A typical patient medical record you’ll find in a healthcare organization contains the individual’s full name, address, birthdate, phone number, email address, Social Security (or similar) number, emergency contact details, health insurance details, and in some cases credit card and bank account information.

The average payout for a stolen healthcare record on the dark web is $1,000. This cost is extremely high compared to the $5 paid on the dark web for stolen credit card numbers. This number explains why the healthcare industry is a prime target for cyber criminals.

Cyber criminals do not discriminate against the size, location, or healthcare niche—they only want healthcare records.

However, the issue is that nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals are too busy dealing with life-or-death situations and do not have time to notice a cyber attack or a device infected by malware.

A September 2019 article in Healthcare Business & Technology drills into the cyber threat risk rate in the healthcare industry:

  • There were more than 2,500 reported cyber data breaches between 2009 and 2018
  • 62% of healthcare organizations experienced a breach in a 12-month period
  • The average cost of a medical center data breach is $3.62 million

The 2022 Gone Phishing Tournament report found that 33.3% of healthcare employees submitted their credentials by filling out a form to claim a gift card.

As we peel back the layers on the value of medical records to cybercriminals, let’s explore the formidable cyber security challenges that healthcare providers must navigate to protect their patients’ sensitive information.

The Biggest Cyber Security Challenges Facing Healthcare

Source: Delve Insight

Healthcare organizations are tasked with delivering advanced patient care while managing costs and adhering to evolving regulations for electronic records, IT security, and data protection.

The responsibility to deliver top-tier patient care while managing stringent data regulations and IT security measures can stretch healthcare resources thin, potentially increasing vulnerability to cybercriminal threats.

These criminals know that healthcare professionals are now expected to help protect data—something that they are not trained for nor have the time to do.

In the fight against cyber criminals and cyber attacks, healthcare experts, security leaders, CISOs, and organizations face three major cyber security challenges:

Medical Device Security

With the influx of new technologies, medical IoT, tablets, and smartphones, it can be challenging for security leaders to ensure medical device security. In the health sector, keeping medical devices operational is crucial in maintaining patient care and even saving people’s lives.

Ensure all medical devices, networks, operating systems, tablets, and smartphones have the latest operating system and software versions installed.

Human Behavior

The human tendency is to trust and to want to help others. This instinct makes people an easy target for social engineering, phishing, ransomware, and other cyber attacks.

Ensure all employees receive consistent security awareness training that uses real-world scenarios to highlight the security risks that come through email, text messages, and phone calls.

An awareness program can help you clarify and communicate the responsibilities of handling information and technology resources. This way, everyone becomes involved and realizes their role in keeping the organization secure.

Economic Pressures

Hospitals, research centers, clinics, etc., are operating under tight budgets, making it difficult to prioritize spending on IT security and security awareness training. In fixing a system, it’s important to think beyond the cost of IT.

You also need to consider productivity costs, such as the cost of staff hours and backlog if an MRI machine is not operational for several days.

Ensure that management and leaders understand the economic costs of a cyber attack and data breach and how these can be mitigated with updated software and innovative security awareness training campaigns.

10 Cyber Security Best Practices for Healthcare CISOs and Security Leaders

These ten cyber security best practices are a great starting point toward data security for your organization:

  1. Create a cyber secure culture. Provide all employees with regular and consistent security awareness training. Give employees access to interactive and engaging security awareness training that uses real-world scenarios to change human behavior.
  2. Regularly monitor employee awareness. Ensure their knowledge of phishing and ransomware remains up to date. Monitor retention rates with phishing simulations.
  3. Remind employees to create and use strong passwords on all mobile devices. If your organization uses a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, hold regular training sessions about mobile device cyber security.
  4. Perform regular risk assessments on your network, technologies, software and applications, and employees. Know where the risks are so you can install patches, upgrades, and new software and provide the right security awareness training.
  5. Limit network access. Only give access to specific data to people who need it. Ensure that they have superior security awareness knowledge and regularly receive training on the latest cyber attack methods.
  6. Ensure all applications, internal software, network tools, and operating systems are up-to-date and secure. Use firewalls and white-listing applications, install malware protection and anti-spam software, and control physical and virtual access.
  7. Implement multi-factor authentication for accessing critical systems and data. Add an extra layer of protection and ensure that unauthorized individuals cannot access the system even if a password is compromised.
  8. Maintain a detailed incident response plan. The plan should outline the steps to take in case of a breach, attack, or any other security incident.
  9. Manage and monitor third-party vendors who have access to your systems and data. Establish clear guidelines for their access and monitor their activities within your system.
  10. Encrypt sensitive data, both in transit and at rest. Patient information, financial information, and other confidential details should remain unreadable in case of unauthorized access.

Embrace these ten cyber security best practices to defend your healthcare organization against the digital dangers of our time.

Keeping Healthcare Data on Lockdown

In the healthcare sector, the dense concentration of personal and financial data creates an enticing target for cybercriminals, with medical records commanding high prices on the dark web.

A strategic approach includes fostering a cyber secure culture, implementing regular risk assessments, and restricting network access. These practices, along with strong incident response plans, form a crucial shield against cyber threats.



Ready to put your defenses to the test?

Try our free phishing simulation to understand the state of your cyber security.