Medical Practices Beware: Common Cyber Security Attacks in Healthcare

The healthcare industry is attacked by cybercriminals twice as much as other industries.

The sector is particularly vulnerable due to its large cyber surface. Networks include everything from doctors offices and clinics to connected medical devices, multi-cloud SaaS and LaaS environments, and more.

So how can you protect your medical practice from security attacks? In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about keeping your data safe from hackers.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Why is Healthcare the Biggest Target for Hackers?

There are several reasons why the healthcare industry is such an appealing target for cybercriminals.

First, this is an industry that has a huge amount of data, from financial information to health information. Almost all of this data is sensitive and regulated. Hackers make the most of the fact that this data is so important. They know that health care providers have little negotiating power without putting lives at risk.

This is also an industry that is massively reliant on technology. Healthcare organizations, hospitals, and medical practices are all filled with data, digital touchpoints, connected devices, and overlapping systems. The scale of this infrastructure is a huge opportunity for hackers.

Not only can hackers make a lot of money from holding data ransom, but many simply want to cause chaos. Healthcare is a critical infrastructure. This makes the industry an attractive target for hostile foreign countries.

The Most Common Cyber Security Attacks

Right now, the most common type of cyber security attack is generally ransomware. Hackers will usually send emails to employees, making it look like the email is from someone they know and trust. Once an employee clicks on the link, the ransomware is uploaded into the system.

Once downloaded, the ransomware will encrypt your files. Once the files have been encrypted, the hacker will get an encryption key to unlock it. The server will message you with directions (typically payment) in order to regain access to your files.

Typically, hackers will unlock your network after they receive payment. However, this doesn’t mean that the ransomware has been removed. Hackers will often leave malware inside your system. This means that they can continue to steal credentials, personal information, and intellectual property.

While this type of attack is the most common, the number of connected devices and the security flaws in these devices is concerning. 67% of medical device manufacturers believe that an attack on a medical device either built or in use by their company is likely to happen within the next 12 months.

Last year, the FDA confirmed that St Jude’s implantable cardiac devices could be hacked. Hackers could drain the batteries or administer shocks or incorrect pacing.

Any medical device connected to any network is at risk. This includes everything from electric wheelchairs to ventilators. We may soon see “life for payment” hacking become prevalent if these devices are not made more secure.

How to Protect Your Medical Practice From Hackers

As you can see, cybercriminals present a very real threat to every level of the healthcare industry. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to greatly reduce your chance of getting hacked:

Train Your Staff

Security training is key to prevent your staff from clicking on emails sent from hackers. Create an anti-link culture and educate team members about the threat. Consider sending them fake phishing attacks yourself to keep people on their toes.

Restrict Network Permissions

Often, hundreds or thousands of staff members can all access files which are available on one server. That’s why it’s a good idea to separate your network into different servers. You can then restrict permissions to different parts of your network.

In this case, if hackers get into one server, the ransomware won’t be able to spread to all areas of your network. This makes it much easier for you to control the infection, and more difficult for hackers to locate and lock down all of your servers.

Store Backups Elsewhere

Many organizations assume that if they have a backup, they’ll able to access their data if they’re hacked. Unfortunately, they’re storing that backup on their main network. Hackers go straight for any backups they can find. That’s why it’s so important that you store your data elsewhere.

If your main network is compromised during an attack, you’ll be able to shut down that network and use your backup to remain operational.

Configure Your Servers

Staff members are busy, and often they won’t realize they’ve downloaded malware until it’s too late. You can configure your mail services so that the files that are likely to be malicious (such as zip files) are completely blocked.

Update Your Software

Hopefully, your medical practice already has reliable, high-level security software installed. But are you regularly updating that software? When you have outdated software installed, you’re basically leaving your back door unlocked for hackers.

Outdated software has flaws which are easy to hack. Be sure to automate your software updates to make it less likely that you’re targeted.

Be Educated

Ransomware and malware are constantly changing. And criminals are gaining access to medical networks in increasingly creative ways. The more educated you and your employees are, the greater the chance you can avoid being hacked.

Call the Professionals

Cybersecurity can be a big job, particularly in the healthcare industry where hackers have so many opportunities. If you’re not sure where to start, consider talking to a professional about your options. There are plenty of excellent IT security companies who can help you with everything from risk assessments to disaster recovery.

Wrapping up

As you can see, cybercriminals are a massive threat to your medical practice. Your goal should be to be proactive enough that your medical practice is seen as too difficult. By following the above tips, you’ll ensure that hackers look elsewhere and your data and patients are kept safe from security attacks.

Need some help protecting your medical practice from cybercriminals? Get in touch today and let’s talk about your options.

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Pursuant to Section 164.308(a)(5) of the HIPAA Security Rule, the Standard states: Implement a security awareness and training program for all members of its workforce (including management).

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