Though cyberattacks are nothing new in the online world, there has been an astounding increase in healthcare cyber security breaches. While healthcare services hold a lot of our valuable personal information, they have surprisingly vulnerable security solutions. On this page, we’ll look at the most significant reasons why cyber attackers target healthcare services, the main risks involved, and how hospitals can enhance their healthcare security solutions.
Why do Cyber Attackers Target Healthcare Services?
With new threats coming up every day, healthcare data security standards struggle to keep up with the latest forms of online threats. From the aspect of data protection, it’s also important to know why cyber attackers target hospital security services. We’ll take a look at the most significant reasons why the healthcare industry is at such a risk from cyber attackers:
- Patient Private Information is Worth a Pretty Penny. Hospitals often store extensive records on their patients’ health and other sensitive information. This is confidential and highly valuable data, and hackers don’t have any problems finding customers who are willing to pay a nice chunk of cash to get their hands on it.
- Medical Devices and Services Are Easy to Hack. The medical industry is one of the most advanced technology branches in the world. But, medical devices are designed for one specific purpose, to offer the best and safest treatment options to those who need them. They’re not intended to stand up against outside security threats. While specific medical devices don’t hold much valuable data, they serve as an easy entry point for hackers to get into the hospital’s system. After that, they can steal data, install ransomware, or engage in many different activities for financial gain.
- Outdated Safety Technology and Uneducated Staff. The third biggest reason attackers target healthcare services is that these organizations often use outdated security technologies compared to other businesses and organizations. Limited budgets and bureaucracy often limit healthcare organizations from implementing the latest security standards. Looking at the human factor, the employees themselves are one of the reasons why attackers target healthcare services. Employees are often not educated on all online risks and often look for the most convenient safety practices instead of the most secure ones.
Healthcare and Cyber Security: Main Risks and Related Requirements
Understanding the determining reasons why cyber attackers target healthcare organizations, it’s also crucial to know what the biggest threats are in the context of healthcare and cyber security. With that in mind, the following six main risks are the main threats to healthcare information security and privacy:
1. Harmful Network Traffic
Hospital security management is relatively open, as organizations and employees often need to exchange valuable patient data to determine the best treatment practices. From a security perspective, this opens up a highway of opportunities for malicious traffic to infect the hospital security and safety management system.
A malicious file or link sent through the network can quickly wreak havoc on the system and allow access for the attacker. After that, the hackers have an open pathway to download any files they want or cause a number of other healthcare security risks.
2. MITM Attacks
The infamous man-in-the-middle attacks include a breach of healthcare security systems and interrupting the data exchange or conversation. After the attacker gains entrance into the system, they can act as a legitimate party of the data exchange process and gather all of the valuable patient information long before the hospital discovers the breach.
3. ARP Cache Spoofing
Address Resolution (ARP) cache spoofing involves injecting incorrect data into the hospital’s network to trick the system into thinking the hacker’s computer is the network gateway. This results in the attacker receiving all of your network traffic instead of your actual network gateway doing so.
This is one of the most dangerous patient safety and security risks. From the hospital’s end, everything seems to be fine and normal. However, the attacker enjoys access to the complete patient database.
4. HTTPS Spoofing
HTTPS spoofing is a more sophisticated type of cyber attack. It’s when the attackers clone a real website but use a slightly different URL. When the hacker gets the victim to visit the cloned fake website, they can inject malicious code into the victim’s device and extract all of the valuable data that’s on it.
Ransomware is another common type of cyber attack in the healthcare industry. In this case, the attacker encrypts the victim’s files and extorts a payment to retrieve the encrypted files back to their previous state.
Ransomware attacks are highly prevalent among both organizations and individuals. They are especially harmful in the healthcare sector, as they restrict or even entirely stop crucial processes, potentially putting patients at risk.
Phishing is a hacking strategy that’s existed since the invention of the Internet. It involves exploiting an unsuspecting victim and extracting data through email links. Phishing attacks often include personalized emails made to pique the interest of the person opening it. These emails appeal to the target’s curiosity, enticing them to click on the email in the link. And, once they do, the attacker gains access to the device and can extract any data on it.
Keeping in mind the six major threats we’ve discussed above, healthcare organizations have a set of healthcare security regulations the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has put in place. HIPAA's rules state compliance as one of the main cyber security factors, but not the only one. HIPAA has also created security standards that cover administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. Let’s look at each of them in more detail:
- HIPAA Administrative Safeguards - Workforce security, security management processes, information access management, security awareness training, and contingency plans.
- HIPAA Physical Safeguards - facility access controls, workstation use and security protocols, and device and media controls.
- HIPAA Technical Safeguards - access controls for hospitals, audit controls, integrity controls, and transmission security.
Diagnosing the Problem
When diagnosing the severity of cyber security threats in the healthcare industry, we also need to address the problem of so-called "password fatigue". Apart from the potential attack venues hackers can access patient records, employee errors also play a significant part in cyber security breaches.
With this in mind, password fatigue is a real and very serious problem in the healthcare industry. On any given workday, employees need to endlessly log in and out of various services and programs when they want to access or store essential data regarding their patients. This doesn’t only kill their productivity but also puts a mental strain on the employees. To avoid this, employees then tend to reuse and simplify their passwords.
Recent surveys have shown that despite being aware of the potential security risks of reusing passwords, over half of the employees go for convenience over security. Password fatigue is an increasingly widespread condition in the modern workplace.
In addition to using the same password for different accounts, many employees also share their credentials with their coworkers. This is a very unwise practice, as one weak link in the chain can compromise the entire network.
How Can Hospitals Ensure Data Security?
Considering all of the topics we’ve discussed on the page so far, this poses the ultimate question, how can hospitals ensure data security? The answer is straightforward, and we’ve already seen some great results in practice. The best way for hospitals to ensure data security is to implement FIDO standards for authentication.
The latest FIDO2 security protocols enable streamlined authentication in an omnichannel setting without compromising security. It eliminates the persistent over-reliance on passwords and replaces this system with more robust protection against cyber security threats.
With FIDO2, hospitals can replace passwords in their systems with cryptographic credentials that cannot be easily circumvented by potential attackers. From this perspective, passwordless logins to web services supporting FIDO2 authentication are by far the safest authentication solution. This is the most robust method of authentication and hasn’t been breached yet by hackers.
In line with that, we want to highlight that the Hideez Enterprise Solution is entirely compliant and allows for automated password management. This brings us to the final topic of this important security subject.
Most Significant Benefits of the Hideez Solution for Healthcare
The Hideez Authentication Service for healthcare enables fast proximity authentication for employees. Employees can instantly login as they approach their workstations and log out as they walk away from their position. The centralized Hideez Server allows for secure monitoring and access management to corporate accounts.
Its solutions bring a long list of benefits in terms of identity and access management for healthcare services. Some of the most notable ones include:
- Reduced risk of attacks (Complete protection against phishing, spoofing, and MITM attacks).
- Easy to integrate with existing security infrastructure.
- Compliant with HIPAA security requirements and certified as Citrix-Ready.
- Very cost-effective (No need for employee security training sessions).
If you want to protect your healthcare organization and implement the advantages Hideez can provide you with, request a free 30-day trial or try out our Hideez Server (demo version) entirely for free and make your enterprise truly passwordless.