Shocking Cyber Threats Healthcare Providers Face Daily – Reasons and Impact

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Listening to gravel in a blender is more peaceful than knowing your company is constantly at risk of a security breach. And it’s not just about your healthcare firm. Imagine the lives at stake – patient data, medical records, timely billings, insurance processing, you name it.  

In fact, a single cyberattack increases the mortality rate by 20%. Back in 2021, a baby lost her life in Alabama because a ransomware attack remotely shut the hospital’s computers. 

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are a grimly regular occurrence. Last year, the healthcare sector reported 249 ransomware attacks to the FBI. The recent Ascension and Change Healthcare incidents are also stark reminders what healthcare providers face daily.  

“It’s putting patients’ lives in danger,” said an Ascension Hospital nurse. “Nurses are taking on five or six patients dealing with all of this paper charting.” 

It is frightening to witness so many safety guardrails out of service with offline systems. Reactive measures are rendered useless, heaping years of agony and looming threats of lawsuits.

Hospitals face cyber threats daily. Each with severe consequences. 

Your nemesis can take many forms. And the polymorphism of hackers poses multifaceted risks. 

Ransomware attacks keep lives hanging in the balance. 

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services fell victim to such an attack, freezing critical patient records and disrupting care. 

Phishing schemes trick hospital staff into revealing sensitive information. 

The University of Vermont Health Network compromised thousands of medical records. It exposed patients to identity theft and financial fraud. 

Large-scale data breaches expose vast amounts of patient data. 

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center experienced a breach, leaking over 36,000 patient records. Patients faced risks of privacy violations and misuse of their personal information, creating long-term security concerns. 

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks cause severe service outages. 

The Boston Children’s Hospital was hit by a significant DDoS attack, crippling their online services and delaying patient care.  

Sometimes, the threat comes from within. 

An employee at Mayo Clinic accessed and sold patient information to unauthorized parties, sparking severe breach of trust. 

These threats don’t just disrupt operations. They endanger lives. Cybersecurity in healthcare isn’t just an IT problem – it’s a matter of life and death. 

But why are hackers targeting healthcare providers?

It’s the systems, the time taken to bounce back from an attack, and rewards attached to the stolen data. But this is just a glimpse. The opportunities for hackers run deep. 

The financial and personal data is highly lucrative.  

Geetha Thamilarasu, associate professor at the University of Washington highlighted that stolen medical records can lead to fake prescriptions, bogus insurance claims, identity theft, and online sales. On the dark web, compromised medical records can sell for $400 to $500, sometimes even $1,000, compared to $1 to $5 for credit cards. 

Hospitals are yet to build a solid defense against ransomware attacks.

For example, from 2021 to 2022, ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations in the US increased by 94%. Hackers use these attacks to encrypt critical systems and demand large ransoms for the decryption keys. 

Many healthcare facilities operate with outdated IT infrastructure and software. 

Legacy systems often lack the latest security features, and maintaining these older systems can be challenging and expensive. Take the University of Vermont Medical Center incident, where an email phishing attack led to cancelled surgical operations, delayed treatments for cancer patients, and impeded mammogram appointments. 

High-profile breaches build up hackers’ confidence. 

The 2023 Medibank breach exposed the personal and medical data of approximately 9.7 million customers. If Medibank can be breached, other institutions are also at risk. It serves as a cue to hackers that healthcare organizations have serious underlying security vulnerabilities waiting to be exploited. 

Delayed action to regulatory compliance.

Healthcare providers must comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which mandates the protection of personal health information (PHI). The pressure to adhere to these regulations can strain resources, especially in smaller healthcare facilities. They may lack the necessary funds or expertise to implement cybersecurity measures. And hackers know that. 

Healthcare staff aren’t prepared to deal with cyberattacks.

Dealing with patients is their top priority. And rightfully so. Medical professionals might not be equipped to grasp the complexity of interconnected devices, network entities, or defense systems. Security trainings often take a back seat.  

Multiple points of entry for attackers.

Innovation in medical devices is a boon. But a lack of cybersecurity measures when building these technologies is a bane. Implantable defibrillators, insulin pumps, x-beams, and more equipment are routine to medical facilities and accessible via a network. But with minimal security, they serve as multiple entry points for threat actors to launch a server attack or cripple networked assets. 

Shared healthcare data framework lures attackers.

Interconnected devices transmit and collect data across systems, locations, organizations, and third-party partners. This network broadens the attack surface for hackers if medical devices don’t get timely lifecycle management services and software support. 

So, what can you do? How can you better position yourself to prevent breaches?

Have multiple layers of defense ready to stop cybercriminals in their tracks.

Assume you’re at a constant risk of external and internal threats. “One way to strengthen security for healthcare organizations is through the utilization of microsegmentation solutions, which separate networks into different zones and apply security controls to each segment to prevent cybercriminals from infiltrating an organization’s entire system,” says Chuck Suitor, Strategic Advisor to ColorTokens.  

So even if the hacker is able to infiltrate one part of the network, they cannot go deep into the systems and data to execute an attack. 

Venky Raju, Field CTO at ColorTokens, highlights in his post that adversaries are constantly trying to get into your network, figure out your environment, and move around to find out potential weaknesses. While multi-factor authentication (MFA) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools can detect most of these attempts, they aren’t fool proof. He recommends, “Microsegmentation is the only proven technique to limit the spread of lateral movement and contain the adversary to a few compromised systems.” 

Solution to the growing problems for hospitals is within reach. 

Hospitals often fail basic security hygiene tests, making them prime targets for extortion. Their willingness to pay ransomware demands is compounded by the fact that they can afford little to no downtime. 

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Reach out to us to know how ColorTokens Xshield can assist you in implementing microsegmentation at scale, delivering tangible results in under 90 days.