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 The Rise of Cybersecurity Incidents against Healthcare Organizations and How to Stay Protected

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Healthcare institutions have become a major target of cyberattacks over the past year. While cyberattacks directed at healthcare institutions are not new, most of the large-scale attacks we've seen in the past few years have been incidental. Attackers dispatch a piece of ransomware, and it happens to get into a hospital network. That's what happened in 2017 when the UK's National Health Service became a victim of a global cyberattack


On the other hand, attacks happening during the pandemic — such as last week's cyberattack on the Health Service Executive of Ireland by the Russian gang 'Wizard Spider' — are intentionally targeted on hospitals and healthcare institutions. Hospitals are essential during the pandemic and cannot afford to go offline while trying to get rid of ransomware in their system. Therefore, hospitals are more likely to pay the ransom to have their systems unlocked. 


Cyber Risks in the Healthcare Sector


During the pandemic, the healthcare sector is an appealing target for cybercriminals for a couple of reasons. Healthcare institutions harbor vast amounts of electronic data, for starters, including protected health information and financial data. Secondly, cybercriminals know that hospitals and other organizations in the healthcare sector have limited room to negotiate without putting patients at risk. 


Additionally, many healthcare organizations are going digital due to the coronavirus pandemic. With many hospital workers working remotely, the use of personal devices in the retrieval and dissemination of patient data creates easy attack vectors. In addition to ransomware, phishing, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, data breaches against healthcare organizations are also rising.


How Institutions and Individuals Can Stay Protected


The threat of cyberattacks against the healthcare sector will continue to exist during the pandemic. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions will stay a target. So, what can these institutions do to reduce the risk of a successful attack? Here are a few tips to protect against cyberattacks on hospitals and other healthcare organizations. 


Use Security Tools


Using online security tools such as antivirus and Virtual Private Network (VPN) can go a long way. Antivirus can help you keep your system free of other malware, including viruses, Trojans, worms, etc. A VPN keeps malicious hackers from modifying, intercepting, or stealing sensitive personal and company data, including login credentials and patient health information.


Backup Your Data


Antivirus solutions aren't particularly effective against ransomware; healthcare organizations need to do more to defend against this threat. Backing up your data is one of the best defenses against ransomware. With a proper backup strategy, you can easily retrieve data and restore operations when ransomware strikes.


Staff Training


Ransomware is often transmitted through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or via drive-by downloads. Organizations should focus on training their employees to identify and report suspicious activities. Training ensures that employees don't click on infected links and inadvertently introduce ransomware into the system. 


Cyberattacks against healthcare organizations have increased dramatically since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The threat is expected to persist during and long after the pandemic is over. Healthcare organizations can reduce the risk of successful attacks using a range of online security tools, a reliable backup strategy, and rigorous employee training. 


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