A recent report by cybersecurity company Netwrix shows that the global healthcare sector has been one of the primary targets for cyber attacks over the past year.
According to Netwrix’s Cloud Security Report for this year, 61% of companies within the healthcare industry had their cloud infrastructure attacked over the past several months. This is significantly higher than the 53% observed in other industrial verticals.
Netwrix vice-president for security research Dirk Schrader opines that healthcare clouds are targeted as the chances of hackers succeeding tend to be higher and the amount of sensitive information they hold makes them particularly attractive to cyber attackers.
By the Numbers
The report also noted that around 73% of all healthcare companies across the globe store sensitive data within the cloud, and the bulk of this tends to be information on individual patients, as well as highly confidential health information.
Likewise, 86% of cloud attacks on the healthcare sector have led to both financial losses and other damages, and nearly half of all healthcare companies believe that their external contractors are the most likely risk to their data security.
A Dangerous Situation
Over the past two years, the healthcare sector has been severely depleted and exhausted by the ongoing pandemic, which led to a massive influx of confinements, deaths, and resignations on the part of many healthcare practitioners.
As patient health and public safety were the chief priorities for the past couple of years, hospitals and clinics have been sorely amiss regarding augmenting already stretched IT security resources.
The information held by healthcare companies regarding both patients and practitioners is also seen as a cash cow by cyber criminals who may either sell stolen medical records through the dark web or deploy ransomware to hold medical systems hostage – a dangerous prospect as, in many cases, these involve networked devices meant to keep patients alive.
What Should be Done?
One solution that Schrader sees for this situation is that healthcare organizations need to complement the rapid adoption of cloud technologies with strong security measures specifically focused on devices and systems that fall under the internet of things (IoT) category.
He cites the need for vital devices like respirators and IV infusion machines to have controls that aren’t dependent on cloud infrastructure, as cyberattacks could lead to physical harm to patients.
Schraded added that network segmentation would help keep compromised devices from impacting whole systems. In this case, IT teams need to limit both human and machine access to certain systems based on the least-privilege principle. A regular review of who has access rights should also be conducted, and these rights should be revoked or reallocated whenever necessary.