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The State Of Healthcare Cybersecurity (Part 1)

Posted on May 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Healthcare data has never been under more outside threats than it is today. For a number of reasons, this data has become more attractive to cybercriminals and can be sold on the dark web for a pretty penny. Not only that, emerging threats like ransomware attacks are hitting home and wreaking havoc with the institutions they target.

Unfortunately, according to a new study by Black Book Market Research, healthcare organizations don’t seem to be adequately prepared for this onslaught.

The survey, which collected responses from more than 2,464 security pros working at 680 provider organizations, found that health IT leaders aren’t confident they can defend themselves against cyberattacks. In fact, 96% of IT professionals who responded said that the attackers are significantly ahead of them and could probably cut through the protection their organizations have in place.

Given that stat, it’s not surprising that over 90% of healthcare organizations have seen a data breach since Q3 2016. Worse, almost 50% reported that they had more than five data breaches during this period. Not only that, more than 180 million records have been stolen since 2015, a staggering haul which affects roughly one in every 12 healthcare consumers.

On the surface, it might seem surprising that healthcare organizations haven’t toughened their defenses given the number of threats they face. Actually, they are, but they’re being outgunned. It’s not that they’re not making cybersecurity investments, but both the level of investment and their strategy for deployment may be inadequate.

In a surprisingly frank set of disclosures, one-third of hospital executives that bought cybersecurity solutions between 2016 and 2018 said they did so blindly without much vision or understanding of what they were getting for their money. Respondents said that 92% of data security product and services buying decisions were made at the C-level, and the process didn’t include any users or affected department managers.

One reason that C-level executives with little relevant knowledge are making security investment decisions because they don’t have anyone senior to consult – and the problem is extremely common.

The survey found that 84% of hospitals responding had no dedicated security executive in place. Most say that it’s difficult to recruit a qualified chief security officer, which is why they’re going bare on data security and stumbling through the buying process as best they can.

Some organizations are responding to the shortage of C-level tech talent by outsourcing the function. Twenty-one percent said they outsource security to partners, consultants or selected security-as-a-service options as a placeholder.

Given this interest in outsourcing, healthcare organizations are signing deals with security services and outsourcing companies five times more often than they’re buying cybersecurity products and software. Vendors, in turn, are responding by diversifying the portfolio of services they offer. Still, that’s unlikely to be enough over the long term.

All of this suggests that the healthcare industry is in a security crisis. I’ll offer more details on the situation in part two of this series.

How Many Points of Vulnerability Do You Have in Your Healthcare Organization?

Posted on December 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Far too often I hear healthcare CIOs talk about all of the various electronic devices they have in their organization and how this device proliferation has created a really large risk surface that makes their organization vulnerable to breaches and other nefarious actions. This is true to some extent since organizations now have things like:

  • Servers
  • Desktops
  • Mobile Devices
  • Network Devices
  • Internet Access
  • Medical Devices
  • Internet of Thing Devices
  • etc

As tech progresses, the number of devices we have in our healthcare organizations is only going to continue to grow. No doubt this can pose a challenge to any Chief Security Officer (CSO). However, I actually think this is the easiest part of a CSO’s job when it comes to making sure a healthcare organization is secure. I think it’s much harder to make sure the people in your organization are acting in a way that doesn’t compromise your organization’s security.

As one hospital CIO told me, “I’m most concerned with the 21,000 security vulnerabilities that existed in my organization. I’m talking about the 21,000 employees.

Granted, this CIO worked at a very large organization. However, I think he’s right. Creating a security plan for a device is pretty easily accomplished. It will never be perfect, but you can put together a really good, effective plan. People are wild cards. It’s much harder to keep them from doing something that compromises your organization. Especially since the hackers have gotten so pernicious and effective in the tactics they use.

At the end of the day, I look at security as similar to child proofing your house when you have a young child. You’ll never make it 100% completely safe, but you can really mitigate most of the issues that could cause harm to your child. The same is true in your approach to securing your healthcare organization. You can never ensure you won’t have any security incidents, but you can mitigate a lot of the really dangerous things. Then, you just have to deal with the times something surprising happens. Now if we would just care as much about keeping our healthcare organizations secure as we do keeping our children safe, then we’d be in a much better place.