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Health care hacks: The difference between life and death

By Gary Sockrider

Cyberattacks continue to dominate our news cycle with the recent attacks like Reaper, WannaCry and NotPetya highlighting the harsh reality of today’s world: personal information is gold and cyberattacks are growing. According to NETSOUT Arbor’s 13th annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report (WISR), ransomware was cited as the top threat by enterprises in 2017. Business impacts due to attacks include reputation/brand damage and operational expense, in addition to revenue loss.

Cyberattacks aren’t confined to any specific industry or size, and the cost for companies to bounce back from these threats can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per event. It’s no secret that health care information is one of the most valuable commodities on the black market. With that kind of monetary motivation, we’ll likely see an increase in breaches of medical records in the coming years.

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Unfortunately, health care has an added and unique security issue: Attacks in this industry can literally be fatal for the end user. These hacks can cause increases or decreases in medicine dosages or a shutdown of an implanted device, to the impairment and detriment of lifesaving technology. With that in mind, the health care industry must consider how to mitigate the risks of hacks and, ultimately, how to better protect patients. An increased focus on the state of security in health care should be top-of-mind for all hospital staff.

Regulations are minimum standards
While regulations can be useful for creating awareness and driving responsibility, they are not comprehensive. As we’ve seen in retail security breaches, regulations might be imposed but they set a bare minimum for protection. If retailers adhere to all regulations, their financial liability is limited, even though the damage to the end user can be devastating. Take, for example, the recent Equifax breach, which led to sensitive information of hundreds of thousands customers being exposed, with little to no repercussion for their lack of action. This is the issue with regulations being considered an antidote to the problem. As regulations don’t update as quickly as technology does, adherence to regulations puts your organization out-of-date and at risk almost immediately. The bottom line is that effective cybersecurity requires organizations to go above and beyond industry regulations.

Since the first wave of networked medical devices, security threats have taken a new direction, going beyond the sale of information to potentially life-threatening attacks. Hacking a network, manipulating critical data or medication, or changing a device’s cadence all have dangerous consequences.
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