Cyber Security in Healthcare

Cyber attacks and security breaches are increasing all over the world.  Every sector is affected by such breaches and the healthcare sector is one of the most targeted sectors. The health care sectors are often targeted because they have personal health and other research information that have a high value on the black market.

Recent studies also show that majority of security breaches have been faced by the health sectors. Hackers are improving techniques to get into networks and systems and steal the medical data. Such data can be used in frauds and sell it to foreign organizations. The patient’s details can also be sold to the criminals and different illegal transactions are also made by using such personal data.

Healthcare organizations should be very careful if they digitize the details of the patients and the overall information of the organization because the data breaches can cause great damages. For instance, the HIPPA journal states that South Shore hospital in Massachusetts had to pay $750,000 for the damages because they couldn’t secure data of around 80,000 patients.

According to Beazley Breach Insights Report, healthcare sectors have been affected by the highest number of data breaches in 2018 than any sector in the U.S. Similarly, in 2019 the healthcare sector was highly targeted by the hackers, exposing millions of customer’s details around the world that costs around $1billion.

 At the end of 2019, multiple hospitals in Australia were the victim of data breaches. The healthcare services in south-west Victoria and Gippsland faced the loss of numerous patient details and details of the administrative works.

Likewise, health sectors again became the major target of attackers during COVID-19. Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR), UK-based research team researching for a vaccine against Coronavirus reported a cyber breach in February.

Reuters stated that WHO was also attacked by the hackers in March but couldn’t succeed. The WHO detected that the hackers were targeting the email system of the organization.

Cyber Security Challenges in Healthcare

Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report found that most breaches are about money and attackers usually take the easiest route to obtain the information they need. Consequently, many common threats continue to be problematic in health care, including:

  • Malware and ransomware: Cybercriminals use malware and ransomware to shut down individual devices, servers, or even entire networks. Most of the ransomware encrypts all the data and asks for a ransom to rectify the encryption.
  • Vulnerable Application & Storage: Some medical and health organization uses the vulnerable and unpatched application to record and store their medical data which eventually get exploited by a hacker.
  • Cloud threats: An increasing amount of protected health information is being stored on the cloud. Without proper encryption, this can be a weak spot for the security of health care organizations.
  • Misleading websites: Clever cybercriminals have created websites with addresses that are similar to reputable sites. Some simply substitute .com for .gov, giving the unwary user the illusion that the websites are the same.
  • Phishing attacks: This strategy sends out mass amounts of emails from seemingly reputable sources to obtain sensitive information from users.
  • Encryption blind spots: While encryption is critical for protecting health data, it can also create blind spots where hackers can hide from the tools meant to detect breaches.
  • Employee error: Employees can leave health care organizations susceptible to attack through weak passwords, unencrypted devices, and other failures of compliance.

Strategies for improving cybersecurity

Furthermore, healthcare organizations need to have strong cybersecurity which will secure the data. Here are some ways to deal with cybersecurity attacks.

  • Security awareness among staff

Cybersecurity awareness should be circulated to all the employees working in the health sectors. This will give inform the employees on being extra careful about the data. The hackers get connected through unauthorized devices and get access to internal systems. The nontechnical health professionals should also be informed on backups, privacy, software updates, and passwords. The cybersecurity awareness will give them the ideas on data breaches and let them know about the ways through which the data are accessed. Organizations should train employees on cybersecurity and stop them in letting unauthorized personnel into confidential data.  This will also develop a security culture in healthcare organizations.

  • Build security strategies

Every health care organization should have a proper security plan to tackle any threats that can occur. There should be a proper strategy for securing digital issues and figure out possible security problems. Building a strategy will help in finding out the needs and figuring out the ways to deal with them. Infrastructures needed in maintaining cybersecurity should also be pre-planned because even if any breach occurs, immediate actions can be taken to deal with it. Through the strategies, the organizations will have a plan to deal with the issues properly and effectively and choose secure IT services and products.

  • Disclose vulnerabilities

Healthcare organizations should also be aware of discovering vulnerabilities before an attack occurs. They can come up with regular vulnerability tests to deal with possible threats. Such tests will also help in discovering any configuration or vulnerabilities. This will secure the system and discover the problem before the problems hit the organizations. Finding out problems at an early stage saves from huge damages and data loss. Reviewing the internal functions will give ideas on what’s happening within the organization.

  • Regularly monitor

Regular monitoring can help a lot to prevent the organization from data breaches. It can detect any unusual movements and take action immediately. Monitoring will help in generating alerts and keep an eye upon any suspicious activity. The organizations will get ideas of a potential security breach and deal with it in an early stage. This will prevent any attacks and also reduce the damages if disclosed immediately.


To promote awareness among various health organizations, we are currently running an online CTF challenge to demonstrate how data are kept and stored insecurely in different organizations and what are the preventive measure that an organization should cope up with to prevent this kind of attack and breaches. You can find the CTF at

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