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The Alarming Rise of Ransomware Attacks in Healthcare

December 18, 2023

Cybersecurity is not just about protecting patient data but also people's lives. In 2021, a cyber attack shut down radiation systems for almost a week, affecting 200 cancer patients and 170 hospitals. Cyberattacks in the healthcare industry are not merely about stolen data, they can disrupt entire operations within a hospital, impacting patient care and safety. This is why cybersecurity for the Internet-of-Medical-Things (IoMT) and Operational Technology (OT) within healthcare is not just a recommendation — it's a lifeline for the health sector.

Cybersecurity has become a critical challenge within healthcare and facility systems as the number of IoMT, IT and OT devices within hospitals become increasingly interconnected and integrated. While these technological advancements improve efficiency and patient outcomes, they also expose the industry to cyber vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals, aware of the critical nature of healthcare operations, may exploit these vulnerabilities, causing dire consequences.

Imagine a scenario where a hospital's operations are crippled by a cyberattack. Electronic Health Records are inaccessible, medical devices cease to function as intended, and communication systems break down. In such a situation, patient care is compromised, and lives are at stake. This isn't just a hypothetical, it's a real and present danger that necessitates a proactive approach to cybersecurity.

Recently, a study conducted by a cybersecurity firm found that nearly two-thirds of healthcare organisations were victims of ransomware attacks globally. The rate of attacks has doubled from the last two years which only shows that the government and the industry need to take dynamic steps to tighten cybersecurity measures. 

The Crucial Role of OT Cybersecurity for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

OT cybersecurity involves safeguarding the technologies (IoMT, EMR, etc.) and building systems (CCTV cameras, environmental controls, etc.) that manage and control critical systems. In the healthcare sector, this means protecting not only patient data but also the interconnected devices and systems that keep the healthcare facilities and hospitals running smoothly. These devices are vulnerable to attacks, making it easy for hackers and malware to move laterally within critical medical systems. 

A robust OT cybersecurity strategy involves:

  1. Network Segmentation: Isolate critical healthcare systems from less secure networks to minimise the potential for lateral movement by cyber threats.

  2. Location and Tracking for Trusted Devices: Uncover and identify which devices on your network are trusted or have been compromised. Maintain 24/7 visibility of all of your trusted devices on your network.

  3. Regular Audits and Updates: Keep all software, including medical devices and system software, up to date with the latest security patches to address known vulnerabilities.

  4. Employee Training: Educate healthcare staff about the importance of cybersecurity, recognising phishing attempts, and following best practices to mitigate risks.

  5. Incident Response Planning: Develop and regularly test incident response plans to ensure a swift and effective response in the event of a cyber incident.
  6. Collaboration and Information Sharing: Engage in partnerships with cybersecurity experts, share threat intelligence, and collaborate with industry peers to stay ahead of emerging threats.

The healthcare industry must recognise the critical importance of OT cybersecurity for hospitals and healthcare facilities to preserve the integrity of patient care. MicroSec helps safeguard healthcare facilities and hospitals, starting from your connected IoMT devices to on-site command and control centres. 

In the end, it's not just about protecting data, it's about securing the entire ecosystem that sustains the delivery of healthcare services and saving lives. In light of the growing nature of cyber threats, proactive measures are the prescription for a healthy and resilient healthcare system. Have you taken steps to secure your healthcare organisation?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/top-white-house-cyber-aide-says-recent-iran-hack-on-water-system-is-call-to-tighten-cybersecurity/article67620771.ece 

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