Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges

There are many cybersecurity challenges that face healthcare organizations, particularly as they’ve become more of a target for hackers. This is for several reasons such as the value of protected health information, technological risks, and lack of awareness. To provide guidance, top healthcare cybersecurity challenges are discussed.

Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges

  1. Hackers target healthcare data for its value
  2. The introduction of new technology presents risk
  3. Human error and lack of cybersecurity awareness
  4. Insufficient resources for cybersecurity

Hackers Target Healthcare Data For Its Value

Protected health information (PHI) can be extremely valuable on the dark web. This is because providers hold a wealth of information on their patients that can be used to commit financial fraud or identity theft. Some of the most valuable PHI includes patient Social Security numbers, credit card information, driver’s license numbers, and full facial photos. When a hacker gains access to this information they can easily steal a patient’s identity.

Sharon Klein, attorney and chair of Blank Rome’s privacy, security, and data practice, stated, “Unfortunately, the dark web is very interested in medical information because it provides them a number of sources for identity theft.”

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The Introduction of New Technology Presents Risk

Whenever new technology is introduced into a business, it is important to conduct a HIPAA security risk assessment (SRA). Each new device introduced into a business can cause risks and vulnerabilities to PHI when they are not properly secured. By conducting an SRA, you identify deficiencies in your security practices allowing you to mitigate security gaps.

“The healthcare industry has been digitized for a number of years. Now with the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, you have a lot of other players that are monetizing data that may or may not have as robust control,” Klein reasoned.

Human Error and Lack of Cybersecurity Awareness

One of the most prevalent healthcare cybersecurity challenges stems from human error. When healthcare employees are not aware of the proper uses and disclosures of PHI they pose a significant risk to their organization. 

“We’ve seen unauthorized disclosure by people who are in the system, unwittingly like doctors and clinicians, who really just want to get the information and the medical record to treat the patient,” Klein said. This is why establishing HIPAA policies and procedures and training employees are so important. HIPAA policies and procedures dictate the proper uses and disclosures of PHI, while training provides guidance to healthcare employees.

Insufficient Resources For Cybersecurity

When budget constraints come into play, cybersecurity resources are often cut. It’s understandable that this occurs, but hackers are aware of this trend which makes healthcare organizations the perfect target.

“It takes money to do security well,” Klein continued. “There is no question that COVID has increased ransomware. It has not only increased the number of ransomware attacks, but the extortion amount too.”

Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges: Mitigating Risks

The best way to prepare your organization against healthcare cybersecurity challenges is by becoming HIPAA compliant. HIPAA compliant businesses are inherently more secure as HIPAA dictates minimum security practices that must be met. HIPAA also requires healthcare organizations to conduct annual SRAs, implement written policies and procedures, and conduct annual employee training, all of which strengthen your overall security posture.