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The Escalating Concern of Healthcare Data Breaches

04 October, 2019

In the realm of hacking scenarios, healthcare information has become an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals. Recent data indicates a significant surge in healthcare-related cyberattacks, with 2018 witnessing three times more breaches than the preceding year, and 2019 maintaining a similar momentum.

The scope of healthcare breaches extends far beyond what one might imagine. Contrary to the notion that only a few individuals are affected, these hacks often compromise the data of thousands, and sometimes millions, of patients simultaneously. One striking example is the AMCA breach, which exposed the personal information of over 20 million patients. While these figures may seem staggering, they raise critical questions about the motivations behind these attacks.

The Allure of Healthcare Information to Hackers

Hackers target healthcare records not for minor ailments or medical conditions but for what is known as “full information.” This valuable data includes names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers. Unlike credit card information, which can be quickly rendered useless through cancellation, full information provides a treasure trove of personal data that changes rarely, if at all.

Medical information is considered even more valuable than credit card data, fetching a significantly higher price on the Dark Web. Current estimates suggest that your medical record could be worth 10 to 60 times more than your credit card details. Once in the hands of cybercriminals, this information can have long-lasting detrimental effects on your credit and overall well-being.

Factors Contributing to Vulnerability

Regrettably, many healthcare organizations and their affiliated entities have not taken the threat of hacking seriously enough, leading to the following contributing factors:

Outdated Systems

The healthcare industry has a reputation for being slow to update its computer systems. Small healthcare offices, in particular, often adopt an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. Additionally, stringent HIPAA requirements make finding and implementing new software a daunting task. As a result, outdated and vulnerable systems become easy targets for cybercriminals.

Lack of Security Departments

Unlike larger organizations, many smaller healthcare offices lack dedicated IT departments. Often, the general staff is responsible for managing day-to-day technical issues, leading to potential oversight and lack of expertise in cybersecurity.

Extensive Interconnectivity

With the advancement of technology, medical facilities have become interconnected, allowing for seamless transfer of information. However, this convenience comes with risks, as each point of transfer creates an opportunity for cybercriminals to find an entry point.

Proliferation of Devices

Modern healthcare heavily relies on technology, with multiple devices handling sensitive medical information. Ensuring the security of all these devices can be challenging, and any weak point becomes an open door for hackers.

Proactive Measures: A Vital Necessity

The healthcare industry must recognize the imperative of proactive cybersecurity measures. Neglecting IT security and waiting until a catastrophic event occurs is a dangerous approach. Healthcare professionals must embrace the idea that prevention is far more effective than reacting to breaches.

For those in the healthcare sector or associated fields (e.g., lawyers, billing departments, accountants), it is essential not to delay necessary security improvements. Additionally, patients and visitors should encourage healthcare providers to prioritize cybersecurity awareness and practices. Taking preventive steps is paramount to avoiding the distress of becoming the latest victim of a cybersecurity breach.

04 October, 2019