Why the healthcare industry is consistently the target of ransomware attack.

The goal of a threat actors is to make money, PERIOD. MONEY is the only motivator.

The healthcare industry has highly sought-after patient information. This information is desired by threat actors for varying reasons i.e.; to steal sensitive medical records, access personal information such as social security numbers, financials and private patient information.

This information can be used for identity theft or sold on the black market, at times, blackmailing the original owner to keep from having their personal information shared, especially high-profile individuals.

Hackers are shutting down and locking systems, limiting access to patient records, deleting and/or corrupting files, and other tactics that increase risk to patients — until a ransom is paid. In worse-case scenarios, it is life threatening because patients cannot be treated. It is also problematic because records are encrypted or destroyed, removing pertinent health records that NEED to be easily accessible for best everyday treatment, or corrupting the information that exists and causing confusion.

Why the focus on the healthcare industry?

The outdated process of using paper to track patient information made it difficult for clinicians in different facilities to work in partnership when it came to patient care. The healthcare industry is embracing new technologies and continues to evolve away from a paper trail, toward streamlining their patient record systems. These data records enable healthcare officials to immediately access patient information, record changes and updates, and instantaneously share this communication with all those associated. In addition, many smaller healthcare offices are transitioning to their larger affiliation’s information sharing platforms.

New Technologies driving change in healthcare.

  • Implantable and wearable devices, used at home or in health care settings, are being utilized to simplify response time and provide the ability to treat or diagnose a patient. Wearable devices provide personalized health data and offer the essential information to identify a treatment plan. In addition, patients with chronic pain have devices that can provide individualized, accessible pain management.
  • Surgical Robotics devices are altering the surgical processes, increasing the life expectancy of patients, making surgeries less invasive, and greatly decreasing recovery times.
  • Patients are more involved in their healthcare with access to patient-portals, allowing communication between providers and patients via online, text messaging, and email.
  • Electronic prescribing reduces prescription errors allowing clinicians to send prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy including medical alerts, clinical flags, and reminders along with the script. These factors help reduce medication errors and improve patient safety.
  • Sharing essential and accurate patient data between healthcare workers, between sites is essential to maintain current and consistent patient records.
  • Healthcare providers can access and view images, documents, and videos at all hours. This immediate access to information speeds up patient diagnosis and response times.
  • Encryption is essential in protecting patient information, if a breach occurs, any data that is acquired will be unreadable, undecipherable, and unusable.

These are just a sampling of new technologies available in the healthcare industry. Technology has become an integral part of medicine today. These vital technologies increase efficiency, enhance quality, and reduce costs, hence why is it absolutely necessary to protect this information, because we have seen that lives can depend on it.

What can Healthcare do to protect their technology and patient information?

First and foremost, both healthcare professionals and patients need to be made more aware of the risks they face from hacks. Awareness and training on best practices will reduce risky behavior. Healthcare officials should implement strong safety protocols, not focusing on ease of use, to ensure both patient and providers can be as safe as possible. The importance of information management in healthcare cannot be underestimated. While larger volumes of information are simplified, it also contributes to problematic security risks.

Healthcare records contain highly sensitive personal details that require protection. Numerous healthcare entities are accessing the same data. Not all offices have the same security processes in place, while some lack awareness of potential security breach concerns. Patients want their data to be secure but are frustrated when it’s difficult to access it. Portals allow patients to check test results, make appointments or payments, all of which require a high level of security for patient peace of mind and to prevent HIPAA violations. Login Security can be a major problem, if there is a breach of user ID or password, patient information such as dates of birth and social security numbers are at risk. In addition, the software behind these products, may be vulnerable, especially if the device is older and updates have not occurred.

Best Practices in healthcare to avoid malware and ransomware.

Monitoring: Healthcare need to ensure they can detect vulnerabilities in early stages; continuous monitoring is essential in identifying and thwarting off attack. In the event of a ransomware attack, a competent proactive MSP will have a process in place to identify a cybersecurity breach.

Communication: It is vital that internal communications between staff are secured using a high-security VPN. This ensures that data is encrypted as it moves around the hospital’s network. That way, even if it is obtained, it is complicated to determine the contents of the data. This leaves the information useless for either blackmail or re-selling.

Regular Maintenance: The best way to avoid issues is to ensure software and hardware are regularly updated, upgraded, and patched. It sounds simple, but the reality is that most hacks happen due to older hardware and software, as viruses penetrate old, out of date systems. A qualified IT Services Company will proactively maintain systems to keep technology consistently working and healthcare systems protected.

Training: Team members must be trained as well as patients on how to identify possible threats. Establish two-factor authentication to secure login. Also, strong passwords are imperative. Please see our Password Strength Test that explains the importance of the right password and how to create it. A knowledgeable IT Services Company will have the ability to provide training and offer best practices to help ensure safety. Please see Do Not Click blog.

Backup: Backup your computer, server, website, and devices regularly to a safe place that hackers cannot access. In case of attack, backup is the ONLY recovery, check daily to ensure your backup is running and without errors. An experienced IT Services Company will monitor and ensure backup is consistently running, to make certain recovery is available at any given moment.

Encryption: Staff need to ensure the process to encrypt proprietary patient information is executed when being sent across healthcare networks or when they are working remotely to ensure protection.

Respond Quickly: The more time it takes to respond to an attack, the higher the recovery cost. Identifying a breach is the most important part of the response. The longer a breach goes on, it increases the damage that can be done, causing greater consequences. Plan with your IT Services Company to have a strategic process in place, be prepared and ready to immediately execute to response in case of attack.

Healthcare offices are dependent upon their technology working, how they need, when they need it.  They are required to immediately accessing patient information at a moment’s notice, current and accurate patient information is dependent upon this. Reliable IT is as important as a sterilized scapula, as there is a process for sterilization, there is a clear process to avoid threats. Skipping steps in the process could result in infection, infection of your systems, and the result could be malware resulting in ransomware.

Choosing the correct IT Services Company is vital, it is not just the technology, but also the people and process in place that increase your cybersecurity protection. This means that there must be constant monitoring and proactive maintenance taking place. If an IT Services Company is continuously buried in service tickets, they will not have the time, nor discipline, to apply timely patches and other vital actions – and this will leave a business vulnerable.

It is imperative for healthcare officials to have a trained partner in a ransomware situation to immediately mitigate an attack with a pre-planned response strategy, not searching for this partner while the attack is taking place.

Choose wisely, it could be the difference of protecting vital technologies and patient information, ensure your doors are always open to respond to a patient in need.

We are open and look forward to answering questions, feel free to reach out 508.375.6444

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Let I.T. WORKS! be your Cybersecurity Guardian. A reality check conversation with us puts businesses in a better place to understand their needs and make critical informed decisions.

I.T.WORKS! decreases the risk of ransomware by minimizing exposure and staying ahead of it with proactive maintenance and verified backup. 

I.T.WORKS!’s team of experts minimize exposure to ransomware through proactive maintenance. This unique proactive approach delivers consistently working technology and resolves problems prior to them becoming an issue, especially with new obstacles/threats daily.  Consistently running technology is a safeguard against malware, as viruses penetrate old, out-of-date, unpatched software.  Software that works seamlessly together and real-time monitoring are essential.  

Verified updates and patches on all systems and hardware are extremely important in ensuring your technology is up and running consistently. Many MSP’s will claim this is being completed, however I.T.WORKS! guarantees it is being consistently completed and verified daily.  We can show reporting to this fact.  Also, an MSP constantly battling large numbers of tickets reactively for clients will not be able to provide this same type of safety barrier.  The tickets are indicative of bigger, out of date, unpatched technology issues that lacks the proper hygiene needed to keep business systems safe from ransomware.

Staying ahead of security threats requires a solid, verified backup plan.  I.T.WORKS!’s dedicated TEAM physically monitors backups to ensure they are working, not taking it for granted.  Secure Backups are confirmed completed (they are individually checked).  Clients that follow I.T.WORKS! stringent protocols will have backed up data in three locations.  Effective backup requires a person physically watching, checking, and chasing down errors.  This is how we assure clients that we are always aware of backup status.  Your backup plan is only as good as the strategy of your IT Provider and the integrity of their company. When you need it, our processes won’t let you down.

Please remember, it’s the people and processes in place that increase safety.

On a regular basis, Technology Administrators train client’s on-site regarding software updates, user vulnerabilities and best practices regarding cybersecurity. These monthly visits are imperative to keeping systems and employees operational.  These vital monthly trainings on best practices help clients mitigate cybersecurity risk by staying ahead of it. With education and awareness, risk is dramatically reduced, employees remain operational and business productivity is optimized.