Improving Cybersecurity in the Medical Industry

Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity, so far, remains the most daunting challenge facing the healthcare industry, amplifying every passing day. Data breaches occurring every year cost the healthcare industry as much as $5.6 billion per annum, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Year in Review, also states, an average of at least one health data breach per day was reported in 2016 alone, which ultimately impacted as many as 27 million patient records. Now that’s big!

What is even more alarming is the fact that these cybersecurity risks are becoming increasingly difficult to identify, prevent and mitigate. As per a Whitepaper published by Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), the primary factor that needs to be blamed here is the significant and chronic underinvestment in cybersecurity, which has resulted in high exposure to cyberattacks and very minimal capabilities to detect and mitigate them. And while cybercriminals may hack through a given healthcare organization in only a matter of seconds, it more than often takes weeks and even months to detect the breach. And by then the amount of damage that has been done is so massive and grave that reversal is technically impossible. Moreover so, with the rapid adoption of HER and mobile devices, healthcare cybersecurity departments have become highly prone to oversights that unintentionally invite malicious hackers on board.

Most Common Cybersecurity Challenges in Healthcare


Numerous data breach investigation reports have identified a host of vulnerabilities that all healthcare organizations face and that merit special attention while devising data management and risk mitigation strategies:

  • Malware and Ransomware – malware and ransomware are primarily used by cyber criminals to completely shut down the victim devices, servers and sometimes the entire networks. In some cases, ransom is then demanded to fix the encryption.
  • Cloud Threats – since majority of the health information of patients is stored on the cloud, inadequate encryption of this data can become a potential weak spot for cybersecurity.
  • Phishing Attacks – mass emails are sent out from seemingly reputable sources to capture sensitive information from the users which is then misused by cyber criminals.
  • Encryption Blind Spots – as much as encryption is crucial for data protection, it has an inherent tendency to create blind spots where hackers can hide from the detection tools.
  • Misleading Websites – forged websites have been created by cyber criminals with addresses similar to the original reputable sites. Sometimes they simply substitute the .com for .gov, which sends off a very imprudent illusion that both the websites are the same.
  • Employee Errors – apart from all the technology related concerns, sometimes employees can also leave the healthcare organization and relevant data susceptible to attack through mistakes such as unencrypted devices, weak passwords and other failures of compliance.
  • Patient Medical Devices – medical devices that require connectivity to external systems, such as pacemakers that need to be connected to the internet, also face serious vulnerabilities to data theft. Preventive security measures have been mandated by FDA prior to the installation of such devices.

Improving Cybersecurity in Healthcare


Improving cybersecurity in the healthcare industry has, therefore, become imperative to sustain the industry at large and to maintain patient satisfaction.

Risk Assessment

The most important undertaking for improving cybersecurity is to make appropriate risk assessment for the practice in focus. This should address concerns such as data loss through hardware failure or software bugs, deliberate theft or data corruption by employees, accidental viewing of confidential data, active hacking attempts to infiltrate network security including DDOS attacks too crash the servers, and so forth. The primary purpose of this activity is to proactively address every possible risk that might be associated with the practice. It will also assign due accountability. Moreover, the policies implemented must also include contingency plans that outline the consequences in case of any breach occurs.

Every Day Common Practices

There are certain everyday common practices that are required to streamline cybersecurity process and to make it an ongoing process. This includes activities such as ensuring strong passwords and regular change of passwords, disabling unnecessary account, preventing unauthorized software installations, removing unnecessary software and browser plugins, restricting access to doubtful websites, and restricting access to physical ports. Moreover, it is imperative to note that gone are the days when IT admins used to blindly assume reputation as a guarantee for quality. In today’s uncertain times, it is extremely important to conduct thorough research before making any important decision, because security comes first.

Continuous Training & Education

On-going education and training of the staff is often the forgotten component of cybersecurity. Practices must necessarily invest in training their medical staff about workplace security protocols, privacy practices and most importantly, the significance of protection of confidential patient data. Regular training allows them to ensure swift response and appropriate actions when something goes wrong.

Contingency Planning

While it is inevitable to ensure 100% security, it is always advisable to develop and document a comprehensive back-up plan. This is essentially part of disaster planning, which should include both a thorough assessment on what information needs to back-up and how, and what procedures need to be put into place for restoring back-ups. Interestingly, many healthcare management solutions now include data archival solutions that are updated with electronic health record software stored offsite in the cloud.

Limit Physical Access

Besides data protection through encryption and establishing other security protocols, physical access to devices carrying electronic health information must be limited to authorized access only. You need to understand that data is not only stolen through network breaches, but also through theft of device carrying the critical information. Loss of laptops, hard drives, flash drives, DVDs containing medical data, etc. accounts for about half of the data losses reported. Hence, strict actions to limit physical access to data must be ensured for data protection.

Regular Audit and Evaluation

Apart from deploying all the strategies discussed above, regular evaluation and audit is perhaps the evolving ideal for the healthcare industry. Regular assessment of the policies and procedures must be an essential part of the data governance process, critically assessing all the items on the list that are working well and all those that merit attention. Adopting a proactive systematic approach, even a small practice can comply with safety protocols and ensure cybersecurity.

The healthcare industry continues to be the hot favourite target of hackers. Rapid and constant changes to the digital environment and healthcare communication have significantly impacted how medical practitioners use medical devices, perform patient care, store and retrieve patient data and conduct other business operations.


An image of cybersecurity in the medical, Data, Improving Cybersecurity in the Medical Industry

Saba Mohsin

Saba is an ardent blogger with proficiency in Digital Health & Health IT industry. Her in-depth biotech knowledge and broad business acumen of 12+ years reflects in her dedication to inspire the world on how technology drives success in healthcare. She offers diverse marketing and PR content pieces that are both insight full and engaging.

Hacking Cyber Security’s battle for workers

Andrew Marsh • 30th September 2022

Cyber attacks are increasing exponentially, cyber professionals are quitting, and ultimately, no one is replacing them. Worldwide, the cyber workforce shortfall is approximately 3.5 million people. We have a mountain to climb. While there are rising numbers of people with security degrees and qualifications, this falls way short of industry demand.

Getac becomes British Touring Car Championship official technology partner

Chris Gibbs • 29th September 2022

In competitive motorsports, the smallest detail can be the difference between winning and losing. Getac is the official technology partner to the British Touring Car Championships (BTCC) helping it achieve its digital transformation goals, putting a wealth of information at the fingertips of both race officials and teams alike, and helping deliver incredibly exciting racing.

The Time is Now for Digital Transformation

Paul Waddilove • 29th September 2022

According to a McKinsey research report, 70% of enterprises that had taken on digital transformation reported in 2020 that their momentum had stalled. It is worth understanding the reasons–culture or scale for example–causing the slowdown as the payoffs from digital transformation can be impressive. It can lead to more efficient operations, with enterprises enjoying autonomy...

Addressing the environmental impact of the data centre

David Watkins • 29th September 2022

David Watkins, solutions director at VIRTUS Data Centres , share how you may have seen the recent news that Thames Water has launched a probe into the impact of data centres on water supplies in and around London, as it imposed a hosepipe ban on its 15 million customers in a drought-hit area. Ensuring that...

How Can Businesses Ensure Efficient Management of COSU Devices

Nadav Avni • 29th September 2022

Nadav Avni, Chief Marketing Officer at Radix Technologies, shares how when it comes to speeding up queues and providing instant information, nothing beats corporate-owned, single-use (COSU) devices. When put in kiosk mode, these devices become efficient digital assistants that collect and share information.

The Cloud – Debunking the Myth

Guy Parry Williams • 26th September 2022

Mid-sized businesses are head down, wrestling with constantly evolving operational challenges, from skills shortages to supply chain delays and raging inflation. Management teams lack the time and often confidence to explore technology innovation and, as a result, too many companies are missing vital opportunities to cut costs, boost efficiency and reach new customers.