This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
The number of cybersecurity incidents reported within the healthcare industry has been steadily increasing since 2015 as the use of IoMT has become more widespread. With increasing numbers of IoMT devices being used for patient care, the attack surface among hospitals and doctors’ offices has grown dramatically as medical technology continues to expand.
Unfortunately, the pandemic caused medical professionals to remain completely focused on the health of their patients leaving little time and funding available for IT and cybersecurity. The rapid spread of COVID-19 caused surges that hospitals were not prepared for. Because of this, it was of the utmost importance that resources be re-allocated to patient care to properly care for individuals suffering from the disease.
Technology is vital to the medical field for patient care, logistics, scheduling, health trackers, wearables, sensors, pharmaceutical development and research all require the use of cutting edge technology. With so many vulnerable points, the healthcare industry is in a critical position when it comes to protecting patient data.
The state of medical cybersecurity
Healthcare systems have been known to lag behind other industries as far as cybersecurity is concerned. Reducing their exposure to cyber threats and protecting their organizations from data theft has never been more important as the situation becomes more dire every day. In 2019, medical data accounted for 35% of all data breaches, and it has risen to 43% in 2021. If the trend continues, the medical sector could be responsible for even more identity theft and cybercrime.
The pandemic created a perfect storm for hackers to thrive off of the medical community. Instead of empathizing with hospitals and people suffering from disease, cybercriminals found a profitable niche in extorting healthcare systems. Hospitals simply can’t function without database access, so they are more likely to give into ransomware threats for the sake of their patients. Fraudsters know this and they are more than willing to take advantage of the lack of resources and limited cybersecurity protocols in the health sector.
Medical clinics have had to build entirely new operation infrastructures to accommodate more healthcare staff working remotely, an increase in patients utilizing telehealth, and creating COVID-19 testing and vaccinations clinics in only a matter of weeks. It is through the vast IoMT that we have been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time – however, a cybersecurity overhaul is necessary to ensure that patient data remains secure as more medical and administrative devices are in operation.
Of Fortune 1000 medical device manufacturers, 88% of executives do not believe their organization is prepared for a cyberattack. This leaves cyber protection completely up to patients and hospitals, so many organizations are looking to the future of medical cybersecurity and protecting their patient’s data.
IoMT security challenges
The healthcare ecosystem is a complex organization that shoulders an extreme level of responsibility. Opportunities for increased security should be carefully evaluated and implemented according to HIPAA compliance and other health care regulations, while also providing efficient and effective cyber security solutions.
With cybercriminals targeting health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies and patients, cybercrime is expected to create financial damage worth $6 trillion this year. Hackers can easily execute attacks like denial of service attacks, theft of patient identity information, and access other parts of an organization’s network that lead to device malfunction and patient death in some cases.
Regulating bodies walk a fine line that has devastating effects on either side. Too much enforcement too soon has the potential to drive some life saving devices out of the market. But too little enforcement keeps insecure devices on the market for much longer. So while health care systems are required to remain compliant, this may not be enough to ensure data protection.
Because many medical devices rely on internet connectivity for a variety of purposes, the medical industry has been disproportionately affected by IoT vulnerabilities. The use of integrated electronic health records and mobile access to patient data are just a couple of examples of how hospitals are deploying digital technologies to provide a seamless care experience. As more and more wearables are enabled by IoMT, connected health technologies may be essential to mass-deliver personalized care going forward.
It is because of the necessity of various medical devices both in house and used by patients at home that health care systems should implement robust cybersecurity solutions with patient centricity at its core.
Securing medical devices
Hospitals and other medical organizations should consider a thorough review of their cybersecurity protocols and the systems that they have in place as attacks that target medical data continue to rise each year. It can be quite a challenge considering a general lack of resources in the wake of the pandemic.
Considering that medical IT professionals have lifesaving connectivity to maintain, cybersecurity is not always the main concern. However, there is sufficient evidence that implies a more robust cybersecurity ecosystem is what’s best for patients and organizations.
In addition to implementing controls and tools that secure hospital networks, here are some ways that health delivery organizations can improve their cybersecurity hygiene:
- Check your firmware for vulnerabilities.
This is important because many targeted attacks focus on firmware in order to cause widespread damage. If a hacker successfully injects malicious code into the firmware, they can infect subsequent updates, wipe data completely, and even control the device remotely.
- Ensure that data is secure on all devices.
Through proper authentication strategies and effective profile management, access to an organization's most private information is limited to only those whose roles depend on this data. The immense number of IoMT devices makes this step even more vital to protecting patient data.
- Eliminate shadow IT devices.
Regularly sweep or use an automated tool to make sure that there are no unsecure connected devices that have been deployed without ITs consent. To ensure security across all networks, all devices should be managed from a cybersecurity standpoint.
- Use continuous monitoring tools.
In order to maintain a fully protected system, continuous monitoring tools utilize AI technology to monitor network connections and activity on IoMT devices so that changes can be mitigated as soon as they occur. Prevention is key to cyber protection.
- Take advantage of managed cybersecurity services.
Although resources are limited, cybersecurity is not an area that can suffer any more cuts. When time is short, a managed security solution could be highly beneficial. A good cybersecurity manager will work closely with an organization to identify vulnerabilities and find new cyber security solutions.
In light of the recent effects that hackers have had on patient and hospital data, it is more important than ever that healthcare cybersecurity is properly integrated into daily IT tasks. The sheer number of IoMT devices in use creates a wide attack surface that today’s cybercriminals are taking advantage of.
Devices that are unsecured and unmanaged pose a significant threat to patient privacy. With limited time and resources, managed cybersecurity solutions and using automated tools are keys to maintaining a healthy cybersecurity ecosystem.