Healthcare cyber threats in healthcare IT.

What About the Cyber Threat Walking the Floors of Your Hospital?

Every day, there are new reports of cyberattacks around the world striking with increasing reach and devastation. Headlines like “Global ransomware attack hits Merck, health system after thrashing Europe” show the ferociousness of cybercriminals. All one has to do is read this report from Healthcare IT News to feel the chilling effect: “The virulent Petya strain spread by infected email attachments that can reboot and shutdown computers, is wreaking havoc across the globe — with Ukraine hit the hardest.” Cyber threats are everywhere and getting worse. Therefore, you need a solid cyber security infrastructure.

That ransomware was the biggest threat seen in recent years and it ran roughshod through the U.K., India, the Netherlands, Spain, and other countries. It affected all the international branches of the container ship terminals run by Maersk shipping, as well as power grids, banks, and government offices in the Ukraine. Then it spread to the U.S. where it affected healthcare systems and large pharmaceutical companies like Merck.

The Petya virus is like something out of a horror movie, spreading by email through infected Microsoft Office documents. Once infected, the computer screen goes black and reads “The whole network is down.”

It’s not that we don’t know these cyber threats exist. It’s that the global community is struggling to get ahead of them.

The healthcare cyber theft welcome mat.

But what about the threat from within? What about the employee who accesses private patient information or the rogue contractor who stops to look at a computer screen filled with patient data? That threat is just as dangerous as international cyber viruses. In fact, it is an imminent threat that walks the floors of your hospital every day. Every desktop that is left unguarded with screens wide open is a welcome mat for those looking to steal valuable medical information. Therefore, unlocked and unattended computers is a high cyber security risk.

A recent article in Healthcare IT News quoted healthcare executives as saying that the “…lack of employee awareness and education present the greatest security threat. Nearly 80 percent listed employee awareness as their top threat.” Therefore, employees themselves through their human errors are one of the biggest risks to healthcare cyber security.

HIMSS Analytics conducted a Level 3 Survey of 125 health IT executives. It found that most healthcare organizations use multiple levels of risk mitigation to protect their data and internal systems.

  • 87 percent use remote access/secure access controls
  • 85 percent use employee security awareness programs
  • 75 percent use security consulting services like vulnerability assessments and penetration testing

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Many caregivers don’t lock the computer before they leave to the next patient. It is a threat to patients, healthcare executives and the sanctity of the private medical information they hold. It’s time to secure them with a hybrid software/hardware solution that locks the computer when the employee walks away, opens them when the employee returns. These innovative solutions are available, and they address the first point of entry for anyone set on stealing medical information that is more valuable than credit cards ever were. Securing access to those desktops with military-grade encrypted credentials is now of the gravest importance.

It doesn’t matter if your home has an elaborate security system if you leave the doors and windows open. The same goes for healthcare organizations. We believe it’s time to protect healthcare organizations inside out – from the front lines of computer use in every patient unit to deep inside the IT infrastructure. It’s time to use innovative solutions to protect vital patient information and stop healthcare cyber threats.

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