Why the Healthcare Industry is a Target for Cybercrime

September 21st, 2021

Healthcare data seems mundane- but in the hands of a cybercriminal it can be quite valuable. Medical records contain private information that can be used to blackmail or impersonate others. Even if you aren’t a public figure with a sensitive medical condition, the financial and personal identifiers found in medical records make them a target for cybercrime.

healthcare cybercrime

The High Stakes of Healthcare Breaches

All sectors are vulnerable, but the healthcare industry’s repository of confidential medical and financial data makes it an appealing target. Its low-hanging fruit has become fuel for cybercriminals’ crime sprees. Once hackers identify an area of vulnerability, they sweep in and grab patients’ personally identifiable information. No healthcare practice is immune from attacks. A small family-owned dental office, a midsize clinic and a full-scale hospital system could all be devastated by a cyberattack.

Of course the financial losses and penalties are immense, but in the case of the healthcare industry, breaches can also jeopardize patients’ safety. Healthcare systems simply cannot be offline or locked up by ransomware, as this would disconnect patients from their important medical and treatment information.

The level of deceitful tactics is constantly evolving. Many dark web data miners leverage stolen information to impersonate others and commit insurance fraud. Others have discovered that extortion is an extremely lucrative business model; they may hold the entire system hostage and restrict access to records until payment is made.

Or they may install a malware to deny access to data – or encrypt it, making it indecipherable. Even after payment is made, hackers may keep the healthcare’s technology grid locked down and retain copies of all the data. In a medical emergency, individuals could lose their lives because of system shutdowns.

Why is the Healthcare Industry Susceptible to Cybercrime?

Healthcare systems are often slow to adopt new technologies with the latest security measures. The use of outdated technologies, unpatched systems, or antiquated security practices elevate the risks of a data breach. Cybercriminals are highly adept at picking the locks in obsolete security systems. Healthcare systems need to dedicate more resources to updating and securing their systems.

In addition, human error is a common denominator in many cyberbreaches. Medical system employees who are not aware of the threat landscape can accidentally give attackers access by clicking on a phishing email. Accessing a compromised website can also trigger a ransomware attack. Employees must be educated on the risks.

The rapid shifting of employees to work from home environments in 2020 opened even more doors for hackers, as personal networks aren’t as secure as enterprise networks. Read more about the cybersecurity implications of remote work.

Security Tips to Prevent Healthcare Cybercrime

While threats to the healthcare system are growing exponentially, there are ways to protect against cyberthreats. Taking preventative steps to fortify defense systems can help keep patient data secure.

In addition to educating employees on common cybercrime tactics, those in the healthcare field can implement security features to reduce risk. Forcing employees to use unique complex passwords and forbidding password sharing can stop cybercriminals in their tracks. Enabling two-factor authentication can also halt would-be attackers if they do somehow learn a password. Also known as multi-factor authentication (MFA), it requires two or more credentials (possibly including biometric elements) to login, which can thwart the plans of bad actors.

Humans are curious creatures and can easily fall into a phishing trap. All it takes is one accidental click to bring a healthcare system down. When healthcare employees are regularly reminded of the risks, they may think before acting. Instead of relying on employees to make the right choices, organizations can install email filtering tools that keep suspicious emails out of employee inboxes.

Healthcare systems need to prepare for the worst case scenario. Come up with a contingency plan and know what to do when disaster strikes. Every organizations should be backing up data on a regular schedule, and store it on encrypted servers that are isolated from your regular network. Even if the regular network is breached, copies of the data can be restored later.

Be Prepared

Hackers have been emboldened by their success. Cybercrimes will only increase, which underscores the urgency for the healthcare industry to create a cyberbreach strategy. Upgrading your infrastructure, adding email filtering technologies, implementing encryption, and educating your workforce are four powerful tools that can help you defend your data vault. Contact LuxSci today if you want to learn more about securing your web and email systems.