Cyber security challanges in the healthcare sector

As the prevalence of information and telecommunication technologies within the healthcare industry grows, there is an increasing need for high-level cyber security management. The trouble is that the growth in security measures is not necessarily at-pace with the growth of what we refer to as ‘telehealth’. With cyber security breaches becoming more frequent (and more aggressive) in all sectors, healthcare professionals need to address the pressing security challenges that are present.

Why Healthcare Needs Cyber Security

More and more healthcare providers are looking at implementing ways of delivering health-related information and services via digital channels, resulting in an unprecedented spread of sensitive information. With patient data being sent over the internet to apps and devices outside of hospitals, there are many more instances of data breaches occurring. But there are risks within the walls of hospitals, too. We spoke with TechQuarters, an IT company that has provided business IT support London-based healthcare providers rely on. We asked them about the challenges that organisations in the healthcare sector are facing with regards to cyber security, and here is what they said…

  1. Data Breaches

As mentioned briefly above, a big challenge as the healthcare sector moves towards a more digitally-centric practices is lower data security. As data is shared beyond the perimeter of healthcare organisations, it becomes harder to protect. In 2021, the average cost of a data breach in the healthcare sector was over $9 million. According to TechQuarters, the solution for mitigating data breaches in healthcare organisations include enterprise-grade device management, identity and access management, and proper governance policies.

  • Legacy Systems

Across most industries and sectors, there has been a lot of interest in digital transformation – the practice of organisations modernizing their infrastructure and processes with cutting edge, future-proof solutions. There is a dire need of this in the healthcare sector, because one of the biggest challenges to cyber security is the persistence of legacy systems in hospitals and practices.

It is a well-known fact in the IT sector that cyber criminals are constantly looking for ways to exploit systems and software – which is why updates and patches are so important. Using outdated systems is a massive security risk, because they simply aren’t equipped to deal with modern cyber threats.

  • Vulnerable Medical Hardware

One of the biggest parts of the modernization of healthcare services is the use of medical devices. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a very popular technology, as it opens up a great deal of potential for patient monitoring, and the automation of hospital processes. However, these devices can be sources of vulnerability if they are not secured properly. Any device that stores or shares data must be subject to strict security policies, or else they can be exploited for the data they hold.

  • Lack of Governance Policies

As you can see, a lot of the current cyber security challenges in the sector pertain to data. According to TechQuarters, whose experience providing IT support healthcare providers rely on intersects with their knowledge of current IT security and data governance standards, a big issue in healthcare at the moment is ensuring that organisations have well-managed data governance policies in place. With various regulations and frameworks pertaining to data protection, retention, and so on, failure to remain compliant can not only open an organisation up to legal troubles, but endanger their patient’s privacy, and give them a reputation as an untrustworthy organisation.

Taking into account all of the previous challenges listed, perhaps the most important challenge in cyber security for healthcare is ensuring that all practitioners and stakeholders are well-educated on current security practices and obligations. If an organisation, or their staff are unaware of the appropriate cyber security practices and solutions, and the importance of them, they will remain an unsecure and unreliable organisation.

By Azam Habib

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