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Understanding Cyber Security Threats in Healthcare

  • 09 May 2024
  • 3 min read

Feature image Understanding Cyber Security Threats in Healthcare

Cybersecurity threats in healthcare are a harsh truth. No one, from solo practitioners or small clinics to large hospitals is spared from attacks on patient records and vital systems. Understanding why these threats happen is crucial, but it's not enough. For this reason, specialized security framework for healthcare is the need of the hour.

This blog discusses the unique challenges in healthcare cybersecurity, and the measures that need to be taken in 2024 to ensure patient safety and data protection.

Key Insights: Cyber Threats in Healthcare

  1. Costly Breaches: Healthcare data breaches in 2023 averaged $10.93 million per incident, nearly double the financial industry's average of $5.9 million.
  2. Record Losses: IBM's 2024 report shows cyber attacks hitting an all-time high, with average losses reaching $4.45 million.
  3. High Black Market Value: Healthcare data is valued up to $250 per record, far surpassing other data types like payment cards at $5.40.
Understanding Cyber Security Threats in Healthcare-1

Why Healthcare is a Leading Target for Cybercriminals

The healthcare sector ranks among the most frequently targeted industries by cyber threat actors. This focus on healthcare organizations can be attributed to several factors:

  1. Valuable Data: Healthcare entities possess a vast array of sensitive information, ranging from patients' medical records to payment card data. This concentration of valuable data in one place makes healthcare organizations an appealing target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit such information.
  2. Critical Importance: Healthcare organizations, responsible for providing essential care, often find themselves compelled to swiftly restore operations, potentially making them more inclined to meet attackers' demands. This is why ransomware groups tend to prioritize targets that are likely to yield payment.
  3. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT): The increasing integration of networked medical devices into healthcare systems presents an additional avenue for cyber threats. These Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices often feature inadequate security measures, granting attackers easier access to sensitive data and organizational networks.

Most Dangerous Healthcare Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks occur due to a combination of factors such as financial incentives, inadequate cybersecurity measures, human error, and the evolving threat landscape targeting healthcare organizations. Let’s take a look at the most common and dangerous cyber threats in 2024:

Ransomware Attacks: Cybercriminals deploy ransomware to encrypt critical systems and data, demanding payment for decryption keys. Healthcare organizations are targeted due to the urgency of patient care, making them more likely to pay the ransom to regain access to vital systems and sensitive data.

Phishing: Phishing attacks exploit human vulnerability by tricking individuals into clicking on malicious links or providing sensitive information. Healthcare employees often receive numerous emails daily, making it easier for attackers to slip through defenses and gain access to sensitive systems.

Data Breaches: Data breaches occur due to various factors, including inadequate security measures, insider threats, or vulnerabilities in software systems. Attackers target healthcare organizations to steal valuable patient data, which can be sold on the dark web for financial gain or used for identity theft and fraud.

Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks: DoS attacks flood a healthcare organization's network or systems with traffic, rendering them inaccessible to legitimate users. These attacks may be motivated by financial gain, ideological reasons, or as a form of protest.

Insider Threats: Insider threats can result from malicious actions by disgruntled employees or unintentional mistakes by well-meaning staff members. These threats may stem from a lack of cybersecurity awareness, inadequate access controls, or insufficient monitoring of employee activities.

What are Common Vulnerabilities in Healthcare IT Systems?

In 2024, three big vulnerabilities stand out. First off, outdated software is like leaving the door wide open for hackers, since old systems often have known flaws they can exploit. Then there's weak authentication – if your passwords are weak or you're not using multi-factor authentication, it's an open invitation for trouble.

And let's not forget patch management – if you're not keeping up with updates, you're leaving your systems wide open to known security risks. It's all about staying on top of these basics to keep patient data safe and sound.

How to Ensure Compliance with HIPAA Regulations Regarding Cyber Security?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law in the United States that protects the privacy and security of individuals' health information.

Implement Strict Access Controls: Utilize strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, to verify the identity of users accessing sensitive healthcare data. Additionally, enforce strict access controls to limit data access only to authorized personnel based on their role and need-to-know basis.

Regular Security Audits and Risk Assessments: Conduct regular security audits and risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with HIPAA requirements. This includes assessing the effectiveness of security measures, identifying areas of improvement, and addressing any gaps in cybersecurity protocols.

ZTNA Implementation: Deploy Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solutions to enhance network security and protect against unauthorized access to healthcare systems and data. ZTNA operates on the principle of least privilege, ensuring that only authenticated and authorized users can access specific resources, regardless of their location or device.

Understanding Cyber Security Threats in Healthcare

Employee Training and Awareness: Provide comprehensive cybersecurity training to all staff members to educate them about HIPAA regulations, cybersecurity best practices, and the importance of safeguarding patient data. This includes training on identifying and responding to security threats such as phishing attacks, malware, and social engineering tactics.

Cybersecurity for Healthcare with PureDome

PureDome offers cybersecurity solutions designed specifically for healthcare, protecting patient data and critical systems with strong access controls and encryption. 

Partnering with PureDome strengthens healthcare cybersecurity through real-time monitoring, responding to cyber threats quickly, and ensuring compliance with regulations like HIPAA. 


Frequently Asked Questions
Why is healthcare a target for cybercriminals?

Healthcare organizations store valuable patient data, making them lucrative targets. Ransomware groups also exploit the urgency of patient care, often leading to ransom payments.

What are the most common cyber threats in healthcare?

Ransomware attacks, phishing, data breaches, and insider threats are prevalent in healthcare due to the industry's reliance on sensitive data and complex systems.

How can healthcare IT systems stay secure?

Regularly updating software, implementing strong authentication measures, and prioritizing patch management are crucial for protecting healthcare IT systems from cyber threats.