Safeguarding medical services to prevent costly hospital disruptions, ET HealthWorld | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

By Prakash Jain

In recent times, the healthcare sector has witnessed alarming cyberattacks that have garnered significant attention due to their severity. Just last month, Prospect Medical Holdings, a healthcare organization managing 16 hospitals and more than 164 clinics and outpatient centers across the United States was forced to revert to manual paper-based processes as a result of a cyberattack. The ransomware incident targeting the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences resulted in the disruption of critical patient services while Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi faced a cyberattack that led to the blocking of the hospital’s IP. These incidents have prompted healthcare institutions to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses. However, many organizations worldwide have yet to put in place robust cybersecurity measures. According to a recent report by Proofpoint Inc., a staggering 72% of the leading hospitals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are falling behind in implementing even basic cybersecurity measures. These statistics often find parallels in many other countries as well.

The Stakes are escalating
The highly digital healthcare landscape is undergoing a transformative shift, leveraging IoT devices, telemedicine, Electronic Health Records (EHRs), and Advanced Data Analytics to enhance patient care and operational efficiency. However, the reliance on technology also exposes healthcare organizations to cybersecurity challenges, making them prime targets for cyberattacks. These attacks not only jeopardize patient care but also impose costly downtime, endangering lives and demanding immediate attention. Ransomware attacks where hackers encrypt files and demand hefty ransoms for access restoration are prevalent. Key risk factors include the vast volume of sensitive patient data, open vulnerabilities in legacy systems, outdated software, and lapses in cybersecurity practices. Additionally, vendor networks pose security challenges, burdening cybersecurity teams and potentially leading to costly errors. Non-compliance with regulations results in severe financial penalties and legal consequences, making data protection a must-have for the medical services industry.

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Pressing Need for Cybersecurity Investment
To effectively conquer these challenges, healthcare organizations can turn to cost-effective Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) services provided by experienced third-party cybersecurity experts. These specialists rapidly assess risk profiles, evaluate vendor and third-party networks, and pinpoint vulnerabilities, identify gaps, and associated security risks arising from disparate solutions.

The next critical steps involve deploying cutting-edge advanced threat detection systems, encrypting patient data to thwart unauthorized access, enforcing stringent access controls, and implementing least privilege access policies. Additionally, staff training in cybersecurity best practices reduces risks fortifies security measures, and nurtures a culture of heightened security awareness.

Furthermore, organizations should diligently maintain system updates with the latest security patches and meticulously craft and test incident response plans to mitigate the impact of potential security incidents. These comprehensive measures allow healthcare organizations to close security gaps, bolster their defenses, and be well-equipped to confront threats.

With the medical services sector’s growing dependence on digital technologies to enhance patient care, protection of patient data, delivery of uninterrupted services, and compliance with regulations stand among the supreme concerns. Besides investing in cutting-edge cybersecurity measures and ongoing employee training, a close collaboration with industry peers is also vital to establish resilience against the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.

Prakash Jain, Founder & Executive Chairman, Inspira Enterprise

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)

  • Published On Dec 1, 2023 at 07:19 AM IST

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National Cyber Security