Healthcare and Its Unique Cyber Protection Needs
Medical practices around the country are closing their offices and opening their laptops to provide healthcare to millions of Americans who are under guidance to stay home. As America’s frontline doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff continue the fight against COVID-19, hospital and medical center IT teams are waging a battle against a different kind of epidemic – the exploitation and compromise of sensitive data and systems. Cyberattacks surged nearly 50% between February and March this year. As the number of connected endpoints, patient portals, and telehealth calls rise, hospitals and medical centers must ensure the protection of sensitive medical and patient data across many mediums – often with small IT staffs and budgets. In addition, many public healthcare institutions rely on a mix of legacy and newer systems and outdated data security methods, leaving them particularly vulnerable targets for cyber criminals.
In any industry, the costs of a cyberattack can be steep. Nowhere are these costs more pronounced, however, than in healthcare, where any loss of critical information or minute of downtime could have potentially deadly consequences. A 2019 study shows as many as 36 additional deaths per 10,000 heart attacks occur annually at hospitals hit by data breaches, with patients waiting longer to receive critical care. Every minute matters, particularly for public and university healthcare institutions, which often serve the country’s most vulnerable and underserved patients.