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How to Improve Cybersecurity in Healthcare: 6 Steps

Paul Kovalenko Paul Kovalenko | January 24, 2023 | 7 min

With cybersecurity remaining on the agenda across all industries, the healthcare sector shouldn’t just consider protection policies, but instead immediately develop and implement them. According to recent research from CheckPoint, healthcare organizations are among the top target industries for hackers, with the largest increase in cyberattacks in 2022. In the US alone, the average number of weekly attacks on cybersecurity in healthcare industry per organization increased by 86% compared to 2021.

Experts believe intruders consider hospitals to be short on cybersecurity resources, treating them as easy prey to get the following information:

  • Health insurance data
  • Medical records
  • Social security numbers

Later, they either directly demand ransom, threaten to release patient records, or merely seek notoriety. Here’s why improving cybersecurity in healthcare is of the utmost importance for all market players, regardless of their niche and scope.   

In this article, we will explain how to improve cybersecurity in healthcare, and why you shouldn’t delay getting healthcare cybersecurity services, and we’ll look at the top cybersecurity challenges in the industry.  

Why Improving Cybersecurity in Healthcare Is So Relevant Nowadays

Healthcare is one of the most at risk industries for cyberattacks and data breaches. The industry has been a top target over the last few years. According to a 2020 Healthcare Cybersecurity Report, approximately 93% of healthcare organizations experienced at least one data breach between 2017 and 2020. More than half reported five data breaches over the same period. The pursuit of patient data continued in 2022 too. During the first half of the year, there were 337 breaches, according to Fortified Health Security’s mid-year report. When one breach in July 2022 affected more than 2.6 million people, it’s terrifying to imagine the overall number of victims of cyberattacks on the healthcare industry. 

One of the reasons why intruders focus on medical data is the resale value: the price of medical cards on the dark web exceeds the price of credit cards ten times over. Healthcare organizations, in their turn, pay three times more than other industries to eliminate violations. For example, The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK suffered a $100 million loss due to the WannaCry ransomware attack.

Preserving security and privacy happens to be highly important to minimize high additional costs and reputational losses. Here’s why improving cybersecurity in hospitals should be perceived as enterprise risk management in healthcare

Top 4 Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges 

To improve cybersecurity in healthcare efficiently, you need to focus on your key vulnerabilities. While challenges vary from organization to organization, here are four widespread healthcare cyber threats to tackle:

  • Outdated Software = Vulnerability to Attacks

With the digital transformation across healthcare on the rise, medical organizations keep evolving their healthcare information systems. Electronic health records integrated with corporate CRM platforms to boost productivity and foster quality patient support may eventually result in more losses than profits. 

Failure to maintain up-to-date IT infrastructure often leads to an increased opportunity window for an intruder. This includes poor access policies, outdated software, and a lot of non-secure integrations with third-party platforms. 

  • Poor Data Privacy 

Patient data don’t only involve medical records. Hospitals often store personal data such as driver’s licenses, images, insurance cards, and social security numbers. If you have poor database protection and storage, hackers can easily steal identities to demand ransom or resell them on the dark web. For you, a risk of undermining personal data confidentiality may result in significant expenses and reputational losses that lead to lost profits. 

  • Uneducated Employees 

Employees are an easy target for hackers, who use various phishing techniques to obtain access to corporate systems. In the first half of 2022, the number of phishing attacks increased by 61% compared to 2021, proving the fact that an uneducated medical staff is among the top cybersecurity vulnerabilities. By clicking on a fraudulent link, your employee undermines the information security of the entire hospital, allowing the intruder in. 

  • Sensitive IoT and Mobile Devices 

IoT and mobile devices collect, process, and store lots of valuable data but are often ignored by tech teams. For example, IoT devices may run on legacy DOS operating systems that may not be monitored or updated. At the same time, they are integrated with your network, increasing the chance of an attack. 

Mobile devices that store patient data may fail to meet HIPAA privacy rules and have little to no defense. As a result, you may be hacked via a smartphone or tablet without even knowing that an intruder is wandering across your internal systems.

How to Step Up Cybersecurity in Healthcare 

Here are six ways to improve cybersecurity in healthcare:

  1. Educate Your Employees

Healthcare network security should be a top priority for all employees, including management. You need to establish a cybersecurity culture and regularly train your employees to:

  • Beware of phishing. Be it a suspicious link, image, or file, ensure your employees don’t click on it. Educate them to send suspicious emails to a tech team to check, restrict private device usage, and promote personal responsibility for informational security. 
  • Adhere to corporate security initiatives. Two-factor authentication (2FA), multifactor authentication (MFA), strong passwords that are regularly changed, and access control are other rules that should be company-wide.
  1. Keep Your IT Infrastructure Up to Date

Here are some cybersecurity best practices to consider in order to ensure a secure IT infrastructure:

  • Track the configuration states of the system’s components. Always update them and address vulnerabilities. 
  • Develop a strong defense and keep improving it. Study recent attacks and analyze your defenses to improve cybersecurity in hospitals. This doesn’t just mean installing antivirus software. Firewalls and VPNs for remote workers, automated attack detection, and regular system scans to spot suspicious actions and protect healthcare data are a must.
  • Do backups. This prevents you from losing data if your system fails. It’s best to set up automatic backups to a secure, private database. 
  • Maintain your OS (Operating System). Overtaxed and vulnerable OSes increase your chances of being hacked. To minimize the risks, clean up your disk, defragment your hard drive, get rid of temporary files, and establish malware protection. 
  1. Rethink Access Policies

To improve cybersecurity for healthcare providers, you need to set up access policies. In other words, only those who need sensitive private data for their duties should access it. It’s worth implementing admin panels and restricting access for other users. In this case, if hackers get hold of regular employee credentials, they won’t be able to get their hands on the full scope of data. 

Additionally, control physical access. For example, those dealing with inventories shouldn’t use medical devices with patient data. Establish user verification and strong password protection policies. 

Need help improving cybersecurity in your company?
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  1. Employ Secure Productivity Tools

Restricted access often decreases productivity, which leads to financial losses. To avoid such a scenario and improve data security in healthcare, implement advanced cybersecurity tools such as secure messaging solutions, single sign-on (SSO), and others that allow for seamless interactions. 

  1. Apply Data Privacy Policies

You can develop your own data privacy policies, but don’t neglect industry-wide standards like HIPAA. It’s an act that defines best practices for using and protecting personal patient data. This doesn’t just free up your team to develop proper data protection policies; it also prevents you from huge fines that take place in case of act violations. 

  1. Segment Networks

By segmenting networks, you keep sensitive data cordoned off from the rest of the network, which prevents an intruder from accessing valuable information easily. Deploy firewalls, routers, and virtual LANs to restrict access to specific IT networks. For example, you can separate nonmedical systems like HR, financial, or supply chain, securing healthcare data. This also allows them to cut cybersecurity investments.   

Langate Provides Custom Healthcare Software Development Services 

Cybersecurity can’t be addressed separately from the whole scope of healthcare operations. To reach maximum efficiency and establish cybersecurity solutions for healthcare that don’t undermine your operations, you need a comprehensive solution. Langate offers you fully-fledged healthcare software development services to establish a reliable and efficient IT infrastructure. 

With 17+ years of experience delivering quality solutions for healthcare, our team knows how to leverage cutting-edge tech to empower seamless communication and processes, set up predictive Big Data analytics in healthcare for informed decision-making, and establish a secure IT infrastructure. If you still wonder how to improve cybersecurity in hospitals, consider our professional advice and support. 

Final Thoughts

With the healthcare industry being a top target for hackers, it’s high time to rethink your cybersecurity to prevent excessive expenditures and reputational losses. To implement relevant solutions, you need to study the cybersecurity landscape and audit your internal systems. Such an approach allows you to develop relevant defense strategies; however, keep in mind that security is a long-term task that requires constant attention. 

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