1 Reason Why Healthcare Must Focus on Cybersecurity

Jack Murtha
OCTOBER 16, 2017
mcafee labs,cybersecurity,cyberattack,hca news

Healthcare recently surpassed the public sector, but not in the kind of race anyone wants to win.

Indeed, the industry fell victim to more disclosed cybersecurity incidents than any in other in the 2nd quarter of the year, a scar once held by governments, according to a recent McAfee Labs report on online threats. That was worsened by the perception that information contained in, say, electronic medical records and other healthcare databases is especially delicate, according to the security company.

“Whether physical or digital, data breaches in healthcare highlight the value of the sensitive personal information organizations in the sector possess,” Vincent Weafer, vice president of McAfee Labs, said in a statement. “They also reinforce the need for stronger corporate security policies that work to ensure the safe handling of that information.”

In total, the analysis showed, 26% of all known Q2 security breaches occurred in healthcare organizations. McAfee attributed much of the problem to “accidental disclosures and human error.” It did, however, note that cyberattacks against healthcare are on the rise.

That’s been the case since the 1st quarter of 2016, the authors added, when hospitals across the globe felt the effects of ransomware attacks. Those assaults “paralyzed” departments and forced some hospitals to send patients elsewhere and even postpone certain surgeries, according to McAfee.

In North and South America, during the 2nd quarter of this year, the number of cyber data breaches in healthcare more than doubled that of government, the second-most targeted industry, according to the document. Only when combined with education and retail did the security incidents in the public sector come close to the total tally in healthcare, according to McAfee.

But the public sector, which also harbors sensitive data, has been hit hardest by hackers and accidental lapses over the past 6 quarters, the company noted. Similarly, healthcare and education have been frequent victims, as well. More than 50% of all incidents in 2016 and 2017 have affected those industries, according to McAfee.

McAfee labs identified 311 security incidents during the time frame studied. That represented a 3% increase from the prior quarter. Nearly 80% occurred in the Americas, according to the digital security firm.

Amid all this, experts and leaders have often called upon healthcare to step up its cybersecurity efforts. Earlier this month, for example, 2 members of Congress introduced a bill that would establish a working group, led by the FDA, to explore “voluntary” guidelines and best practices for safeguarding healthcare data against cyberattacks.

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