on the dark web and places where such illicit trading occurs. While a credit card number with its CVV is valued at around $5 on the dark web, complete health records can go for up to $1000.
Of course, once hackers have access to your data, there’s another reliable way to make money off their illicit efforts: ransom it back to you.
The Rise of Ransomware in Healthcare
Ransomware is seeing a dramatic rise in the healthcare industry. They nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021 — with almost two-thirds of healthcare organizations hit by them. You can learn more about the PFS healthcare breach and Quantum Locker Ransomware here.
With their eye on making money, ransomware has become one of the leading tactics of hackers attacking healthcare. Healthcare organizations are recognizing this growing threat and paying handsomely for cyber insurance in the hopes they can reduce financial risks. Cyber insurance rates are skyrocketing, and organizations must often prove they have specific security capabilities even to be insured.
Hacker’s Healthcare Targeting Tactics:
- Through the vast network of third parties and users that providers must work with. From insurers to lawyers to other healthcare organizations, all of whom may be vulnerable.
- Through phishing attacks, sending malicious code in emails that unsuspecting users open and release onto the network.
- Stealing (or buying stolen) user credentials for another site or service and using them to access the network. Too many employees use the same password for services, which breaches their corporate identity.
- Finding unsecured third-party access points from which to launch an unexpected attack.
A hospital can’t afford to have any period when it can’t access its records or may even face operational disruptions forcing them to reroute patients elsewhere — as in one tragic German incident — so downtime threats are particularly effective.
What’s insidious about ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations is that if you choose not to pay to access your data, you may still be extorted with the risk of it being released to the public. And worse, if you do pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your data back, nor that it hasn’t already been copied and sold. These are criminals, after all.
Today, healthcare data is as valuable to your organization as those who threaten it with cyberattacks. You need that data to improve the business, provide better patient experiences and improve health outcomes; they want it because it’s lucrative on the black market. You can’t lock it down from the people who need it to spark change, but you are obligated to protect it from cybercriminals and the public.
There are a lot of buzzwords in the industry, and the cybersecurity landscape changes faster than most can keep up with. You need to look past the noise and hype and stay focused on understanding the threats to your organization and how to prevent them proactively.
Working with specialists like ActZero is a significant first step in your work towards keeping a continuous, vigilant eye on the health of your network, endpoints, and systems security—but even more, it can provide immediate inoculation against the ransomware that puts your organization and patients at risk.
Download the Modern Cybersecurity for Healthcare E-book here. Give us two hours to prove it; we’re just what the doctor ordered.