Why the medical industry suffers from aging cybersecurity standards
The medical sector still falls behind when it comes to cybersecurity standards, hampered by constant threats and malicious actors. The healthcare sector observes an alarming level of cyberattacks, experiencing an average of 1400 weekly attacks in 2022 alone. But despite new advancements in security solutions and cybersecurity suites, healthcare cybersecurity struggles to modernize across the board.
The reasons for those shortcomings are various, different from practice to hospital, though there are common foundational weaknesses. Healthcare workers and staff suffer from serious burnout due to long hours, stress, and staffing shortages. Those shortages exacerbate problems of burnout, and it’s not uncommon for medical organizations to lack dedicated IT staff. When the forefront of medical concern focuses on patient health, IT and cybersecurity observe reduced priority. And, even with available IT, it’s not enough to deal with repeated malware attacks and other IT concerns.
Modern software and infrastructure rely on agile IT, especially since hospitals and medical organizations house critical patient data. The solution is to mature IT competency in the healthcare sector.
Why do hackers target medical networks?
Threat actors express favoritism towards the medical industry for various reasons. As healthcare organizations are loaded with invaluable data, services, and information, a successful breach spells catastrophe for patients and medical organizations. Trust in a medical practice is eroded, not to mention the potential regulatory penalties applied afterward.
Medical industries have a history of relying on legacy infrastructure. From older operating systems and software, there exist numerous internet-facing nodes hackers actively exploit. Since shifting away from legacy infrastructure in a medical context is incredibly difficult, it makes it harder for medical organizations to attain modern data privacy resiliency.
Medical cybersecurity today
The primary cybersecurity strategy for most healthcare organizations is based on access management, meaning only those with the correct identity and credentials can access data on certain terminals. Also referred to as “identity access management,” the goal is simple: only grant authorization to the appropriate people.
However, this strategy alone is outdated as modern threat campaigns are based on social engineering and identity emulation. While permissions control can thwart malicious actors from accessing sensitive info, said hackers specifically use social engineering techniques to steal access permissions. If a threat actor possesses a stolen login, for example, they’re granted lateral access to internal systems, able to map out the compromised medical network(s) for potential future attack campaigns.
Unfortunately, weak password management policies, login requirements, and authentication standards undermine IAM in the healthcare sector. Threat actors utilize brute force tactics to steal logins and take advantage of weaker security. When said credentials are stolen, medical organizations without authentication standards (multifactor) put themselves at risk.
Coupled with these problems is the expanding use of internet-facing resources and devices. Wearables, for example, are beneficial when assisting patients, but provide potential access points for intrusion. Remote working and virtual care are also expanding assets yet need as much security as on-site terminals.
Expansion of services
The need for better cybersecurity management in the healthcare sector is more important than ever. Virtualized healthcare and telemedicine are fast becoming the go-to options for modern patient needs. But these services are still internet-facing coupled with the expansion of remote options for staff. Combined with brittle password and authentication standards – or lack thereof – large hospital networks and medical practices are easy targets.
Financial investment is also not a singularly viable solution, as expanding budgets cannot solve all the critical issues challenging healthcare cybersecurity. Cost-intensive architecture introduces complexity and the need for maintenance. IT security architecture is only as strong as your safest employee.
What solutions are available for healthcare cybersecurity?
After a daunting list of problems, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The medical sector needs every advantage available to perform healthcare services and protect patient data. However, even with budget expansion and additional staff, the healthcare cybersecurity crisis does not disappear. Furthermore, not all medical organizations possess the resources and capital to onboard new staff or invest in new IT architecture.
Sweeping shifts are not immediately necessary, however. Adjustments in policy and password management, for instance, can mitigate potential intrusion events.
Virtualized and scaling cloud infrastructure are potential options too, especially if it’s through an MSP provider, as they are budget-conscious and grant access to resilient infrastructure. A third party manages the security aspects of virtual services and offers safeguard features, like data backup, hybrid firewalls, and network monitoring. They also provide access to IT experts who can apply roadmaps and aid with key decisions to protect healthcare networks, along with the necessary experience for cybersecurity operations.
Medical organizations should also consider revitalizing their IAM policies. If not already, deploy multi-factor authentication standards. Assess what levels of infrastructure can move away from legacy systems within a practical timetable, and continue to maintain HIPAA standards across the board.
Healthcare cybersecurity still falls behind, unfortunately, when it comes to modern threats and standards. But the industry is hampered by aggressive focus and a lack of immediate resources. Mitigating these dangers for patient safety and organizational longevity requires thinking ahead and taking advantage of all practical resources.