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Keeping hospital data safe must become a top priority

May 08, 2018
Health IT
From the May 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Brian Berger

In today’s worldwide network of complex interconnectedness and unprecedented vulnerability, how concerned should our health care organizations be about cyber threats?

According to news outlets across the country, the answer is: “VERY!” This network is challenged to find solutions for big problems. With the constant change in technologies and processes used throughout the organizations, it’s no surprise that this network is one of the most vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Throughout the world, health care organizations have fast become the leading targets for cybercriminals, with data breaches in recent years costing the health care industry $5.6 billion annually. Although under pressure to continuously consolidate systems in order to protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of patient and network data, evidence shows that many processes have gaps and vulnerabilities that ultimately serve as “hot spots” for malicious activity. While there are significant benefits to care delivery and organizational efficiency from the expanded use of networked technology, Internet-enabled medical devices and electronic databases for clinical, financial and administrative operations, exposure to potential cyberattacks increases. In addition, laws and regulations are ever-changing, and while tedious security measures provide a good platform to ensure the basic protection of the infrastructure, it is no longer enough to prevent breaches.

The need to cure patients and protect the entire IT landscape is no easy undertaking. Massive amounts of personal identifiable information is spread throughout the network. Many institutes and clinics in the health care industry got an upgrade to the managing and safeguarding of vital IoT devices and connections (heart monitors, pumps, laptops, etc.). Now, more than ever, there is a need to balance the desire for interoperable devices with increased cybersecurity against the most common attacks, like phishing and ransomware.

Many health care organizations have fallen victim to ransomware, a form of malware that targets human and technical weaknesses to deny access to critical data and systems and is frequently distributed through emails and links. Some of the hospitals that have fallen victim to this type of attack include Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Kentucky, MedStart Health and Kansas Heart Hospital. The remediations alone have cost these organizations millions of dollars in damages.

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