Earlier in April, Interpol warned that there is going to be a considerable rise in ransomware threats in multiple sectors, including healthcare. Cybercriminals across the country are taking advantage of the vulnerable situation due to COVID-19. The Healthcare sector has always been vulnerable to cyber threats.
Hospitals contain a large amount of personal and valuable data, and they work on thin margins even prior to the pandemic. This implies that healthcare sectors have always been skimp on security resources. This has made hospitals an important target this year when the global health care sector is the focal point.
Why Attack the Health Sector?
The Healthcare sector is at the forefront of this pandemic. The government is directly focusing a lot of its efforts towards this sector to combat the pandemic. This makes the global healthcare sector a big target of cybercriminals. Herjavec Group Healthcare reports suggested that ransomware attacks on this sector will quadruple by the end of this year. In 2020, the security breaches are speculated to cost the healthcare sector $6 trillion.
Common Threats that are Prevalent during COVID Times
Among the many cybersecurity threats, these are the type of threats that are most prevalent in the times of COVID-19
Multiple phishing campaigns against the healthcare sector have launched that include.
It is among the most common phishing attacks. These attacks generally have an attachment or link that, when downloaded, will automatically install ransomware or malware onto the computer. If the ransomware or malware is installed on the device, the hackers can access the private documents, steal important data, and ask for ransom against it. Moreover, cybercriminals leverage personal information like social security numbers or credit card information to commit fraud.
Physical mail phishing campaigns, while not as popular as online phishing but they are also seeing a rise. Healthcare organizations are the most common organizations that these attacks focus on. The criminals pretend to be from hospitals and ask for repayment of the bill. They focus on patients with larger healthcare bills.
After the email, phone phishing scams are the most popular. In this, cybercriminals research about the victim beforehand to gain information in order to sound convincing over the phone.
Cybercriminals are exploiting fear of the people related to COVID-19 and preying on the community members, especially elderly and vulnerable individuals who are isolated from their loved ones. There have been tons of reports related to fake news scams related to coronavirus.
Email scams are tricking people into opening the malicious attachment, which puts their personal information such as passwords, bank details, contact information, etc. at risk. Moreover, online resources like false coronavirus maps come with malware that can infiltrate various sensitive data. Another big online scam is the emails that pretend to provide the Council Tax Reduction fund to get your bank details. The emails pretend to be from the government.
The Healthcare sector has always been vulnerable to privacy breaches. In fact, this industry witnesses 41.4 million patient record breaches. And amidst the COVID-19 crisis, criminals continue to exploit the biggest vulnerabilities of the sector. In the first half of this year, 3.8 million patients’ records were breached via IT and hacking incidents. The report also found email to be the main source of the breach, accounting for more than 3 million records in the first half. This percentage stood at 86% in the last half of 2019.
How to Cope with These Changing Threats?
Vulnerabilities associated with COVID-19 will continue to prevail for a while. And in situations like these, it is important for healthcare sectors to be cyber safe. Following are some steps that healthcare sectors can take to mitigate the implications of cyber threats that this sector experience-
The Financial Tug of War
Amidst the pandemic, some areas of operations have put at the backseat; in return, some have put at the forefront. Majorly healthcare organizations are working to promote digital platforms. Presently networks are complicated that are expanded into both private and public clouds.
While the footprint is growing, there is an evident financial struggle in the industry. Though there is financial aid, it is distributed across multiple sectors, resulting in a constant fight for resources. The sector has realized its vulnerability to cyber threats. Healthcare sectors have to be strategic and vigilant about how they invest the fund and address the present challenges.
The Drawback Of Connectivity
Over the years, medical devices are being designed to provide internet connectivity. This makes the collection, monitoring, and data sharing easier and cost-effective. While it helped in improving operational efficiency, the digital approach has also increased the risk of cyber-attacks if the systems are not protected properly.
These criminals look for IoT options to access sensitive information. IoT medical devices are important to monitor constantly because they are less visible to conventional firewall systems. Considering the devices have been operational for a long time, they are likely to integrate older protocols that are less secure.
And considering the influx of patients means that hospitals are a massive collective amount of information. So these organizations need the assistance of IT firms that can constantly monitor their activities and keep them safe from cyber threats.
Maintaining the Tele-medicine Health
Telemedicine has witnessed a massive boom amidst the pandemic. The system allows patients to get doctors’ consultation without physical contact.
In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed some of its rigid regulations with regards to the use of telemedicine. These relaxed guidelines are necessary for this time of the pandemic. But the healthcare technology sector still needs to figure out a safer and more effective way to use telemedicine more expansively. While this shift towards telemedicine is temporary, many within the sector see this as a turning point towards a long-term adoption. And there is likely to be a lot of investment backing up this adoption.
Controlling The Threat Remotely
Not all healthcare staff are working on the side; many have given remote work. However, cybersecurity experts have warned against such expansion. It recommends that healthcare organizations should keep their activities inside the facility firewall.
But considering situations, working from home has become important, and organizations need to take important measures to make remote working safe. Integrating two-factor verification across the various boards, dividing networks, etc. are among some of the steps to imbibe.
Cybersecurity has always been a pain point for the healthcare industry. The technology in this sector continues to remain outdated, which makes it highly vulnerable to cyber threats. Every year the sector loses millions of dollars in cyber-attacks. And these vulnerabilities have increased manifolds amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Cyber threats in the industry have increased to a significant level. If healthcare organizations fail to take the right measure to prevent cyber threats, the implications will be detrimental. Hospitals need to collaborate with IT experts to secure their networks and system from multiple entry points.
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