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A Cybersecurity Outlook for The Healthcare Industry in 2022

Cybersecurity incidents captured the world’s attention in 2021. But unfortunately, no industry was spared from the claws of cyber attackers, and the healthcare industry remained a prime victim. Between the rapid digital transformation in 2021 and the ingenuity of cyber threat actors, we experienced some of the most sophisticated exploitations to date, compromising national security infrastructures and global healthcare networks.

As more critical data continues to flow through the US healthcare industry, security professionals expect to see heightened and streamlined attack methodologies imposed upon its systems, people, and processes. A recent survey revealed that healthcare organizations experienced a 29.5% increase in data breach costs—from $7.13 million in 2020 to $9.23 million in 2021. As a result, the healthcare industry’s demand and cost for cybersecurity insurance increased from 10% to almost 30% within one year.

This article covers cybersecurity challenges from 2021, advancement opportunities for 2022, and how healthcare organizations can leverage customized cyber risk management processes to achieve a consistently resilient cybersecurity posture in 2022.  

Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges in 2021

The healthcare industry is a very lucrative target for cybercriminals, containing high-value patient data and a low tolerance for downtime. In addition, cybersecurity challenges are increasing due to tech dependency for daily operations. From an overwhelmed critical infrastructure of unsecured IoT devices to additional network stress from rapid cloud migration, 2021 illuminated many security gaps that this industry must address.

Below are some of the top healthcare cybersecurity challenges from 2021:

  • Spear-phishing and ransomware – According to a healthcare cybersecurity study, targeted phishing attacks contributed to 57% of all cybersecurity incidents within the healthcare sector. However, DDoS attacks, ransomware, and malware continue to wreak havoc—infecting networks, cutting off access to critical operations, and slowing down processes.
  • Insider threats and data breaches – Many cyber attacks begin inside an organization, from the malicious or accidental disclosure of patient information to the misconfiguration of technologies like cloud storage systems. According to reports from the HIPAA journal, there are typically 51 data breaches in the healthcare industry per month. However, in 2021 the total number of reported data breaches that affected the healthcare industry amounted was over 11.2 million cases. Zero trust access strategies and data logs are best suited to tackle this security gap.
  • Cloud vulnerabilities and unsecured IoT devices – Despite cloud-based data storage’s benefits, not all cloud solutions are HIPAA compliant. For example, many popular cloud services lack data security, privacy, and other HIPAA requirements. Also, IoT devices used in healthcare have outdated systems, making them vulnerable.
  • Third-party vendor risks – A security breach can occur when healthcare organizations outsource elements of their service to third-party vendors, such as the breach of Trinity Health’s data systems in 202. The hacker accessed patient data through a third-party associate and accessed over 5 million individual records.          

Healthcare Cybersecurity Opportunities For 2022

Investing in cybersecurity is essential. Healthcare trends like telemedicine, health apps, cloud computing, predictive analysis, and AI will increase. They enable the industry to meet the increasing demand for quality and safer services. However, the rising internet dependency adds to its vulnerability. Not surprisingly, telemedicine is here to stay; a recent study projected the market to grow from $396.76 billion in 2027 to $79.79 billion in 2020.

Telemedicine improved the quality of communication between doctors and patients and has proven safer for all parties amidst the ongoing pandemic. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a promising advancement for the healthcare industry. For example, virtual nurse assistants can provide a personalized patient experience; robotic surgical systems can perform procedures with more precision, and machine learning-based thermometers can improve diagnosis and treatment accuracy. Also, AI may likely help reduce the skyrocketing healthcare costs in the United States.

Cloud computing will become an essential part of the healthcare industry with increased digitization. Electronic medical records or EMRs are integral for proper diagnosis and treatment. Storing medical imaging on the HIPAA-compliant cloud service saves additional expenditure.

Combating Healthcare Cyber Threats in 2022

The highly vulnerable nature of the healthcare industry and its proximity to critical services calls for robust and proactive security countermeasures to combat the emerging threats in 2022. Implementing the best cybersecurity practices is necessary for protecting information systems and infrastructure. In addition, this secures patient data and ensures compliance with regulations.

Below are some steps healthcare organizations can take to minimize cyber risks.

  • HIPAA compliance: HIPAA sets standards for patient data protection. It also includes mobile applications and ensures compliance with all data flow. Achieving HIPAA compliance secures sharing confidential health information and streamlines administrative functions, thereby increasing efficiency.
  • Restrict access control: As many data breach incidents involve insiders, the best way to prevent misuse is to restrict access. Regulated access and data logs will keep track of anyone accessing the patient information.
  • Secure offsite backup: Backing up critical data at an offsite location will help healthcare organizations continue their operations in case of a security breach. The availability of dependable data backup can help minimize the impact of a cyberattack.
  • Seek cybersecurity expert guidance: A reliable cybersecurity professional can help you spot weak links and strengthen the security framework from the ground up. With the Chief Security Officer-as-a-Service from GoldSky, you can establish a robust cybersecurity program that includes determining compliances, negotiating security requirements with partners, developing policies and procedures, analyzing threat models, and more.

Conclusion

With the evolving threat landscape and increase in phishing, ransomware, insecure devices, and cloud vulnerabilities, healthcare organizations must prepare in advance. Furthermore, because EHR and telemedicine will experience more technological advancements and expanded scope in 2022, investing in cybersecurity is indispensable. In addition, healthcare-based organizations must comply with stricter government regulations to safeguard sensitive patient and process information.

Although new and emerging innovations offer many opportunities for growth in the healthcare industry, the need for robust cybersecurity risk management operations is critical today more than ever. Though the reinforcement of cybersecurity measures is here to stay, the best option for healthcare organizations is to opt for customized cybersecurity solutions that cater to unique requirements. Therefore, small to midsize healthcare organizations can leverage tailored cybersecurity services, such as vCISO and CSOaaS, to help achieve a fully resilient cybersecurity program.