Due to current world events, even the general public is now aware that cybercriminals pose a significant threat to their sensitive healthcare information. However, many people are concerned that they cannot protect themselves from what they don’t understand. To make matters worse, the pandemic has created complicated challenges for healthcare organizations. Much of their attention — not to mention, their budget — is now being funneled into expanding their staff to accommodate the surge in patients. Of course, this leaves only a small amount of funds and focus left over to support their cybersecurity efforts.
But there is growing scrutiny on the need for data security in the healthcare sphere. It is essential for all our privacy and wellbeing that healthcare organizations invest in cybersecurity and prevent cyber attacks from spreading. Below, we explain the risks that healthcare organizations currently face and how they can protect themselves — and us — from further data breaches.
Healthcare Organizations Have Been Slow to Invest in Cybersecurity
Recently, increased online attacks have drawn attention to the urgent need for cybersecurity throughout the U.S. and in healthcare, specifically. In fact, 2020 saw a record number of data breaches in the healthcare sphere, with ransomware proving to be a significant threat. Some reports identified as many as 560 ransomware attacks on healthcare providers, costing an estimated $20.8 billion in downtime at those organizations. To put that in perspective, it’s more than double the downtime costs to healthcare providers in 2019, suggesting that such attacks are scaling at a rapid pace.
But despite the increasing presence of digital threats, healthcare has lagged behind. Though cybersecurity continues to advance, healthcare organizations seem to be adjusting much later than other industries. True, the healthcare industry has been pushed to its maximum capacity by the flood of COVID-19. But this is all the more reason that it cannot bear the weight of yet another cyberattack.
Private Healthcare Information is Vulnerable to Cyberattacks
Ransomware attacks have increased in every industry since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the healthcare industry is indisputably the primary victim of these attacks. Data from the 2020 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey concluded that 70% of the hospitals that they surveyed experienced a “significant security incident” over the duration of the past year.
The vast majority of a healthcare agency’s IT budget is spent implementing new medical technologies, while only 5% of their IT budget is invested in cybersecurity. And, ironically, much of their latest technology only increases their vulnerability. When the U.S. healthcare system was modernized in 2009 with the HITECH Act, the increased connectivity amongst healthcare devices made services more accessible, but also made patients more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
At first glance, healthcare may not seem like the richest source of monetizable data. Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite, and criminals are highly aware of the value of the personal information stored in healthcare databases. Priced at $10 to $1,000 per stolen medical record, personal health information (PHI) is more valuable than credit card information. In addition, healthcare organizations simply do not prioritize cybersecurity, making them a much more attractive target than the heavy security around banking systems.
The Ramifications of a Healthcare Breach
Businesses in most industries take an average of 207 days to even realize an attack has occurred and a further 73 days to then handle the attack. In contrast, healthcare organizations take 236 days to detect a data breach and 93 days to mitigate its effects — altogether, lagging behind by an extra 49 days.
Adding insult to injury, the IBM 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report concluded that data breaches cost healthcare organizations an average of $9.23 million per incident.
How Can Healthcare Providers Protect Themselves and Patients?
As digital attacks continue to increase in frequency and data protection operations remain underfunded, it becomes evident that the U.S. healthcare system is faltering in the realm of cybersecurity. As times change and the world evolves, cybersecurity must be treated as a vital component of the healthcare system. Currently, the healthcare system is highly vulnerable to cybercriminals who can easily infiltrate key medical systems and patient data. The bottom line is that healthcare organizations must adequately support their cybersecurity team by investing in data protection.
Luckily, there are measures that healthcare organizations and professionals can take to ensure that their patient data is safe — such as educating healthcare staff, investing in self-protecting data, and securing vulnerable mobile devices.
Restrict Access to Data and Information
Healthcare organizations must implement access controls that restrict contact with patient information. With proper precautions and standards in place, such PHI should only be accessible to workers who need it to do their jobs.
Typically, access restrictions require user authentication to ensure that only authorized users can obtain necessary data. It is recommended that healthcare organizations require multi-factor authentication to verify that the right person — and only the right person — is accessing the data at any time.
Implement Self-Protecting Data
With so many vulnerable points throughout multiple interfacing medical systems, protecting valuable healthcare information can be an uphill battle. But when healthcare organizations invest in software that enables data to defend, govern, and track itself, it simplifies the process of protecting your organization from cyberattacks. With data solutions like those from Sertainty, data becomes self-authenticating to ensure that private information remains protected at every stage.
Secure Mobile Devices
It is becoming more and more common for both patients and healthcare providers to access medical records and other sensitive documents via mobile devices. As a result, mobile devices must include security features. For healthcare employers, this might involve encrypting application data, establishing guidelines, or whitelisting policies to ensure that all applications meet certain criteria before their installation.
Cutting-edge technologies such as Smart Delivery — a trackable privacy solution by Transformations, Inc. that goes beyond encryption — can help eliminate vulnerabilities across devices. Specifically designed for sensitive-data industries such as healthcare, Smart Delivery uses Sertainty self-protecting data to provide unparalleled security and ensure that documents can be accessed safely from any device without leaving them exposed.
It’s time for healthcare organizations to take data protection seriously. As medical providers reach their breaking point and the risk of data breaches grows, the healthcare industry needs the support of data that can protect itself.
Here at Sertainty, we take data privacy and protection seriously, as we know that information is the most valuable asset of any business. With Sertainty, agencies can rest assured that their data privacy is specific, provable, and manageable by building data privacy intelligence directly into their data.
The Sertainty data privacy platform empowers data to defend, govern, and track itself, so privacy isn’t lost when the traditional measures of application, network, and infrastructure security fails. Data breaches are inevitable. But with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.