Cybersecurity Threats to Healthcare Practices

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Nobody suggests that healthcare is easy.

Simply taking care of patients requires extraordinary expertise, focus, and commitment.

Despite that, providers face mountains of challenges that have nothing to do with direct care.

Regulations, continued learning, supply chains, cost analysis . . . they all require attention, and they all pull you away from patient care.

That’s to say nothing of technology.

As much as it can help, it presents tons of new challenges, and perhaps the most difficult among them relates to cybersecurity.

How are you supposed to manage it all?

You get help.

Today, that help comes in the form of knowledge.

In just a few minutes, you can learn about cybersecurity threats to healthcare practices, how they work, and exactly what you can do about it.


Identifying Cybersecurity Threats in the Healthcare Industry

The first knowledge you need pertains to identifying threats.

What threats are common in healthcare?

What do they look like?

How do they actually impact your services?


Common Types of Cybersecurity Threats

There are many ways an attacker can threaten a healthcare provider, but they boil down to a few key categories.

Attackers can steal data, steal access to your systems, or disrupt your ability to function.

Let’s look at some examples.

Data theft is pretty well known, but it’s particularly harmful in the realm of healthcare.

An attacker could hack your servers to steal patient data.

That disrupts a practice, but it also leads to HIPAA violations, creating a whole cascade of problems.

Alternatively, attackers could steal access to your systems via ransomware.

A worker in the facility unknowingly downloads malicious software.

It encrypts all of your data, and you can’t function anymore until you pay a ransom.

The third idea is a disruption of your services.

An attack could cause your network to fail.

Without access to modern communication, you can’t provide key services, and the attack effectively kills your services until you get control back.

The attacks come in all shapes and sizes, but they typically accomplish one of these three goals.


Impact on Healthcare

Any cyber attack can damage your reputation or finances, and they can put you at legal risk.

Beyond that, healthcare suffers in particular ways from cyber attacks.

At the top of the list is providing care.

Regardless of reputation or money, cyber attacks hinder your ability to take care of patients.

If nothing else was attached to this conversation, that would already be too much.

Unfortunately, the impacts go further.

The Ponemon Institute ran a study to look at the impacts of cyber attacks on healthcare.

They found that 88 percent of healthcare organizations have at least one attack every 12 months.

Those attacks diminished patient care for 77 percent of the organizations studied.

Attacks slowed the time to provide care, disrupted supply chains, increased the risk of medical mistakes, and disrupted diagnosis and prescription.


Strategies for Cyber Threat Mitigation

Ok, knowing what threats look like is a start, but how do you stay ahead of them?

For that, risk management and best practices pull a lot of weight.


Risk Assessment and Management

As you might guess, a risk assessment looks at your organization and how it operates to analyze cyber risks.

They will consider hardware, software, networking, and personnel behaviors, not to mention existing security measures.

Putting it all together, your security experts can build a hierarchy of risks to help guide management.

With risk management, they attack risks, from greatest to least, to lower the chances of a cyber attack.

Measures are also taken to reduce the damage done if a cyber attack does take place.

Here’s an easy example of risk management.

Say they analyze passwords and see staff reusing passwords that are not very secure.

They can implement a policy that utilizes password managers to improve password practices across the organization.


Security Best Practices

In the practice of risk management, every organization needs to learn and implement security best practices.

There are many, but by highlighting some of the most prominent, you can gain a clearer picture of cybersecurity in healthcare:

  • Practice password hygiene.
  • Utilize security devices like firewalls
  • Keep tight access controls on all systems
  • Carefully manage remote access and from-home devices
  • Keep physical control over access points

Your security team can help you instill these practices, but they distill into a simplified idea.

Try to control how sensitive information and devices are accessed in your organization.

Strong passwords, access controls, and firewalls all help with access control.

Simply designating spaces for authorized personnel can keep sensitive devices out of the wrong hands.


Implementing Effective Cybersecurity Measures

Everyone needs to know best practices, but leaders in healthcare organizations need a little more.

In order to disseminate good cybersecurity practices, it helps to understand the cybersecurity measures that help the most.


Advanced Security Technologies

New methods and devices emerge every year to help stay ahead of security risks and trends.

In this area, healthcare often looks much like other industries.

Regardless, knowing some of the advanced options available can help you run a more secure organization.

Behavioral analytics remains one of the fastest-advancing forms of security.

Applied to both digital and in-person practices, these methods can identify behavioral trends to spot both risky behaviors and direct threats. 

Blockchain allows for greater data integrity in many cases.

While an individual doctor’s office might see minimal applications for blockchain, a nationwide healthcare provider could utilize blockchain to make patient data more secure and more robust.

Cloud encryption presents one of the most universal and accessible advancements in security.

Cloud services allow you to store data and resources in professionally managed environments.

Adding cloud encryption makes it much more difficult for patient data to fall into the wrong hands.

And, these are just a few options.

It’s worth dedicating regular time to learning about new trends in cybersecurity.


Employee Training Awareness

This gets said a lot, and it still bears repeating. 

More than 80 percent of successful cyber attacks are made possible by employee negligence. In many cases, that negligence stems from ignorance.

Every employee needs to know how to avoid risky behaviors that lead to attacks.

They also need to be retrained periodically.

If not, their knowledge might become outdated, or they might slip over time.

Training is available.

It builds security awareness.

It’s an essential component of cybersecurity.


Incident Response and Recovery for Your Healthcare Practice

Preventing attacks does so much good, but what happens when things go wrong?

For that, an ounce of preparation is what you really need.


Develop a Cyber Attack Response Plan

Here’s the scary part.

No matter how much time, energy, money, and planning you put into preventing cyber attacks, they still happen.

The most powerful and advanced tech giants in the world still suffer from attacks.

You cannot make yourself invulnerable.

That does not mean your cybersecurity investments are in vain.

Those investments mitigate risks and damage when a threat gets through.

In fact, your security experts should be able to show you in clear numbers the cost-effectiveness of their practices.

Yet, you still need a plan to respond to an attack when it gets through.

Your incident response plan teaches team members how to act to minimize the attack quickly.

It also ensures that you inform every relevant party quickly and appropriately.

Finally, the plan includes measures to overcome the attack and restore everything to business as usual.


Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

Recovery and business continuity planning overlap considerably with your attack response plan.

In fact, you could consider the response plan to be a major chapter in the larger book that is recovery and business continuity planning.

These plans outline how you recover from an attack, but they also put measures in place to keep you operational during the attack.

Things like network segmentation, data backups, and communication redundancy fit into these plans.

There is a lot to cover, but you’ll find that when you work with experienced professionals, the plan largely writes itself.

As long as you develop the plan, it will actually free up resources that you can focus back into healthcare.


The Future of Healthcare Cybersecurity

Despite everything you have learned so far, technology is always changing.

What can you expect moving forward?


Emerging Cyber Threats in Healthcare

Some of the growing trends have already been covered, such as ransomware attacks.

They prove especially nasty for healthcare because many providers have a level of cash flow worth attacking and the extra motivation of patient care to push them into paying the attackers.

Healthcare is similarly targeted for data breaches, as providers carry far more kinds of valuable data than most businesses and organizations.

It’s not fun to picture, but there is a black market for health information.

Perhaps the most insidious trend for healthcare right now is the growth in insider threats.

You read earlier about how ignorance can lead to risks, but unfortunately, there seems to be a trend towards internal problems that don’t come from ignorance.

Hospitals, in particular, tend to have a lot of computerized devices.

Those make a tempting target for hackers who want more raw power for their schemes.

As hospitals remain accessible to the public at large, hackers can infiltrate the facility, hijack computational resources, and use them for nefarious purposes.

You can learn more about a specific example here.


Preparing for Tomorrow’s Cyber Challenges

With advances in AI, quantum computing, and many other mind-blowing technologies, cybersecurity experts face many challenges.

The good news is that many of those technologies can work to protect you just as effectively as they might attack you.

There are too many possible futures to cover everything here, but consider one major shift that is happening right now.

Passwords are becoming less secure over time.

Experts estimate that quantum computers could make the very concept of a password moot within a few years.

That might feel scary, but security specialists have already found other ways to secure devices and data.

You have probably faced multi-factor authentication recently, where you try to sign into an account and then need a text message or an email to finish signing in.

Similar practices are trying to reduce the prevalence of passwords in security to stay ahead of the impending end of passwords altogether.

Security devices, such as RFID login chips, also work to tackle this challenge.

As a healthcare provider, why do you need to know this?

It can help you think about how things will inevitably change.

It also shows that help is available, and experts are ready for the coming challenges.

Stay flexible in the ways that you can, use your security providers as much as possible, and you can keep your focus where it matters most — on the patients.


MainSpring Is Here to Help

Cybersecurity brings up scary ideas, but that’s not the real point.

Rather than live in constant fear of the next threat, MainSpring wants to help.

We can make sure you know everything that matters, and we can provide the support that you need. 

Contact us today.

We’ll show you how to stay secure without taking your precious resources away from the patients who need them.