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HSE attack shows cybersecurity is no longer a tech issue | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Hospitals, a vital resource for our most vulnerable, found themselves paralysed, with patient care compromised amid fears that lives could be put at risk.

Earlier this month, the HSE announced that it was a victim of the MOVEit cyber breach. 

This cyber attack had targeted technology being used by an external partner on a project aiming to automate part of its recruitment process.

Clearly the first of these incidents was far more serious, but both of these sobering events have served as clarion calls for a fundamental shift in how we approach cybersecurity.

It’s vital that authorities realise this is not ‘just’ a tech problem facing such an integral part of our society, but a holistic risk problem that demands urgent attention.

The healthcare sector, with its vast networks of interconnected devices, electronic health records, and critical infrastructure, has long since become an enticing target for cybercriminals, and it’s becoming a more pressing issue by the day.

It’s no longer just a tech issue: There needs to be a holistic approach to cyberattacks within the health service: Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Over an eight-week period between April and May of this year, our experts detected a 60% spike in attempted attacks targeting Irish hospitals and healthcare settings.

We’re also monitoring an alarming threat of new ‘Phishing as a Service’ kits, specifically tailored to exploit vulnerabilities in the healthcare industry, which have emerged on the darknet.

Exploiting vulnerabilities

These attackers regularly seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the digital systems of hospitals, extracting sensitive patient data or disrupting essential services until a hefty ransom is paid. 

Such attacks can have devastating consequences, not only due to patient safety being compromised but also the loss of public trust.

To effectively address these growing threats, Ireland must embrace a holistic approach to cybersecurity in our health sector.

This would go beyond the mere deployment of technological solutions and calls for a comprehensive strategy that encompasses people, processes, and technology.

First and foremost, it is essential to establish a culture of cybersecurity awareness within healthcare organisations. 

Educating staff on risks

Employees should be educated about the potential risks, such as phishing attempts, social engineering tactics, and the importance of strong password management.

Regular training sessions and simulated exercises can empower staff to become the first line of defence against cyber threats, strengthening the overall security posture of the organisation.

Furthermore, healthcare organisations must invest in robust cybersecurity frameworks that incorporate stringent policies and procedures. 

Conducting regular risk assessments, implementing access controls, and performing vulnerability assessments are crucial steps in identifying and mitigating potential weaknesses within the system. 

A proactive approach to security, rather than a reactive one, can significantly reduce the likelihood of successful cyber attacks.

Of course, technology plays a vital role in safeguarding healthcare systems. 

Advanced threat detection systems, firewalls, encryption protocols, and endpoint security solutions must be implemented to fortify the digital infrastructure. 

Additionally, regular software updates and patches should be applied promptly to address any known vulnerabilities and ensure the systems are up to date with the latest security measures.

But even if we have all these measures in place, we can’t afford to let our guard down. We need to keep a watchful eye on our networks 24/7.

Minimise damage

By staying vigilant and ready to spot and respond to any threats that pop up in real-time, we can minimise the damage. 

And if an incident does occur, we’ve got to have a plan for containing it. Acting quickly and decisively can make all the difference in limiting the impact and stopping the bad guys in their tracks.

Collaboration is another crucial aspect of a holistic cybersecurity strategy. 

Healthcare organisations should actively engage with industry peers, government agencies, and cybersecurity experts to share knowledge, best practices, and emerging threats.

Together, we can build a collective defence against cybercriminals and stay one step ahead in this ever-evolving digital landscape.

The ransomware attack in May 2021, the incident reported this month, and the constant barrage of attempts we’re seeing during our monitoring services serve as powerful reminders of the immense dangers posed by cyber threats to our healthcare organisations.

To protect the lives and well-being of our citizens, we must recognise that cybersecurity is not solely a tech problem. 

Holistic approach

It requires a holistic risk management approach that encompasses people, processes, and technology. 

By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, implementing robust frameworks, deploying advanced technologies, and fostering collaboration, we can mitigate the risks and ensure the resilience of our healthcare systems.

The stakes are high, but by acting decisively, we can safeguard the foundation of our society and protect the lives of those who depend on us.

Raluca Saceanu is CEO of Smarttech247


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National Cyber Security