In this age of digitization, emerging and disruptive technologies are changing the business landscape of every industry be it retail, banking, defence, automotive, or the healthcare industry. Digitized information is replacing piles of paper-based files making it easier to share information virtually, across the globe. This rapid onset of digitization comes with the danger of cyber crime in the form of diverse cyber crime attacks.
Cyber security has become a necessity for each and every organization with the global spend only seen increasing annually. A recent market research report predicts the global cyber security market to reach a value of USD 231 Billion by the year 2022.
Data Security and the Healthcare Outsourcing Industry
While no industry is alien to cyber crimes, malware and ransomware attacks, the healthcare industry has always been a soft target given the sensitive nature of patient information involved in day-to-day transactions. The Healthcare Cyber Security Market by itself is expected to be worth USD 10.85 Billion by the year 2022.
In the healthcare outsourcing industry, data security is a significant aspect, as data from healthcare outsourcing firms comprise of PIIs or Personal Identification Information highly sensitive in nature. While the shift to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and Electronic Health Records (EHRs) is helping the industry scale new dimensions, on the other hand, their protection becomes even more vital as these valuable digital assets have become the primary target of cyber attackers in the recent past.
Threats – Internal and External
The primary purpose of cyber attacks in the healthcare industry has been to steal identities, financial information, billing information, bank details and other personal patient information with phishing, spam emails and stolen devices with un-encrypted data being some of the most commonly used methods to steal such data. Cyber threats can be either internal or external, necessitating healthcare organizations and their vendors and partners to adopt very stringent data security measures that they update at regular intervals.
A report from Verizon, the US-based telecommunications firm, Protected Health Information Data Breach 2018, states that healthcare is the only industry where insider threats posed the greatest threat to sensitive data, with 58 percent of incidents coming from insiders.
Adopting Strong Cyber Security Measures
The industry is witnessing a spurt in the number of cyber attacks and data breaches. Using advanced techniques such as SQL injections, clickjacking and rootkits to name a few, attackers are able to easily surpass existing security protocols and gain access to patient records, and their personal information.
Organisations need to put in place strong data security measures in line with applicable state and federal regulations such as HIPAA and HITECH. To address the multi-faceted challenges of cyber security, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has also formulated a cyber-security framework. The framework’s building blocks are Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover. This can be implemented by companies in any sector and of any size for creating a cyber-resilient organization.
Today most of the attacks are targeted through employees. A weak cyber security system makes it very easy for any individual to leak data or disrupt internal data. The HIPAA Journal states that unauthorized access and theft of medical records remain the top concerns of the healthcare industry.
Hence, organizations need to develop cyber resilience by imparting knowledge to their employees, educating them on the possible threats and attacks and the ways to avoid and tackle such situations.
Following basic hygiene such as change management, role-based access, patch management, identity and access management etc. will tremendously help in minimizing threats and attacks. Organisations should also focus on developing strong incident detection and response processes. They should develop a playbook listing all possible scenarios, related response mechanism and role of individuals/team during such attacks.
Deception Technology is yet another new technique that many organizations are rampantly implementing as a defence mechanism to detect and curb threats. It lures attackers to “decoy” assets mimicking the organization’s actual data, in order to study and understand attack patterns, without the knowledge of the attackers.
With the advent of technology, Internet of Things (IoT) and rapid evolution of business models, the dependency on digital information is bound to increase. Providing improved patient care, reducing operational costs, increasing returns and improving the efficiency of the revenue cycle processes being the key reasons for adoption of technology and digitization in the healthcare industry, organizations need to be well informed of the lurking threats. As these advancements put at stake the reputation and brand value of the organization, data and cyber security have become a subject of importance across the board.
Organisations need to constantly evolve their cyber security measures to be able to detect, prevent, and react to the network attack or cyberattack at the time of intrusion. Such measures need to be scalable and flexible ensuring the organization is always prepared to take such combats head-on!