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Healthcare Cybersecurity in 2019: What You Need to Know

By Tim Callahan29 Jul 2019

healthcare cybersecurityEvolving healthcare technology offers plenty of advantages for healthcare professionals and enhances the quality of care they provide. But there’s a dark side to implementing advanced tech in hospitals and private practices.

Cybercrime is on the rise, and all the information we collect and store makes the healthcare industry a prime target for data-hungry hackers. In fact, 34 percent of the ransomware attacks in 2017 impacted healthcare organizations, according to a report by Cylance.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can help strengthen your defense. Here’s what you need to know about healthcare cybersecurity.

Why do cybercriminals target the healthcare industry?

There are a few reasons hackers prey on healthcare organizations:

Healthcare organizations store a lot of data

Electronic health records (EHRs) are chock-full of valuable, sensitive patient information hackers can use or sell. These records often include enough electronic data for someone to steal a patient’s identity and open fraudulent lines of credit or get healthcare on the patient’s dime.

Hospitals can’t spare downtime

When hospital systems go down, it’s literally a matter of life and death. Hackers know that healthcare organizations can’t allow for downtime and are more likely to do whatever necessary to get things back up and running — which makes them the perfect target for a ransomware attack.

The healthcare industry is often behind on security measures

The healthcare landscape is massive and complex, with each organization maintaining its own processes and procedures. With so much tech being used and so many different types of software at play, it’s easy to miss critical updates or continue leveraging legacy equipment. But just one outdated piece of technology can be exploited by cybercriminals and used to access or take down an entire system.

How do healthcare cybersecurity breaches occur?

Hackers can access your systems in a few different ways. Here are some of the most common.

Phishing emails

These are legitimate-looking emails that ask recipients to click links or open files, which will infect their device and give hackers access to their system.


Malware is a type of software that infects computers and spreads to other devices to capture sensitive data. Hackers usually use an infected link, application or USB drive to access the first device.


Hackers take over your system, often holding data hostage or blocking your ability to access files until you pay a ransom. Ransomware spreads similarly to malware.

Social engineering

In this method, cybercriminals rely on deception and manipulation to gain access to your data. Often, they pretend to be someone else via phone or email. Sophisticated social engineers carefully study people’s interactions and communications to make themselves as believable as possible.

Weak passwords

Using easily guessed passwords (such as “password,” your birthdate or your pet’s name) can increase your risk of becoming a cyberattack victim. Often, hackers use special software to run billions of password combinations until they find one that works. The easier your password, the more likely it will be to crack.

What can you do to protect your organization from cyber attacks?

Here are two things you can do to strengthen your defense and protect your practice and patient data.

Educate your team on best practices

It’s critical everyone in your organization understands how and why healthcare cyberattacks happen and what they can do to help prevent them. In addition to using more secure passwords and not providing sensitive information to unauthorized personnel, all staff members should also learn how to identify potential hacks and where to report suspicious emails and activities.

Update your systems

Every piece of technology in your organization represents another way hackers can access your systems and cause damage. To reduce your security risk, make sure you take updates seriously and advocate for outdated equipment to be replaced with more secure options.Healthcare cybersecurity is a serious issue and as hackers become more sophisticated, the risks will only continue to rise. By staying informed and taking the right precautions, you can ensure you’re protecting your patients and your organization.

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