Healthcare Data is not just patient records. It also includes sensitive information on a patient’s finances and operational data. The recent spate of attacks on the healthcare industry has hammered home two important points — the weak data security structure in the healthcare industry and how much damage it can cause.
As a result, globally different governments have tried to launch a number of legal remedies, obliging the organizations to install stricter norms, while tightening the existing regulations. But what makes healthcare organizations so vulnerable to cyber attacks? The reason range from denial to the ease of attack. Let’s look at some of these:
Many healthcare organisations simply do not recognize the need for a comprehensive security framework. Most management executives only consider the security of patient records, such as health reports. But as pointed out before, medical records also contain sensitive financial and personal information. As a result, the security framework is also extremely rudimentary.
Typically healthcare focus is patient-centric. Technology is usually seen according to how it would benefit the patient or the organisational efficiency. Combined with the attitude of denial towards data security, it means that investment has been kept at a bare minimum historically. Contrast this with the corporate sector where billions are invested in installing and maintaining data security. This means that healthcare data is just easier to break into!
No space for negotiation:
An attack on a healthcare organisation like a public health aid insurer can be a matter of life and death. Shutting down their IT systems can literally endanger someone’s very life. This means that we have a very narrow space for negotiation. The critical need to find quick solutions means a quick capitulation to the attackers’ demands.
Focus on other tech:
While corporate institutions have realized that technology is not a one-function-only option, in healthcare we have developed a very limited focus on what technology can do for us. This combined with the lack of acknowledgement for data security has left our systems even more vulnerable.
History of capitulation:
Unfortunately, capitulation sets its own circle. The easier you give way, the more vulnerable it leaves you. Today cyber attackers understand that not only are the industry records easy to break into, they are also likely to get away with it. This automatically raises the chances of cyber attack.
Multiple data entry and deployment points:
What makes healthcare data security even more complex are the numbers of people dealing with it. Industry collaborations and consolidations means that healthcare organizations rarely work in any kind of isolation. There are number of specialists and institutions attached to every organization, creating a rather large pool of attack points.
Employees in the industry are now working with increasingly complex software that must also remain collaborative in order to facilitate information exchange. However, there is little or no attempt at compartmentalizing information. Security at entry points is often extremely rudimentary with shared workstations, generic log-ins and instant (often) unfettered access. Even when one institution installs state-of-the-art infrastructure, an associate institution may have a poor framework.
The result of this apathetic attitude combined with lack the healthcare industry’s unique vulnerabilities has resulted in a spate of attacks like “ransom ware and malware”. But how can this effect the healthcare industry? Is it easier to solve a lone attack than invest millions in maintaining security systems? The answer is a resounding yes! As recent attacks have shown us lack of security can lead us to dangerously compromised levels.
The healthcare industry simply cannot afford to be paralyzed. When held to a gunpoint, hospitals and public healthcare systems have been forced to suspend operations, endangering the very life of patients.
The spate of attack has brought down public confidence in healthcare security. It may not seem drastic, but the administration of healthcare policies and practices depends on public trust and cooperation.
The attacks have in the past, targeted tech-based equipment, such as an MRI scanner. This impacts the operation of the organization and further endangers the life of patients.
Despite best efforts, the data acquired is often sold on the black market. This can have disastrous long-term effect on the people affected. It also opens up the organization to a loss of reputation, punitive legal action and regulatory fines.
In short, it may be pay less to invest in data security. The healthcare industry must come out of its myopia on security matters and install competent measures that can deal with its complex functions.