5 Critical Targets Illustrate the Need for Cutting-Edge Cybersecurity in Healthcare

By Troy Ament | June 03, 2022

Despite the noble missions of fighting illnesses and saving livings, organizations in today’s healthcare industry are frequently under attack by heartless cybercriminals. Why are healthcare organizations of all shapes and size under constant threat? The reason is simple: data. Extremely valuable personal, medical, and financial data.

The attackers’ goal is to steal data and use it to hack other systems, or to sell it to other criminals, or to hold it for ransom. Ultimately, any attack on a healthcare organization can put patients at risk. Below are five critical targets in healthcare and three best practices for protecting them.

Healthcare Cyber Targets Today

Healthcare industry and medical record systems are very attractive targets for cybercriminals and as a result, they are frequently attacked. Attackers know that any threat to the well-being of patients can make healthcare organizations profoundly uncomfortable and, perhaps, even desperate and more willing to pay ransoms.

Also, the healthcare industry has become more vulnerable due to an expanding attack surface due to newly deployed technology, telehealth and other developments. Increasingly, third-party users are invited to access healthcare systems network resources. And new Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices are being added to the network—many of which were not designed with security in mind and, therefore, susceptible to cyberattack.

Why is Cybersecurity Important in Healthcare?

Cybersecurity is vital to the healthcare industry and is becoming more important every day because medical organizations are continuing to be more reliant on hospital information systems like electronic healthcare record (EHR) systems and physician order entry systems.

Additionally, it isn’t just “back office” management systems that the healthcare industry relies on that are targeted. There are also Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) smart systems that run buildings’ heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), and elevators that can be exploited. And nearer to patient care, medical organizations rely more and more on IoMT devices like blood pressure machines, infusion pumps, and remote monitoring machines that can be hacked and used to gain access to an organization’s network. This is why cybersecurity in healthcare is important.

Top 5 Healthcare Organization Cybersecurity Risks

To protect patients and their data as well as provide them the best experience, health networks need holistic, end-to-end cybersecurity in healthcare at every point of care and in every facility. Below is a list of five types of healthcare organization security risks that are frequently targeted by cybercriminals and need to be expertly secured:

1. Email

  • Email is still the primary means of communication within healthcare organizations making it an obvious method for launching attacks. The type of attacks cybercriminals launch includes phishing, spear phishing, social engineering, and ransomware attacks.

2. IIoT/IoT and IoMT Devices

  • IoT devices like smart heating systems or remote patient monitoring machines can have a significant effect on patient wellness and not very secure. Therefore, they are often targeted and hacked to gain access to the network.
  • IoMT devices extend lives, improve the quality of life, improve clinical staff productivity, and make the relationship between the patient and the care team less transactional. In addition, digital technology enables providers in different healthcare organizations to coordinate care more seamlessly. Like IoTs, they aren’t well-protected can be exploited to access the network.

3. EHR Systems

  • Medical staff use electronic healthcare record systems to keep track of patients' information and health history. Obviously, this type of data can be extremely personal and sensitive and if it were to be stolen and made public, much harm could be done with it. This is a perfect scenario for ransomware.

4. Physical Devices

  • Laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and other physical devices that are used in healthcare situations can be stolen and hacked or manipulated leading to the loss of credentials or other confidential information falling into the hands of those with criminal intent.

5. Legacy Systems

  • Old but not yet retired systems that are no longer supported by the manufacturer can be an open invitation to cybercriminals. These legacy systems that are still present and prominent in many healthcare organizations are frequently vulnerable to attack. They must receive constant attention to be kept secure and not exploited.

Three Cybersecurity Best Practices for Healthcare

1.  Establish a Security Culture

  • IT and security professionals can establish a security culture within their healthcare organization by conducting regular risk assessments and providing employee cybersecurity education and training, which must include top management who can easily fall victim to spear phishing attacks.

Other tactics for instilling a security mindset at their healthcare organizations that cybersecurity teams can do include reminding staff: to practice good computer habits, to use strong passwords and changing them regularly, and to be aware of their physical surroundings and the potential for mobile device theft.

2. Develop an Incident Response Plan

  • CISOs and CSOs need to be prepared and develop solid incident response plans with their IT and cybersecurity teams. It is important for an organization to be proactive and not reactive. It is smart to expect the unexpected and have a plan for it. Cybersecurity vendors have incident response and readiness services that you may want to investigate as you develop your plans.

3. Deploy Security Solutions with Automation and Integration in Mind

  • Healthcare organizations must have cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions that include next-generation firewalls. Another requirement for healthcare cybersecurity is the installation and maintenance of antivirus software. However, these are just the basics. Segmentation can reduce breach impact as well as other strategic solutions that enable secure telehealth such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and SD-WAN are critical as healthcare continues to evolve.

Keep up with the latest advances in patient care while protecting against cyberattacks with Fortinet’s healthcare cybersecurity solutions.