Hospitals and medical facilities are lucrative targets for hackers. It is no longer enough to keep software up-to-date and make backups once a week. Instead, hospitals should ask questions such as “what is a VPN” and “what does a VPN do” to kick-start their journey to safer patient data.
Would you like to hear about your most intimate medical issues on the evening news? It is already happening. This will continue to happen until hospitals and medical service providers stop underestimating the cybersecurity threat landscape.
The statistics and news headlines are clear: hospitals and medical facilities are prime targets for hackers. Patients are beginning to demand that medical service providers do everything possible to protect personal data.
Hospitals should google questions like “meaning VPN” and “what does a VPN do” to kick off their journey towards safer patient data and privacy.
Why do hackers target hospitals?
The health sector is highly vulnerable to five pressure points. Hackers know this. They design their attacks to press these buttons for quick economic rewards:
- Shutting down medical devices could kill patients and delay urgent medical care
- Loss of patient medical history could delay treatment of
- Public reaction and loss of patient confidence.
- The possibility of facing federal and criminal investigations and fines or
punishments. Some medical providers are not equipped to install better security
controls, but many simply underestimate the risks.
- Hackers can make a quick buck selling personal health information (PHI),
that is worth more than “ordinary” personally identifiable information (PII).
You can change your credit card or even your SSN, but you cannot change your
medical history of illnesses, treatments or surgeries.
According to our sources, credit cards and related information sell for $1-$2 on the dark web, but PHI can sell for over $350. Hackers use these detailed medical records to falsify insurance claims, buy high-value drugs, or obtain medical procedures.
How do hackers threaten health services?
Most healthcare cybersecurity problems start with the weakest link: phishing attacks targeting ordinary workers.
The first step in ransomware attacks and data breaches is to gain access to an employee’s login credentials. And they do it by carrying out phishing attacks. Cybercriminals bombard mailboxes with unsuspecting emails containing malicious attachments or links that can download malware or steal login credentials.
They often use an employee’s hacked account to sneak their way into someone in the organization who has access to the entire computer system.
A careless or overworked employee may inadvertently click on a malicious link or even lose a device. In today’s work-from-anywhere environment, hackers can steal user credentials if an employee logs into the hospital system via home or public Wi-Fi without the protection of a virtual private network (VPN).
Once hackers gain access to a system, they can download patients’ medical and financial information, steal proprietary research, infiltrate the company’s financial system, embezzle funds or medical equipment and drugs, or even arrest the whole operation.
A ransomware infection locks your files and system and makes them completely inaccessible. The attacker then demands a ransom to unlock the files. The healthcare sector is particularly vulnerable to this type of attack, as ransomware attacks can completely cripple medical services. Medical emergencies cannot wait. The urgency of this situation sometimes forces hospitals to pay the ransom despite the FBI’s advice to the contrary.
A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS attack) occurs when hackers bombard a targeted server with fake connection requests to overwhelm and force the server offline. DDoS attacks can abruptly interrupt every operation in a hospital and even put lives at risk. Criminals usually demand a ransom to stop the attack.
How can hospitals protect themselves?
Cyberattacks on hospitals can interrupt clinical procedures, threaten the quality of patient care, and lead to very serious data breaches. Obviously, standard security advice is not enough. Hospitals should adopt a structured plan to invest in cybersecurity to defend their electronic infrastructure.
Addressing the Weakest Link with Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Train staff to consider electronic communications as a potential attack surface. Cyber threat awareness programs can help protect staff against phishing attacks and social engineering attempts.
Enforce password security
In the high-pressure environment of a hospital where staff often share devices and machines, users must have access to a sophisticated password management system to prevent unauthorized users from entering.
Install a multi-factor authentication system
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a secure and simple access control measure that could thwart most hacking attempts.
Migrate to ultra-secure Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is reliable, cheap and easy to set up, especially if outsourced. Reputable cloud storage providers meet minimum HIPAA requirements and can be tailored to meet specific storage and access control needs.
Apply data encryption
Criminals can hijack unencrypted data flowing between storage terminals and endpoints. All data must be protected from ingress at the endpoint. A VPN can encrypt everything that enters and leaves a hospital’s digital system so that hackers cannot decrypt the content.
What is a VPN and what is it used for?
VPN technology creates a secure private tunnel to transmit data between, for example, your computer or mobile device and the hospital system storage device. It encrypts everything turning it into an unreadable and useless data salad.
This private communication tunnel protects the data from prying eyes and the encryption renders the data useless, even if someone manages to intercept it.
What can a VPN do for hospitals?
A VPN is essential for data protection, especially under HIPAA rules. A VPN can encrypt data, block unauthorized access, protect IoT equipment and IoT endpoints, block malware, improve email filtering, and ensure patient data stays protected while in transit.
Hospitals and other health service providers are the main targets of cybercrime. At the same time, HIPAA requires that they put in place a series of measures to protect patient data. This is a high and difficult command.
Fortunately, digital tools offer amazing security solutions and features, and data encryption is a good place to start. You can use a VPN on iPhone, Android, all Windows and Linux devices, and all IoT devices such as monitors, cameras, alarm systems, and other smart tech devices across the organization.