CYBER SECURITY | 5 MIN READ
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.
Not enough time? Jump to:
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instance, they can send an email posing as a platform that your business utilizes and tell you that your password is outdated and needs to be updated.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
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.
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.
Cyber Security Solutions
Use Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
For more cyber security content, follow our blog!
Posted by Andre Schafer
Andre Schafer is a Technical Account Manager at Standard Office Systems. He has spent his entire career in the Office Technology and IT fields. For nearly 30 years, he has held various roles, including Technician, Trainer, Analyst, and Account Manager. Andre’s focus has always been to understand his customers' business needs to provide the appropriate technologies and services.