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As the healthcare industry moves toward digitization, cybersecurity in healthcare becomes more important than ever. Healthcare organizations collect and store large amounts of sensitive data, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. A successful cyberattack on a healthcare provider can result in the theft of confidential patient information and disruption to critical care services.

In this article, we will look at the most common challenges and vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity of healthcare organizations and share our cyber security tips on eliminating them efficiently.

But first, let's find out what’s going on with cybersecurity in healthcare in 2022.

Statistics on cybersecurity in healthcare: The aftermath of cyberattacks

Healthcare organizations have long struggled to keep pace with the ever-changing digital landscape. As the healthcare industry increasingly relies on technologies to improve patient care, they are also becoming more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

The number of cyber attacks on healthcare has been on the rise, with over 93% of companies experiencing a data breach within the last 5 years. Over the same period, more than 50% of healthcare providers have suffered at least five healthcare cyberattack incidents.

But why do hackers choose to target health records over everything else? The reason is that healthcare data is more valuable than other types of data because it can be used to exploit patients financially or emotionally. In addition, many healthcare organizations still use outdated systems and software, making them easier targets for cyber attacks.

These attacks have devastating consequences, ranging from financial losses and disrupted operations to compromised patient data and even loss of life. According to Statista , the average cost of a data breach in the private healthcare sector is $9.23 million – significantly higher than the global average of $4.24 million. The largest recorded data breach in the healthcare sector in the US occurred in 2015 at Anthem Inc., with 78.8 million personal records being stolen.

Healthcare organizations should take steps to improve their cybersecurity posture, from investing in better security technologies and processes to increasing awareness among staff. Nonetheless, perhaps the most vital thing to do is to start taking these threats seriously and making cybersecurity in healthcare a priority.

The main cybersecurity challenges in the healthcare industry

To protect patient data and keep their organizations secure, decision-makers must be aware of the leading cybersecurity issues in healthcare. The major challenges include insider threats, ransomware, unprotected IoT devices, and legacy systems.

  1. Insider threats

    Insiders are employees or contractors with authorized access to an organization’s systems and data. However, they may not have malicious intent – they could simply make a mistake that exposes sensitive information. Or, they could deliberately misuse their access for personal gain or to commit fraud or theft.

    Either way, insider threats can compromise healthcare privacy and cause financial losses for healthcare organizations. In 2017, insider breaches cost businesses an average of $8 million per incident (compared to $3 million for external breaches).

    One common strategy to lure insiders into exposing sensitive data is phishing – a malicious attack that involves sending emails or pop-up messages that appear to come from a credible source. The goal is to trick victims into sharing personal information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers. In 2021, 45% of healthcare organizations reported phishing attacks in the previous twelve months.

  2. Ransomware

    Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts files or locks users out of systems until a ransom is paid. It has become increasingly common in recent years – 17% of all healthcare cyber attacks are attributed to ransomware.

    Healthcare organizations are particularly susceptible because they often lack adequate backups. As a result, even small ransomware attacks cause significant disruptions and lead to large financial losses. In some cases, patients have even died as a direct result of ransomware infections.

  3. Unsecured IoT devices

    The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices connected to the internet – including everything from fitness trackers and thermostats to medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps.

    Unfortunately, many IoT devices are unsecured and can easily get hacked. Once hackers gain access to buildings through these devices, they can steal sensitive data, including patient records and trade secrets. They may also disrupt operations by tampering with life-saving medical devices, putting patients at serious risk.

  4. Legacy systems

    Many healthcare facilities still rely on decades-old mainframe systems and software applications which were never designed with security in mind. This makes it difficult — if not impossible — to upgrade these systems with modern security features. As a result, attackers can exploit known vulnerabilities in these technologies to get past defenses and gain access to treatment plans, EHR, clinical data, and PHI.

  5. Legacy systems

How to improve cybersecurity with Azure Cloud

I hope by now you don’t question why cybersecurity is important in healthcare. All of these challenges underscore the significance of having a solid cybersecurity program in place.

Azure Cloud helps organizations do just that with its extensive security capabilities. It lets cloud developers easily implement cyber security best practices and create secure applications regardless of their complexity level.

So, let’s dig deeper into the features of Azure Cloud Services that are essential for building a reliable healthcare system.

  1. Focus on identity and access management

    Azure Active Directory is a cloud-based identity and access management service that offers powerful features for authenticating users, managing devices, and securing data in healthcare organizations. Azure AD can manage user access to on-premises and cloud-based applications, including those built on the Azure platform.

    Healthcare organizations have unique needs when it comes to identity and access management. They must comply with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires strict controls over who has access to patient data. In addition, they must often deal with large numbers of users, many of whom are mobile workers that need access to sensitive data from anywhere at any time.

    These factors make cybersecurity in healthcare susceptible to phishing attacks. Azure AD provides several features that make it well suited for use in healthcare organizations:

    • Single sign-on. With single sign-on (SSO), users can log in once with their Azure AD credentials to access all the applications they are authorized to use — whether those apps are hosted on-premises or in the cloud. This makes it easier to prevent issues in cybersecurity, as users keep track of their login information while providing IT departments with greater control over access to company resources.
    • Multi-factor authentication. MFA adds an additional layer of security by requiring users to confirm their identity using two or more factors — such as a password plus a phone call or text message — before being granted access to company resources. Healthcare organizations require strong authentication measures like MFA due to patient privacy regulations like HIPAA.
    • Role-based access control. RBAC allows administrators fine-grained control over what individual user accounts can do within Azure AD. This ensures that each user only has permissions appropriate for their job function, which is essential for cybersecurity in healthcare.

    In healthcare, this could mean giving doctors read/write permissions to medical records but restricting their ability to print them out. Alternatively, RBAC could grant nurses read-only access to patients’ charts while preventing them from making changes.

    Administrators can create custom roles with specific permissions for different groups of users within their organization. RBAC ensures accidental or malicious changes made by one user cannot affect other parts of the system or jeopardize patient safety. Azure AD also supports integration with on-premises Active Directory (AD) using Azure AD Connect. This lets organizations use their existing AD infrastructure for identity management in the cloud.

    How to improve cybersecurity with Azure Cloud
  2. Add extra layers to data protection

    Azure AD offers several features that can be used to maintain healthcare privacy, secure data, and meet compliance requirements:

    • Data encryption. Healthcare organizations often have sensitive data that needs to be protected, such as patient medical records or research findings. By encrypting this data, Azure ensures that it remains confidential even if it falls into the wrong hands. Data at rest in Azure Storage is encrypted by default. In transit, data is encrypted using SSL/TLS.

      Azure Key Vault can encrypt data at rest and in transit, as well as manage access control to ensure only authorized users have access to sensitive information. The platform also provides auditing and logging features to help organizations track who accessed what data and when. Additionally, Azure Key Vault integrates with other security tools such as Azure Active Directory (AD) and Microsoft Intune for added protection.

    • Compliance Manager.It helps customers assess their compliance posture against popular standards like HIPAA and PCI DSS and provides guidance on how to remediate any issues so that customers can confidently demonstrate their compliance to auditors or regulators.
  3. Plan your threat detection and response

    Threat detection and response are crucial for cybersecurity in healthcare. Azure Cloud provides tools and services to help organizations detect, investigate, and respond to threats quickly and effectively.

    • Azure Sentinel . Azure Sentinel is a cloud-native security information event management (SIEM) and security orchestration automated response (SOAR) platform that helps you detect, investigate, and respond to threats across your entire organization. Azure Sentinel collects data from multiple sources within the healthcare organization — including on-premises systems, cloud services, user devices, applications, and more — to give you visibility into all activity taking place across your environment.

      In addition to providing SIEM capabilities, Azure Sentinel also includes built-in machine learning algorithms that analyze large volumes of data to identify anomalies that may indicate malicious or suspicious activity. Once potential threats have been identified, Azure Sentinel can generate alerts so that security analysts can take action accordingly.

    • Microsoft Defender ATP.Another key component of Azure Cloud Services for Healthcare is Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). Defender ATP helps protect endpoints by using behavioral analytics and machine learning techniques to identify potentially malicious activities. Plus, it provides threat intelligence reports with details about specific attacks so that steps can be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.

      Together, these capabilities make Azure Cloud Services an ideal platform for those looking to improve their cybersecurity in healthcare.

  4. Create network segmentation

    Azure Cloud Services can provide network segmentation for healthcare organizations and hospitals. By using Azure, they can create isolated and secure networks for storing and processing sensitive patient data and comply with regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH.

    Network segmentation also helps reduce the risk of healthcare cyberattacks. By creating separate networks for different data types, hackers will have a more difficult time accessing all of an organization’s data if they can penetrate one network. In addition, by isolating critical systems from the Internet, organizations further minimize their exposure to attacks and ensure robust cybersecurity in hospitals.

Partner with seasoned software development vendor

Choosing the right company to develop or improve your healthcare software plays a pivotal role in the effectiveness of your cybersecurity measures. Our team has over 13 years of experience in building applications for healthcare.

With data protection being our top priority, we’ve built secure environments for various healthcare platforms, including laboratory software. We’ve also implemented sophisticated machine learning algorithms that help our customer’s product stand out and tailored user-friendly experience for healthcare apps. So check these out!

And if you need practical advice on implementing robust cybersecurity in healthcare, drop us a line. Our experts will help you get started on the right foot.

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  • Andriy Frantsishkevych
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Since 2009, we've been assisting technology companies to build and improve their software products. We help to scale tech teams, deliver projects on time and within budget, develop ideas from initial concepts to a final product.

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