How Do Cyber Threats Place Patient Safety At Risk?


Technology has played a major role in advancing the medical field into the new millennium. New technologies allow more precise diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and have made it possible to develop new treatments and therapies that were previously inconceivable.

Medical software and bookkeeping have also needed to advance with these leaps in medical technology. One area where medical software has seen significant advances is electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs, with digitized health information, make it easier for providers to access and share patient data.

Medical software has also been developed to help providers with clinical decision-making, patient education, and disease management. Mobile health technologies now enable patients to access their health information on smartphones or other devices. These advances have helped improve the quality of care for patients and the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.

Unfortunately, as the healthcare system increasingly relies on technology, the risks of cyber attacks increase. Cyber threats can come in many forms, from malware and viruses that infect computers and devices, to phishing scams that trick users into sharing sensitive information. While the potential consequences of a cyber attack can be serious, there are steps that medical professionals can take to protect the healthcare system and its patients.

How cyberattacks threaten patient privacy

Cybercriminals gain access to patient information through security breaches in healthcare organizations‘ systems.

Once inside, these criminals can view, copy, alter or delete sensitive patient data. Cybercriminals have been known to access patients’ electronic health records (EHRs) and change their diagnoses or treatments to commit insurance fraud. They have also been known to use this information to commit medical identity theft – a type of fraud in which criminals use stolen personal health information to obtain medical services or prescription drugs. 

How cybercriminals harm a hospital’s financial resources

Cybercriminals commit cyberattacks against hospitals in several ways, ultimately leading to financial harm. One common type of attack is ransomware, in which criminals demand payment to restore access to hospital data or systems.

Other methods include billing fraud, where hackers alter information and then submit false claims for reimbursement, and theft of personal health information (PHI). Criminals also gain access to patient records to commit identity theft or fraud.

Each of these attacks has a potentially significant financial impact on a hospital. Ransomware attacks can result in costly downtime and the potential loss of important data. Billing fraud can lead to overcharges that must be repaid. Furthermore, PHI theft can result in regulatory fines and costs of providing credit monitoring and other services to affected patients.

In addition to the direct financial costs, hospitals may also suffer indirect impact, such as damage to their reputation and loss of business due to disruptions caused by cyberattacks. Hospitals need to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to protect themselves. This includes strong cyber security measures and insurance coverage to offset the costs of an attack.

Medical devices are an easy gateway for attackers

In recent years, we have seen increased cyberattacks targeting healthcare organizations. Medical devices are one of the most vulnerable entry points identified by these attackers. These devices are increasingly connected to hospital networks, making them an attractive target for hackers. Once they gain access to a device, they can often find ways to exploit vulnerabilities and access the hospital’s network and patient data.

In some cases, attackers have even been able to take control of medical devices and use them to harm patients. In 2019, the US Department of Homeland Security warned that hackers could access pacemakers and interfere with their operation.

While hospitals are working to improve their cybersecurity defenses, medical devices are still considered a vulnerability. Hospitals must carefully monitor and secure their medical devices to protect patients and their data.

Why connecting a network remotely to new devices is risky

When you connect a new device to a network, you are essentially opening that device up to potential attacks perpetrated from any location. A network can be accessed remotely for legitimate reasons, such as server administration. However, this can also be done for nefarious purposes, such as stealing data or wreaking havoc within a system.

One of the most common ways attackers gain network access is by using compromised credentials. This could be as simple as guessing a password or exploiting a flaw in storing the credentials. Once an attacker gains access to a network, they can then try to exploit vulnerabilities in the systems connected to it.

Attackers also gain access to networks by using malware. Malware is software that is programmed to damage or disrupt a system. It can be used to steal data, delete files, or even take control of a system. There are many types of malware, and new strains are continuously being created.

One of the best ways to protect a network is to segment it by creating multiple sub-networks isolated from each other. This prevents an attacker from being able to move laterally through the network and penetrate sensitive systems.

It is also important to keep the systems connected to the network up to date. Vendors regularly release software updates that close identified security gaps so that attackers will no longer be able to exploit them.

Lastly, it is important to have a good security policy in place – one that defines what users are and are not allowed to do on a network. It should also specify how systems should be configured and data protected.

Implementing robust cyber security measures is essential for any hospital. By taking steps to protect their networks and devices, hospitals help keep their patients safe from cybercrime.

Healthcare staff aren’t aware of the increasing online risks

Healthcare staff is frequently overworked, leaving them no time and energy to worry about cyber threats. This is problematic because they might unintentionally leave computer systems vulnerable to an attack. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are susceptible to cyberattacks because they often hold sensitive patient data. If this data were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used to exploit patients or perpetrate ransomware attacks against healthcare providers.

With their primary focus and expertise devoted to providing quality medical care, healthcare staff cannot be expected to keep abreast of technological developments, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and cyber threats. Additionally, they are likely to lack confidence in their ability to protect against cyber threats.

Many hospitals have outdated technology, which can lead to attacks

According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, 43 percent of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach in the past year. This is a stunning statistic demonstrating how vulnerable these organizations are. While there are many steps that hospitals can take to protect themselves, updating their technology is one of the most important ones.

Outdated technology can lead to cyber attacks in several ways.

  • Firstly, outdated technology can be more vulnerable to attack. Attackers may have found exploits or weaknesses that have not been patched in older versions of software or hardware, leaving them an open door into a system.

  • Secondly, outdated technology can be less effective in defending against attacks. Newer software and hardware versions often have more powerful security features to help protect against cyber threats.

  • Finally, outdated technology can be less effective at performing its intended function. This can make it more difficult for users to do their work or access the information they need, making them more likely to make mistakes that could leave the system vulnerable to an attack.

How can ACID help you protect your sensitive data against online attacks?

There are numerous ways that ACID Intelligence can help protect your sensitive data against cyber threats.

  • ACID proactively monitors numerous sources and platforms to detect hostile activity early on, to prevent or mitigate the impact of attacks with real-time, specific alerts.

  • ACID provides organizations with added time to prepare an effective response, prevent attacks or mitigate their consequences as early as in their planning stage, by providing real-time information on assaults targeting the organization.

  • ACID continues round-the-clock monitoring to collect additional information as it becomes available to support implementing the most effective countermeasures for as long as the threat remains.

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