The importance of cybersecurity in the healthcare sector

Hospitals, health centres and all the elements that make up the healthcare sector depend to a large extent on the proper functioning of computerized systems. In fact, these are indispensable for performing clinical and administrative tasks at any time during all days of the year. Therefore, and taking into account the high sensitivity of patients’ clinical data, cybersecurity prevention is essential. Theft or misuse of them can have devastating consequences.

Cyberattacks on hospitals and health centers, an unre-new practice

It is curious, but traditionally the complexes that make up the healthcare sector have taken little or no care of their cybersecurity processes. In fact, it has been regarded as a sector of little interest to cybercriminals, when the opposite could really be said.

It is true that, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, cyberattacks have multiplied and becomemore relevant at the media level. However, they are not the first. For example, the different organizations that make up the health sector in the United States encrypted the losses of this criminal activity in 2019 at more than $4 billion.

The risks of not taking care of cybersecurity in the health sector

But what are the main reasons why cybercriminals focus on attacking hospitals and health centers? Basically, we can cite the following:

  • Theft of clinical patient information.
  • Theft of the identity of medical specialists.
  • Access to sensitive patient data.
  • Purchase and sale of clinical information on the black market.

This relieves the importance of hiring an experienced professional with a cybersecurity career. But there’s more. For example, in recent years, the number of medical devices running connected to the Internet has grown exponentially. And, with them, the risk of cyberattack. In fact, this trend is expected to continue upwards for quite some time.

These devices use technology of theso-called Internet of Things (IoT) and, despite their undoubted usefulness in the healthcare sector, most cyberattacks are directed towards them. The lack of protection and vulnerability they present to hackers means that, in too many cases, end-user security is compromised by them.

Cybercriminals’ preferred formula for attacking healthcare IoT devices

There is no doubt that ransomware files and malware are the most commonly used by cybercriminals when attacking health centers, hospitals and other particularly vulnerable places within the healthcare sector.

A ransomware is a program that downloads, installs and runs on your computer thanks to the Internet. In doing so, it ‘hijacks’ all the device or some of the information it stores and, in exchange for its release, requests an economic bailout (hence its name).

The removal of these files and malware is not excessively complex for computer security specialists, but the consequences they can have on hospitals and medical centers are of great consideration. For example, they involve:

  • Disruption of the center’s operational processes, at least, on the affected IoT computers.

  • Inability to access patient information and diagnostic tests.
  • Need to restore systems and backups.
  • Damage to the corporate reputation of the center or company after suffering the attack.

All of this comes at a very important economic cost from a business point of view. In fact, it can be so high that the investment of implementing the best cybersecurity solutions sounds ridiculous. Just restoring systems is a task that can stop medical center activity for almost a day.

How to prevent cyberattacks in the health sector?

Interestingly, the best way
to prevent cyberattacks on IoT
equipment is by strategically investing in those devices. That is, making greater and better use of them. More and more technologies are in place to control access, block attacks by malicious files, and ultimately safeguard critical information and processes with as little human intervention as possible.

The reality is to acquire an infrastructure of equipment, programs and specialized personnel within a hospital or medical center can be an inesumable investment. However, there are alternatives. The most interesting of these is the one that goes through the implementation of cloud solutions. The reduction in costs is very noticeable and the solutions offered are very effective.

SaaS(Software as a Service)solutions are currently the most widely used in medical centers that use cloud platforms for their systems. But for them to work, it is necessary to consider a cybersecurity strategy of the data prior to the dumping of the data on the servers. Encryption and encryption mechanisms are basic at this point. A fairly simple and fully automated task that can result in a really high return on investment.

In short, the health sector, both in terms of hospitals and health centres, is particularly sensitive in cybersecurity. Especially since most of its processes depend on IoT devices that are highly sensitive to the action of hackers. However, the advantages they provide in terms of efficiency and productivity make their use indispensable. With this being clear, it is obvious that the investment in protecting these systems, which must always be made from a strategic perspective, is essential.