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Cyberattacks in the Healthcare Industry

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The number of healthcare cyberattacks impacting the healthcare industry went up by 55.1% between 2019 and 2020. Some of the rise in healthcare cyberattack statistics were due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as healthcare institutions and research facilities were targeted for their research and vulnerabilities stemming from the overburdening of the system. 

Recent healthcare cyberattacks have hurt hospitals and research facilities, impacting the services they provide for the public and their various investors and stakeholders. With high-performing healthcare cybersecurity, however, you can take steps to prevent cyberattacks in healthcare.

Why Is Healthcare the Biggest Target for Cyberattacks?

Private Patient Information is Worth a Lot of Money to Attackers

Hospitals have vast storehouses of private patient information that hackers can sell via the dark web. In addition to details regarding patient health conditions, hospitals hold other personal identification information that can be used in a wide range of fraudulent schemes.

Medical Devices Are an Easy Entry Point for Attackers

Medical devices often depend on antiquated hardware and security protections that hackers can easily penetrate. Hospitals often cannot afford to upgrade to the latest and greatest hardware, leaving them vulnerable to attacks.

Staff Need To Access Data Remotely, Opening Up More Opportunities for Attack

Healthcare cyberattacks in 2020 were, in part, due to staff having to access data remotely. This introduced a number of new attack vectors, particularly because home and public networks are used to access healthcare information, and attackers could take advantage of their relatively weak security services.

Workers Do Not Want To Disrupt Convenient Working Practices with the Introduction of New Technology

Doctors, nurses, and other support staff often spend years getting proficient at using the equipment needed to perform their services. If they have to learn new technologies to have an IT environment with a smaller attack surface, it would take an exorbitant amount of time, energy, and investment by the healthcare facility.

Healthcare Staff Are Not Educated in Online Risks

Despite having vast amounts of knowledge regarding how to improve and save lives, many healthcare workers are not up to date with their knowledge of recent online risks. This makes facilities like hospitals easy targets for hackers because every knowledge gap is a security blind spot a malicious actor can exploit.

The Number of Devices Used in Hospitals Makes It Hard To Stay on Top of Security

Hospitals are filled with doctors, nurses, patients, food service staff, and visitors—all of whom have different devices connected to their network. In addition, there are devices that interface with the network that are crucial to the provision of services to patients and staff. Keeping up with what could be thousands of devices can be a difficult challenge.

Use of Outdated Technology

The size of healthcare facilities sometimes forces them to keep outdated technologies in place, particularly because it would take too much time and money to replace them all. In addition, some technologies may have security risks, but they do an excellent job of supporting the work of healthcare practitioners as they care for patients.

Cyberattacks in the Healthcare Industry


Ransomware is malware that gets installed on a computer, holding it hostage and asking for the user to pay a ransom to regain control of their machine. When ransomware infects a machine, the user cannot access any of their applications or data, and they lose control over the computer completely. A ransomware attack in a healthcare facility can render essential computational resources inept, risking the lives of patients.

Data Breaches

Data breaches can take various forms, one of which is credential-stealing malware that captures the credentials of someone with access to other sensitive data. In this way, the attacker is able to steal and exploit other data they find within the system. 

Also, insiders may intentionally or unintentionally disclose patient data. Laptops or other devices that store protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) can be lost or stolen and get into the hands of data thieves.

DDoS Attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a popular tactic involving flooding a web server with fake requests. The server is programmed to respond to these requests, which consumes its resources. As a result, it cannot provide access and functionality to legitimate users. In addition to phishing, DDoS attacks are a popular technique used by hacktivists and cyber criminals to overwhelm a network to the point of inoperability.

Insider Threats

Employees encompass a variety of vulnerabilities. Some may click on malicious links unknowingly and introduce malware into the system. Others may give away access codes that end up getting abused by attackers. Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) can cut down on insider threats because this requires multiple credentials before allowing someone access.

Business Email Compromise & Fraud Scams

Business email compromise (BEC) scammers use spoofed email or compromised accounts to trick employees into initiating a money transfer to a fraudulent account. Because the email looks like it comes from a legitimate, trusted source, the scammer is able to get their target to drop their guard. Securing medical devices with new passwords after this kind of attack may be necessary to prevent a breach.

Significant Cyberattacks in Healthcare During 2020

The disease of growing cyberattacks in healthcare infected the cyber landscape during 2020 especially. Cyberattacks during COVID sought to take advantage of an increased number of vulnerabilities due to the extra weight healthcare facilities had to lift. Healthcare cyberattacks in 2020 have added more pressure to a system that was already pushed to its limits. Many cyberattacks on the medical industry have found their way into news headlines, including the following:

  1. A hack of the UVM Health Network, costing around $63 million
  2. A ransomware attack on six hospitals in the U.S. by Russian hackers, shutting down email and forcing the purchase of 2,000 new computers
  3. A malware attack that took out the IT network of a Universal Health Services (UHS) facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. This forced hundreds of UHS facilities to use downtime protocols until the system was recovered.
  4. A security incident at the Nebraska Medicine facility in Omaha, which lasted several days and forced the facility to revert to paper records
  5. Over 46 health systems and hospitals had patient information compromised when Blackbaud, a company that stores the information of donors, was breached. Over a million people had their records exposed.

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet offers an integrated platform that unifies the security architecture of healthcare organizations. In this way, Fortinet can protect information and systems in data centers, multiple cloud environments, and devices that save patients’ lives. 

In addition, Fortinet’s cybersecurity service can unify a facility’s networking, surveillance, voice calling, and security functions into one central system. This provides IT admins with deep visibility and control over the most important systems and some of the most vulnerable devices. Fortinet also provides a software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) solution that connects different branch locations securely while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the flow of data.