The coronavirus pandemic created a huge need for healthcare providers to make more services virtually accessible to patients. This shift has put a strain on already taxed financial resources and staff workloads, especially when it comes to computer security.
Prior to the outbreak, much of the healthcare IT infrastructure was already outdated and vulnerable. In fact, in 2019 over 41 million patient records were breached, an increase from 15 million breaches in 2018. Because of the high volume of data stored and the cost of updating complex, interconnected systems, many healthcare providers have put off system updates. In their minds, it was easy enough to access patient information and use systems, as long as the patients were in person.
In their rush to rapidly expand capabilities, hospitals in particular became more vulnerable to several cybersecurity threats. Bad actors were quick to realize this weakness and wasted no time in targeting both sensitive information and hospital funds, as we’ve already seen in several high-profile data breaches and ransomware attacks. The dilemma is that while security measures may slow down care in some cases, the risk of cyber threats is too high to ignore.
With a coronavirus vaccine coming soon, its distribution will be another ambitious project with a high risk for cyberattacks at many points. In this blog, we’ll overview some of the most common cybersecurity threats facing organizations and explore how the demand for telehealth services has drastically changed the healthcare IT landscape.
Types of Threats of Computer Security in Healthcare
The combination of access to large sums of money and vulnerable IT infrastructure makes hospitals a desirable target for ransomware attacks. According to SonicWall, ransomware attack volumes have grown 109 percent annually in the U.S., in part due to the pandemic.
Web application logins, IP addresses, and emails are all potential vehicles for ransomware to slip in and lock down an entire network. And while there are some potential ways to reverse the damage, sometimes the only workable option is to pay the ransom for the lockdown to be lifted.
Hackers have been able to thwart even the largest, most complex networks through the use of bots ever since they were invented for a more benign purpose: the search engine. Like Google’s bots and chatbots programmed for customer service, malicious bots can be programmed to work faster and more efficiently than humans can. These bots scan vulnerable systems for entry points or overwhelm web applications or APIs with an impossible number of requests at one time, as in a DDoS attack. Bots can be employed to amplify and multiply the other types of threats without much time or effort.
It’s clear why healthcare is a target for data breaches. Just like credit card companies, they store financial information as well as social security numbers and every aspect of their patients’ identities. With patient files from just one doctor’s office, a hacker could pull thousands of identities to sell on the dark web.
It takes both updated email security and a vigilant staff to protect a network from phishing. Emails can contain viruses or other malicious content and are disguised as something innocuous, like a request to confirm information or open an attachment.
While doctors, nurses, and other personnel are exhausted from working long hours and risking their own health to treat COVID patients, they may be less likely to recognize a dangerous email when they receive it.
Telehealth Computer Security
While most states around the country have some level of shelter-in-place orders or social distancing guidelines enacted, hospitals and clinics have started to replace on-site appointments with videoconferencing. And though patients may be more concerned about the privacy of the personal details they share during the call, the risk for hospitals is the enormous number of endpoints created for hackers to access the network from the outside. Employees can be trained on password hygiene, but it’s much harder to hold patients to a high standard of security.
Much like a physical barrier protecting a central location, a system has an endpoint perimeter made up of all inward and outward-facing access points. That endpoint perimeter becomes extremely vulnerable if it’s not being actively monitored by IT security professionals or consistently updated security software. However, the threat can be minimized by leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence (using good bots), strategically grouping assets, and implementing immediate and intensive responses to each detected threat.
For the most comprehensive protection, each of these solutions needs to be paired with a tailored level of management by IT security professionals. Get in touch with us today to talk about your options for keeping your patients’ information and your own systems secure with real-time protection from ransomware, bots, data breaches, and phishing.