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Preserving Patient Privacy: Discovering the Unique Challenges of Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Hacker attacks can cause serious problems, especially when they lead to the interruption of operations in healthcare institutions, which can put lives at risk. Find out how to overcome the challenges and ensure information security in the sector!


The volume of cyber-attacks against healthcare institutions increased by 78% in 2022, recording an average of more than 1,400 occurrences per week. Given this, it is not possible to postpone the search for cybersecurity solutions in the healthcare sector.

There are two main reasons why criminals find the sector attractive: the possibility of obtaining confidential patient data and media coverage. This combo increases pressure on the attacked institutions, increasing the chances that the ransom will be paid.

The problem is that the institution does not always have the required money and, worse, payment is no guarantee that the data will not be leaked or sold. Therefore, the best thing to do is to avoid becoming a victim by improving your cybersecurity posture.

Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Like several other sectors, healthcare has increasingly invested in digitalization, relying on software and other specific solutions for scheduling, prescribing, requesting exams and others.

In addition to optimizing the routine of those who work in healthcare institutions, what these technologies have in common is the collection of sensitive and confidential data, which needs to be kept safe to guarantee patients' privacy.

Continue reading to learn about the main reasons for concern and the challenges faced by IT in this sector.

Email

E-mail is a very common means of communication in the healthcare sector. Doctors, hospital administrators, IT teams and other agents working in the sector exchange sensitive information regularly.

Therefore, it is essential to adopt measures that increase security, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and end-to-end encryption, in addition to raising awareness and training users so they know how to avoid phishing attacks.

Physical Security

Physical security is also a concern regarding healthcare cybersecurity. This is because data centers that store medical records and other critical systems must be protected against unauthorized access.

To this end, the necessary measures include the installation of access control systems, video monitoring and the implementation of other robust security strategies.

Legacy systems

Furthermore, it must be considered that many healthcare institutions still depend on legacy systems, which can be vulnerable to cyber threats if they do not have the appropriate updates and support. Maintaining these systems is essential to protect data and ensure the continuity of operations.

Among the recommended strategies to mitigate risks are network segmentation, constant monitoring and the implementation of cloud-based security solutions.

Cyberattacks and security issues in the healthcare sector

Several hospitals have suffered a hacker attack that led to systems encryption and a ransom demand and had to suspend routine consultations and exams.

A similar healthcare institution in Brazil suffered a ransomware attack and chose not to pay the amounts demanded by the criminals. Instead, it returned to running paper processes on a temporary basis while data recovery measures were carried out.

Ransomware

Ransomware is “hijacking malware”, one of the biggest threats to cybersecurity in healthcare. With the attack, attackers block access to medical systems and data and demand ransoms to release them. A situation that can interrupt care and even put lives at risk.

To prevent attacks of this type, it is necessary to make everyone aware of risky behaviors that open gaps for invasions and keep systems updated to eliminate vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, it is important to maintain regular backups so that it is possible to recover hijacked data without paying the criminals.

Phishing

Phishing is a strategy used for malware to gain entry to a medical institution's equipment, network and system - this also applies to ransomware-type malware.

We are talking about an effective technique that is based on the use of false emails very similar to real ones, designed precisely to deceive recipients and make them reveal their access credentials to the hospital system or download malware.

Although most of the time the attempts are random, if criminals have chosen the institution as their preferred target, they will be able to create very convincing communications to achieve their objectives. It is for this reason that training must be carried out so that everyone knows how to identify these harmful emails.

Patient Privacy Protection

Healthcare cybersecurity must pay special attention to patient privacy. First, thinking about your well-being and protection and, second, knowing that leaking medical information can generate serious legal and ethical consequences.

Therefore, it is crucial to implement strict access control and encryption measures, in addition to complying with regulations such as those defined by the General Data Protection Law.

Vulnerabilities of Legacy Systems in Healthcare

As we have already mentioned, legacy systems that are not properly maintained become vulnerable to hacker attacks. It is essential to carry out security updates to prevent these systems from becoming an additional attraction for malicious people.

In this regard, it is interesting to adopt a proactive approach that involves segmenting these systems, constantly monitoring them and searching for alternative solutions, especially when legacy systems cannot be updated.

As we come to the end of our look into the crucial area of cybersecurity in healthcare, it is clear that protecting private patient information and securing the medical infrastructure is a difficult and constant task. To stay one step ahead of potential threats, one must constantly be vigilant, adaptable, and innovative in the ever-changing landscape.

Watch this space for our next installment, in which we'll go even farther into case studies, cutting-edge technologies, and particular cybersecurity tactics related to the healthcare industry. Our best defense in the dynamic field of cybersecurity is knowledge. In the meantime, pay the most importance to cybersecurity best practices, and get ready for an informed continuation that will strengthen the digital guardianship of our healthcare institutions.

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