Technology powers the future of healthcare. Every day, new advancements guide doctors’ decisions, perform delicate procedures and monitor the health of thousands of people. The industry expects to make even greater progress in early diagnosis and care as time passes.
While this integration is vital, so is the need for proper cybersecurity practices. More smart devices and patient record digitalization mean more chances for malicious parties to tamper with them.
In 2022, healthcare cyber attacks occurred weekly, and the overall number increased by 74% from 2021. Old infrastructure often cannot ward off attacks, and smaller healthcare organizations might need more staffing or capabilities to handle such a crisis.
How can providers best prepare for this crisis, and what new trends are emerging for 2023? Staying up-to-date on healthcare cybersecurity trends is critical for a smooth integration of technology and the care and privacy of patients everywhere.
1. Continued Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware is software that tampers with a computer system or blocks a user out until payment ensues and is not going away anytime soon. 38% of healthcare cyberattacks are attributed to ransomware.
These attacks are meant to extort money from unsuspecting employees and organizations. They may block a user from using the mouse or keyboard or encrypt sensitive files until payment is made. Ransomware is a critical danger when hospitals and healthcare providers house thousands of files about patient health and financial data.
In some cases, hackers may use double or even triple extortion tactics that exfiltrate and threaten to publish patient data on the dark web. Here, sensitive data and personal information is bought and sold to malicious actors. Triple extortion threatens DDoS attacks on the organization, where the user’s network is overwhelmed and disrupted with fake traffic.
2. Ramping Up Employee Education
While ransomware has been a critical issue for cybersecurity professionals in healthcare industries, 2023 sees the continued danger of these attacks. Because 85% of data breaches link back to human error, employee education is essential. Providing courses or frequent meetings about basic cybersecurity lessons in spotting phishing and pharming techniques ensures all staff is prepared to protect patient data.
3. Increased Compromised Accounts
Similarly, account compromises are a key trend in healthcare cybersecurity. The digital ecosystem is widening as technology advances, and more devices integrate into hospitals and care centers. More employees are accessing charts and data daily, meaning many active accounts.
This also means the dangers of account compromise are increasing. In 2022, there were 707 breaches of public health information, with over 500 or more records exposed every 1.94 days.
A patient record passes through many hands at the care center, from the receptionist to the nurse, doctor, and healthcare vendor. It is also a fast-paced environment, so employees will sometimes receive blanket access to resources in the name of time. These are all breaches waiting to happen.
As a healthcare center grows its staff in the post-pandemic landscape, it must update access controls. They may use a password vault, so credentials are shared and secure. Multi-factor authentication is critical so the right employees can access the files they need. Again, training on phishing and other techniques is a common trend for cybersecurity teams.
4. Telehealth and Remote Care
With the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth surged in popularity. Suddenly, doctors and patients could communicate without risking cross-contamination or exposure in waiting rooms. Now, three years after the pandemic shook the world’s infrastructure, almost half of the surveyed medical professionals expect no change in telehealth demand in 2023.
This is ideal for patients who receive specialized care and more frequent monitoring with their doctors. Patients unable to easily leave their homes or suffering from diseases like COVID-19 can receive medication without breaching quarantine or making the long trek to the healthcare facility.
Now, the importance of network security and the delivery of patient records is more critical than ever. Experts are recommending against consumer video conferring applications like Zoom or Google Meet, as their protection may not be able to handle the malicious attacks of hackers. Instead, healthcare-specific software that offers encryption, passwords for entering calls, and monitored waiting rooms is the future of secure telehealth.
5. Implementing Medical Factoring
Medical factoring is another exciting trend for healthcare cybersecurity, as outdated infrastructure for payment may allow lapses in security. Insurance traditionally struggles with a delayed reimbursement process, increasing the stress of recovering patients.
This financial plan for vendors and providers streamlines the flow of payments and invoices for all parties involved. The provider will send invoices to the factoring firm, where they send an advance of the expected net collectible value. Depending on terms, medical providers and patients could receive the money within three days and provide aid on outstanding invoices with net terms well beyond 30 days.
With medical factoring, funds travel faster, and medical providers can keep an eye on supplies, utilities, and investments.
6. Providing IoT Security
Medical Internet of Things (IoT) devices are also integrated into medical care. By transmitting information about patient health, doctors are better informed for decision-making and procedures. MRI scanners are often IoT devices and pumps that deliver fluids and medicine.
Remote patient care and monitoring (RPM) devices are often IoT devices and connect patient data like heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure directly to medical professionals. With RPMs, doctors can monitor patients at all times of the day. Keeping people out of the hospital is crucial to combat overcrowding and understaffing.
As the usage of IoT and RPM increases, so does security. IoT is often connected to the internet, which offers enticing entries for hackers and threat actors. The WannaCry ransomware attack on Britain’s National Health Service in 2017 affected devices of all sorts, including MRI scanners and health monitors. It is critical to combat this in the name of patient care.
Multi-factor authentication is the key to protecting IoT security. MFA can connect a user through knowledge of key information — like their password or a security question — and through possessing a unique key fob or card; these unique and dynamic ways of verification ward off brute force attacks and phishing schemes only leak the password.
7. Attacks on Smaller Providers
Unfortunately, attacks on small healthcare clinics, centers, and hospitals are rising. Hackers view these establishments as weaker than larger providers and divert their efforts here. Often, smaller centers are short-staffed and need help to fund internal cybersecurity teams.
Another incentive for hackers is the lack of media attention. A breach or leak at a small physiotherapy clinic is not as big of a story as an attack on a nationally-recognized healthcare provider. Fewer law enforcement or cybersecurity forces are sent to these cases, and hackers continue unabetted.
To combat this trend, small providers can divert some of their funds to updating old infrastructure, passwords, and employee training on phishing schemes and tactics.
8. Outsourcing Cybersecurity Professionals
Small and large medical centers are outsourcing their security operations to cut down on costs and increase safety. Again, 2023 promises a widened digital ecosystem and room for malicious attacks, so relying on professional teams ensures centers do all they can to stay secure.
These experts can monitor systems and IT environments and complete audits frequently. Healthcare centers are often overcrowded and need space, so outsourced teams have the comfort of their base of operations.
9. Enforcing Zero Trust Architecture
Providers are moving to zero-trust architecture. This means removing any implicit trust in users on the network and assuming any user to be a threat. Access to resources like patient records and key operations is authenticated frequently and in various ways. Again, multi-factor authentication is the future of access. Zero trust architecture mitigates fears of data breaches and brute force attacks on records, applications, and medical devices.
The Future of Healthcare Technology
Technology and medical progress go hand in hand, and the future promises a wealth of radical care for patients worldwide. However, the expansion of digitalization of records, IoT devices, and outdated infrastructure means cybersecurity risks are rising. In 2023, medical providers must stay aware of these common threats and solutions to move into the future with the best care available.