4 Cyber Security Challenges in Healthcare

Submitted by Andre Schafer on Tue, 03/ 02/ 21 - 12: 00 PM

Cyber Security Challenges in Healthcare


According to IDX, 89% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach in the past two years, which points to a larger issue surrounding current IT processes within healthcare organizations. What are some of the biggest cyber security challenges in the healthcare industry? Keep reading to learn 4 main IT challenges that healthcare organizations face and how they can better secure their networks.

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Phishing Schemes

Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

Bad Practices by Employees

Cloud-Based Environments

Cyber Security Solutions

Phishing Schemes

Phishing, a play on the word "fishing", is a cyber attack that's a form of social engineering. It involves attempts to gain access to a victim's personal accounts or capture their sensitive data by tricking them into revealing passwords or personal information. The most common form of phishing takes place over email.

Phishing schemes can lead to financial fraud, ransomware attacks, and data breaches, which can cause healthcare organizations to violate HIPAA if sensitive patient data is accessed or even be hit with a lawsuit from a patient whose data was stolen.

The healthcare industry is becoming more frequently targeted for phishing attacks compared to other industries because of the amount and type of sensitive data that the networks of companies within it holds.

When it comes to targeting healthcare companies, hackers have advanced tactics they employ to construct realistic-looking emails. For instance, they can send an email posing as a platform that your business utilizes and tell you that your password is outdated and needs to be updated.

When employees aren't properly trained on how to recognize and avoid phishing schemes, they can quickly fall prey to one, putting the security of your organization's network at risk.

Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that refers to groups of interconnected devices that are connected to the Internet. Within the healthcare space, IoT devices can include heart rate monitors, imaging devices, Internet-connected smart inhalers, and smart thermometers.

While these devices have streamlined certain workplace operations, all this data flowing in transit to and from the devices may be unencrypted, which could give a hacker an opportunity to access and exploit the data on them.

According to a study conducted by Palo Alto Networks in early 2020, 98% of all IoT device traffic is unencrypted, exposing personal and confidential data on the network and allowing attackers the ability to listen to unencrypted network traffic, collect personal or confidential information, then exploit that data for profit on the dark web.

This same study found that 83% of healthcare systems are running on outdated software. This points to a larger issue in the healthcare space and signals an unmet need for robust IoT security measures as well as technological upgrades.

Bad Practices by Employees

Cyber Security Challenges in Healthcare

According to a study conducted by Ponemon, 54% of healthcare associates say their biggest problem is employee negligence in the handling of patient information.

Healthcare employees have enough high-priority tasks to worry about that adhering to cyber security best practices can quickly become underprioritized.

Besides having other priorities, another reason why employees may not follow cyber security best practices is because they simply haven't been trained well enough or were trained in a way that doesn't catch their attention and help them internalize the information being taught.

While healthcare employees know that they must comply with data privacy regulations such as HIPAA, they are so complex that compliance can become an overwhelming task.

Common healthcare employee cyber security bad practices include the insecure sharing of sensitive data, usage of weak passwords, and phishing scheme victimization

Cloud-Based Environments

A large number of healthcare practices are migrating to cloud-based data storage solutions, as they enable easy retrieval of patient data better secure sensitive patient information.

However, these practices may be using insecure public SaaS storage platforms like Dropbox, which don't meet HIPAA's data privacy, security, and sovereignty requirements.

According to Hytrust, a data security firm, 38% of firms that have data in a multi-cloud environment such as Amazon Web Service that does not run on encrypted technology and is not HIPAA-compliant.

Additionally, practices or may not be encrypting data when it's sent to and from the cloud. Practices not only need to find cloud solutions that are HIPAA-compliant and encrypted, but also need to encrypt their data when it's being transferred to the cloud.

To ensure HIPAA compliance, healthcare providers must securely store sensitive files in a centrally managed cloud storage solution, such as an on-premises data center, private cloud, or virtual private cloud.

RELATED: What is the Best Cloud Storage for Businesses? [Reviews and Tips]

Cyber Security Solutions

Cyber Security Challenges in Healthcare

Use Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)


Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) has emerged over the past few years as an alternative to VPN's. While VPN's are a great way to secure a network, issues have emerged surrounding latency, productivity hampering, scaling difficulties, and more.

The central premise of the Zero Trust belief is that organizations shouldn't automatically trust anything inside or outside their network until there is proof that they can. Furthermore, access should be granted on a "need-to-know", least privileged basis.

ZTNA protects against the potential security risks associated with automatically trusting that everything within one's network is safe. When organizations automatically trust programs and software, they potentially open themselves up to cyber breaches. 

Though Zero Trust Network Access can be complex and takes a lot of work to implement, it is currently one of the leading industry security frameworks. ZTNA ensures that users can securely connect to private applications without placing them on the network or exposing those applications online.

RELATED: Top 6 Cyber Security Tips for Businesses [2021]

Employee Cyber Security Education

Employee cyber security education should be a chief priority for those in the healthcare industry. 

By implementing phishing tests and making cyber security educational courses mandatory from the start, a culture of personal accountability is fostered.

Businesses can start cyber security education from the onboarding process to foster a sense of personal accountability. Educational pamphlets can be given out that new hires must read and study in order to learn about the company's cyber security protocol.

Quarterly phishing tests and educational content such as cyber security newsletters keep best practices at the forefront of your employees' minds. 

Password policies standardize the guidelines for account credentials by including tips for creating effective passwords, recommending how often to change them, and more. 

RELATED: Tips on Cyber Security Awareness Training for Employees 

Managed IT Services

Cyber security is a complex topic that, especially in a highly regulated environment such as healthcare, is an ongoing and evolving process. In the healthcare industry, cyber security protocol must be carefully implemented, monitored, and updated to ensure both network protection and regulatory compliance. 

While some healthcare organizations will utilize in-house IT to secure their network, these departments can quickly get overwhelmed with managing network monitoring, network maintenance, and employee help requests. 

Managed Service Provider (MSP) can work with your business to implement and monitor a layered approach to cyber security.

Usually, an MSP's first task will be to perform a network audit to identify security gaps and build a roadmap to success. This roadmap usually involves securing your current infrastructure and installing new hardware and software when necessary.

Once your network is secured, MSP's will use a variety or remote monitoring platforms to quickly identify and remedy issues that arise, such as network downtime and cyber threats.

The right Managed Service Provider will minimize network downtime, rebuff cyber threats, streamline business processes, keep your business compliant with data privacy regulations, and more.


As a metro-Atlanta based Managed Service Provider with healthcare clients, our diverse offering includes:

  • Network monitoring− Consistent observation of all parts of your network ensures that any issues are swiftly identified and mitigated                   
  • Cyber threat prevention and education− Layers of the latest technology neutralize threats while courses and phishing tests teach employees how to secure company data                                                                                   
  • Data security− BCDR plan implementation and data privacy regulatory compliance ensure that data is backed up and data loss is minimized
  • Network Operations Center− 24/7 assistance from a help desk with higher satisfaction ratings than Amazon and Ritz-Carlton customers           
  • Project management− Get assistance planning office expansions, moves, remote transitions, and more from qualified experts


Effective cyber security in the healthcare industry is becoming even more paramount, seeing as it is the target of an increasing number of cyber attacks. Use this article to assist in taking steps towards better securing your practice's data. 

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Posted by Andre Schafer