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Jerris Heaton

Navigating Healthcare Cybersecurity in 2024: Trends, Challenges, and Solutions

January 8, 2024

Information Technology, Security IT 12 Minute Read

With a rapid surge of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and digitization of healthcare, the delicate balance between digital innovation and cybersecurity, including the role of managed IT services, is becoming increasingly critical. As we navigate through 2024, the healthcare industry is not only embracing digital health’s growth, but also grappling with the escalating challenges of privacy.

As the digital health market, projected to expand by $563.59 billion from 2022 to 2027 (source), healthcare will see even more advancements in AI, telehealth, and data analytics. As healthcare continues to integrate cutting-edge technology, understanding and staying ahead of these trends is essential for building a resilient and secure digital healthcare environment.

Emerging Threats in Healthcare Cybersecurity

Rising Threat of Ransomware Attacks

The healthcare sector continues to confront an escalating threat from ransomware attacks. Recent data indicates that 41% of healthcare organizations have been targeted by these attacks, highlighting a disturbing trend in cybercrime (source). These attacks are far from mere economic crimes; they pose direct threats to patient safety by disrupting essential healthcare services and compromising sensitive patient data.

What’s more, there is a shift from individual hackers to more organized, sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored entities. This change in the threat landscape has rendered traditional cybersecurity measures increasingly inadequate. Ransomware attacks on healthcare facilities are now seen as ‘threat-to-life’ crimes, with attackers exploiting vulnerabilities in medical devices and hospital networks, leading to potentially life-threatening situations (source).

To combat this threat, healthcare organizations must adopt multi-layered security strategies. This includes continuous vulnerability assessments, comprehensive security training for staff, and robust endpoint protection. It’s not just about implementing technology solutions, but also about creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness within the organization, discussed later in this blog.

AI and Machine Learning: Double-Edged Sword

The integration of AI and machine learning (ML) have become integral in the fight against cyber threats, offering advanced capabilities in threat detection and response. Their application ranges from enhancing patient diagnosis to streamlining administrative processes. However, these technologies also present a new frontier for cyber attackers. Cybercriminals leverage AI and ML for more effective phishing attacks and to crack complex security protocols.

The dual nature of AI and ML in cybersecurity demands a balanced approach. While these technologies enhance threat detection, they require human oversight to ensure they are not misused or outsmarted by malicious actors. The integration of AI in cybersecurity practices is a trend that is both a boon and a challenge for healthcare security professionals in 2024​​​​ (source).

Advanced Security Frameworks and Technologies

Zero Trust Security Framework

The Zero Trust security model, which operates on the principle that no entity inside or outside the network should be trusted by default, is gaining traction in healthcare. This approach involves multiple layers of security checks before granting access to any resources, aligning with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-207 standard, ensuring a comprehensive and vendor-neutral approach to security.

Simply, it emphasizes continuous verification, limiting the impact of breaches, and automating response strategies. Particularly effective in minimizing the risk of internal threats and breaches, the Zero Trust framework adoption is expected to rise in 2024 as more organizations recognize its benefits in safeguarding sensitive patient data and healthcare systems (source)​​.

Blockchain Technology in Healthcare Security

With its robustness in securing financial transactions, blockchain technology is now making its way into healthcare cybersecurity. Renowned for its application in securing financial transactions, blockchain’s decentralized and immutable ledger system offers unparalleled data integrity and privacy. In healthcare, this technology ensures the security and traceability of patient records, significantly reducing the risks of data breaches and fraud.

However, the implementation of blockchain in healthcare goes beyond just data protection; it also streamlines data sharing and enhances the accuracy of medical records. While its adoption in the healthcare sector is still in nascent stages, the potential of blockchain to revolutionize healthcare data security is immense. This technology is poised to play a critical role in safeguarding sensitive health information, thereby fostering a more secure and trustworthy healthcare system (source).

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication is increasingly gaining traction in healthcare cybersecurity, offering a robust alternative to traditional security measures. This method employs unique biological characteristics, such as fingerprints and facial features, for identity verification. Its rising prominence is attributed to its enhanced security capabilities, effectively preventing unauthorized access to sensitive healthcare data.

The integration of biometric technology in healthcare is not only more secure but also more user-friendly compared to conventional passwords or tokens. As biometric technology evolves, its application in healthcare is anticipated to expand significantly, reinforcing the protection of critical patient information and healthcare systems against cyber threats. This advancement is crucial in an era where data security is paramount in healthcare operations (source)​​.

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Managing Connected Environments

IoT Device Security Challenges

The integration of IoT devices, while beneficial, has also introduced significant security vulnerabilities. In 2022, over 50% of connected devices in a typical hospital were found to have critical risks, with almost three-quarters of IV pumps exhibiting vulnerabilities that could endanger patient safety if exploited. Additionally, more than half of the devices in oncology, pharmacology, and laboratory departments operate on outdated Windows versions, no longer receiving updates, further exacerbating the risk. (source)

These findings underscore the urgent need for healthcare organizations to prioritize IoT device security. This involves not only continuous monitoring and regular updates but also addressing common risks like insecure passwords.

Cloud Security Needs

With the healthcare industry increasingly embracing cloud computing, one report shows 70% of healthcare organizations have already adopted cloud solutions, and an additional 20% plan to do so within the next two years. This shift towards cloud computing, expected to reach a 90% adoption rate by 2025, brings with it significant security considerations.

Cloud environments offer scalability and efficiency but are also vulnerable to cyber threats like phishing and malware attacks. The most common barrier to cloud migration in healthcare is achieving compliance. Despite these challenges, majority of IT healthcare professionals who have completed a cloud migration recommend it and also find it easier to maintain compliance post-migration (source).

Healthcare providers must not solely rely on cloud service providers for security. Implementing stringent internal controls and data loss prevention strategies is essential. This proactive approach is crucial for safeguarding sensitive patient data and healthcare systems in the cloud.

Telehealth Security Concerns

While beneficial during times like the COVID-19 pandemic and to increase accessibility for patients, the accelerated adoption of telehealth services has unveiled distinct cybersecurity challenges. These include risks to patient data privacy and the integrity of telehealth systems. Existing regulations like HIPAA are not fully tailored to address these unique telehealth vulnerabilities, emphasizing the need for stronger security protocols.

Key issues involve the potential for unintended data sharing and the risk of data breaches during transmission or storage. Despite technological safeguards, threats such as hacking and malware remain significant. Healthcare providers must focus on securing communication channels, authenticating user identities, and adhering to health data privacy regulations. Moreover, developing comprehensive privacy and security standards specifically for telehealth is crucial to protect patient information and maintain trust in these digital healthcare services (source).

Regulatory Compliance and Data Protection

Evolving Data Privacy Regulations

It’s no secret the healthcare industry faces high demands when it comes to adhering to strict data privacy regulations. From HIPAA to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act’s requirements, the regulations are updated frequently to protect patients’ data. In 2024, healthcare organizations face the dual challenge of complying with evolving HIPAA regulations and the broader scope of the FTC Act, which governs the use and security of consumer health information (source).

This includes ensuring clear, non-deceptive communication about health data use and implementing robust security measures. These regulatory bodies underscore the importance of comprehensive data protection strategies, not only to avoid penalties but also to maintain consumer trust and safeguard sensitive patient information. Compliance with these overlapping regulations is essential for healthcare entities to navigate the complex landscape of data privacy and security.

Vendor Risk Management

The reliance on third-party vendors in healthcare introduces additional significant cybersecurity risks. In 2024, the management of these risks is crucial, especially as healthcare organizations increasingly depend on these vendors for digitization. Vendor risk management (VRM) programs have become essential, involving technologies like automated vendor questionnaire technology, risk scoring, and workflow automation. These programs help in efficiently managing and mitigating risks associated with third-party vendors who handle sensitive patient data.

Effective VRM requires continuous updating of vendor inventories, prioritizing vendors needing remediation, and tracking their compliance with cybersecurity standards. It’s not just about identifying risks but actively working with vendors to remediate them, focusing on critical controls like vulnerability management and incident response plans. Additionally, healthcare organizations must ensure legal compliance in their VRM programs to avoid risks related to patient data security and regulatory non-compliance (source). Proactive implementation of VRM, with a focus on collaboration and communication with vendors, is key to creating a secure healthcare ecosystem.

Strengthening Human Factors in Cybersecurity

Importance of Employee Training

Despite all these technological advancements posing threats to healthcare advancement, human insider threats — whether malicious or accidental — may be the most significant vulnerability to healthcare. Thus, cybersecurity training for healthcare staff is more vital than ever. Over 90% of cyberattacks, including those in healthcare, start with phishing, emphasizing the need for robust employee training.

Effective cybersecurity training in healthcare should balance compassion with caution, countering the trusting nature of healthcare professionals. It’s crucial to cut through the daily demands of hospital life with engaging, brief, and relevant training content. Regular, tailored training sessions, supplemented with practical tests like phishing exercises, are essential. On top of prioritizing training, implementing user-behavior analytics can help detect unusual activities that could indicate a security breach. This, coupled with a culture of security awareness, can reduce the risk of insider threats. Healthcare organizations must balance trust with vigilance to protect against these internal vulnerabilities. (source)

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Preparing for and Responding to Cyber Incidents

As we move through 2024, the landscape of healthcare cybersecurity continues to evolve, bringing new challenges and requiring innovative solutions. From the growing threat of ransomware to the complexities of managing IoT devices and cloud infrastructures, healthcare organizations must be proactive in their approach to cybersecurity.

One way to address the cybersecurity challenges of today and tomorrow is through partnership with ChartLogic. As a trusted ally for healthcare organizations, our Managed IT services are tailored to fortify healthcare practices against cyber threats, ensuring compliance and operational efficiency through providing:

Managed IT Support:

  • Comprehensive IT support
  • Access to expert assistance for all technology needs
  • Maintaining secure and efficient IT systems

24/7/365 Service Desk

  • Round-the-clock service desk support
  • Receive help whenever needed
  • Address cybersecurity incidents swiftly and effectively

EHR Support

  • Support for Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems
  • Ensures systems are running securely and efficiently
  • Helps protect sensitive patient data

Cyber Security Solutions

  • Tailored to the unique needs of the healthcare sector
  • Encompass everything from threat detection to incident response
  • Receive a robust defense against cyber attacks

Field Service Support

  • On-site technical support available
  • Hands-on assistance for more complex IT challenges
  • Ensures hardware or network issues are promptly and securely resolved

Cloud Hosting and Migration

  • Receive secure, cloud-based infrastructure
  • Migrate to cloud efficiently
  • Reduce downtime and cyber-attack vulnerability
  • Enhance data security and operational efficiency

Each of these services plays a vital role in fortifying healthcare organizations against cyber threats. From continuous IT support to specialized cybersecurity solutions, ChartLogic’s Managed IT goes beyond mere technology implementation; it encompasses a comprehensive strategy to safeguard healthcare data and systems.

To learn how your healthcare practice can stay ahead of cybersecurity challenges, contact us to receive a free healthcare IT systems assessment!

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