Technology has revolutionized every aspect of the global economy. It has helped businesses of all shapes and sizes improve their operations to boost efficiency while also enabling them to better reach and cater to their core clientele. Yet, there are few industries that have benefitted from the advent of digital and IT technologies more than the medical industry.
The great strides taken in medical technology advancements have made the storing and interrogation of patient data faster, easier, and more secure than ever. This has assisted in everything from reducing patient waiting times to facilitating faster and more accurate diagnoses.
But cyber criminals are extremely wily and resourceful, and medical facilities are a key target for all kinds of malicious software attacks, particularly ransomware. In order to protect their patient data and ensure that they are HIPAA compliant, medical institutions of all kinds often find themselves turning to healthcare-focused outsourced IT services to implement a cybersecurity plan and help insulate them from loss and damage.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a malicious form of software that is designed to either leak an organization’s sensitive information or grind its operations to a halt by triggering a catastrophic loss of function to their IT infrastructure. The cybercriminals who create the software and orchestrate these attacks will demand that a ransom be paid using an untraceable form of payment like cryptocurrency.Upon payment of the ransom, the organization is usually able to resume business, but payment does not always guarantee the systems will return to normal.
There are several different kinds of ransomware:
- Encrypting Ransomware: This form of ransomware targets an organization’s data, locking users out by encrypting their data until the ransom is paid.
- Non-Encrypting Ransomware: This works in a similar way, blocking access to an organization’s data but without encrypting it.
- Leakware/Doxware: This kind of ransomware steals an organization’s data and threatens to leak the stolen data until a ransom is paid.
- Mobile Ransomware: Mobile ransomware typically targets devices on the Android platform and installs malicious files to grant access to data stored on mobile devices. In an era where more and more businesses use Internet-of-Things enabled devices, this is an increasingly urgent priority.
Why are Healthcare Institutions a Common Target for Cyber Criminals?
Healthcare organizations have been one of the number one ransomware targets in the history of cybercrime. Some high-profile instances of ransomware attacks on medical facilities include a 2017 attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC), where cybercriminals allegedly demanded a ransom of $3.4 million. In the same month Kentucky Methodist Hospital, Chino Valley Medical Center, and Desert Valley Hospital in California were also targeted by ransomware attacks.
But what makes medical institutions so appealing to cyber criminals as compared to other facilities or large corporations? One of the biggest reasons is that cyber criminals understand just how sensitive patient data is and how important its protection is to healthcare providers.
They also understand that if facilities lose confidential data, they could owe a hefty sum of money in government penalties or patient lawsuits. Cyber criminals have realized that both the incentive and the ransom potential for cyber attacks is therefore greater among medical practices.
What Do Cybersecurity Plans Have to Do with HIPAA Compliance?
A cogent cybersecurity plan with robust redundancies to protect against ransomware is not just important to protect yourself and your patients from ransomware. It’s also important in ensuring that your Kansas medical office stays compliant with healthcare security laws such as HIPAA.
Because cyber attacks are often targeted toward medical practices and patient data is highly sensitive, HIPAA compliance mandates that medical providers have an adequate cybersecurity plan. The trouble is that many healthcare providers don’t have the knowledge or resources to implement a plan on their own.
That’s why several healthcare providers choose to outsource IT managed services instead of maintain their cybersecurity in-house. Healthcare-focused IT service providers have teams who are trained to maintain HIPAA-compliant cybersecurity plans in medical practices. They are required to stay up-to-date on any changes made to HIPAA policies and implement them immediately.
What Happens if You Don’t Have an Adequate Cybersecurity Plan?
Medical offices are extremely busy and have their hands full dealing with the needs of their patients. As such, they likely do not have time to spare to plan for ransomware attacks and other IT disasters. It’s crucial, therefore, that medical practices hire a competent IT service provider who can fully dedicate their time and resources to implementing a cybersecurity plan. Without an adequate plan, you’re putting your practice at a huge risk.
Some of the risks of not having a proper cybersecurity plan in place include
- Financial loss due to having to pay a ransom
- Financial loss due to government penalties (HIPAA non-compliance)
- Financial loss due to lawsuits from patients whose data has been breached
- Loss of credibility and patient trust, which could take years to rebuild
Ransomware attacks are always changing and evolving. It’s imperative that all healthcare facilities have a cyber security provision that will also evolve to counter them.
How a Managed IT Services Company Can Help
A managed IT services company can help you by creating a suite of cybersecurity redundancies that are tailored to the needs and demands of the healthcare industry. They can take the time, effort, and expense out of designing and implementing a custom cyber security system that will keep you and your patients fully protected. Many IT service providers even offer fully staffed teams at the price of one salaried employee.
If you’re looking for an established, healthcare-focused IT service provider, Cenetric can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can build a custom cybersecurity plan for your medical practice.