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Cybersecurity in Healthcare: Importance and Use Cases

25th Apr, 2024
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    Cybersecurity in Healthcare: Importance and Use Cases

    Why is cybersecurity important in healthcare? Healthcare cybersecurity is a strategic need for all medical industry organizations and biotechnology, insurers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies. It consists of a range of actions to safeguard organizations from internal and external cyber-attacks, guarantee the availability of medical services, maintain confidentiality, ensure the proper operation of medical systems and equipment and integrity of patient data, and comply with industry regulations. 

    Information security and cybersecurity are crucial for a business to function regularly in today's digital age. Many healthcare organizations' specialized hospital information systems include: 

    • E-prescribing systems
    • Electronic health record (EHR) systems
    • Practice management support systems
    • Radiology information systems
    • Clinical decision support systems
    • Computerized physician order entry systems

    The best Cybersecurity Certification programs will help you learn about current information and system protection technologies. 

    Cybersecurity in Healthcare and Its Importance 

    IT security in healthcare constantly deals with evolving cyber threats that could endanger patient safety. It is urged that hospital C-suite executives and senior management avoid viewing cybersecurity as a purely technical issue that only their IT departments can tackle. Instead, it is essential to include cybersecurity in the hospital's present enterprise, risk management, governance, and business continuity structures as a top strategic priority for patient safety and enterprise risk. 

    Healthcare Stakeholders

    1. Patients 

    Patients must be aware of secure communication methods with healthcare professionals. Additionally, patients must be aware of the privacy and security policies and know how to protect their information if they interact virtually with their healthcare providers, whether through a telehealth platform, visits, encrypted messaging, or another method. 

    2. C-Suite 

    More healthcare businesses now have a chief information security officer (CISO) on staff who can make executive decisions about the cybersecurity program. CISOs often focus on strategy, while cybersecurity team members who report to the CISO carry out the plan as instructed. The chief information security officer is a C-suite executive who should ideally be on par with the chief financial officer, chief information officer, and other C-suite executives. The more executive-level buy-in there is, the more the organization's cybersecurity program will have top-down support. 

    3. Workforce Members 

    The workforce must know the healthcare organization's privacy and security rules. Regular security awareness training for healthcare cybersecurity is crucial to inform staff employees about risks and know what to do during security incidents. Additionally, employees must know who to turn to with inquiries or issues. Employees can serve as the cybersecurity team's eyes and ears. Understanding what is working and what is not working to secure the information technology infrastructure and data can aid the cybersecurity team. 

    4. Vendors/Market Suppliers 

    A significant hack on a major retailer's HVAC ("heating, ventilation, and air conditioning") vendor system resulted in a breach. The retailer's computer systems were accessed using credentials stolen from the HVAC supplier. Since the cyber attackers had infiltrated the HVAC vendor to target the business ultimately, this was a supply chain attack. Following this incident, vendors' credentials were used in cyber supply chain attacks to infiltrate healthcare information. 

    Cyberattacks and Security Issues in the Healthcare Sector
    Cyberattacks and Security Issues in the Healthcare Sector

    Cybersecurity in the healthcare industry should be particularly concerned about the following threats: 

    1. Ransomware 

    In addition to encrypting data and demanding money to decrypt it, criminals block access to the entire clinical system, rendering surgical instruments and life support equipment inoperable. 

    2. Phishing 

    Computer systems can become infected with malware through links or attachments in phishing emails, social media posts, or text messages, frequently spreading over the entire network. 

    3. Network vulnerability attacks 

    ARP cache poisoning, HTTPS spoofing, and other cybercrimes target the wired and wireless networks that are the lifeblood of medical facilities and give access to patient data. 

    4. Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks 

    Cybercriminals snoop on private (and very important) user information during data transfers or discussions, resulting in significant losses and fines for a confidentiality breach. 

    5. Data Breaches 

    Comparatively speaking, the healthcare sector has a disproportionately high number of data breaches. Although efforts to limit these occurrences through frameworks like HIPAA, such as cybersecurity gaps, give cyber attackers access points via which they can continue to 

    compromise the security of medical care data. 

    Cyberattacks Against Medical Devices

    Healthcare IT experts find it particularly difficult to maintain security because of the enormous number of linked medical equipment, many of which have different specifications and come from different manufacturers. Even though medical devices don't necessarily include a lot of patient data, they can serve as easy access points for hackers to servers containing a lot of data. The healthcare cybersecurity market must prioritize keeping these entry points securely and up to date to reduce the costs and harm brought on by unauthorized access. 

    Cybersecurity Solutions for the Healthcare Industry

    Here are several security precautions that can be taken as cybersecurity for hospitals and healthcare facilities to safeguard electronically protected health information (ePHI) by defending tools, digital systems, networks, and data from threats as a healthcare cybersecurity solution.  

    1. Control of data consumption

    Malicious file activity should be contained and observed by clinics. They can achieve this by putting in place systems that restrict access to data, stop unauthorized emails from being shared, block copies to external sources, etc.  

    2. Record data

    Keep track of information to spot unauthorized access to patient files immediately. Logs will assist a clinic in a cyberattack by allowing them to identify and close the quick breach.

    3. Impose stringent access restrictions

    They must use a password/PIN, cards and keys, face, fingerprint, or retina recognition to protect patient data from illegal operations. 

    4. Apply cutting-edge cryptography

    To encrypt data during transmission and storage, use modern cryptography. Some examples are homomorphic encryption, secure multiparty computation, or distributed ledger systems. 

    Use of Cybersecurity in Healthcare Laws and Regulations

    Government and industry agencies have developed compliance standards and guideline frameworks, such as: to aid healthcare firms in protecting vital assets and data from healthcare cyber threats.

    1. Privacy and general safety

    A common set of consensus-based, voluntary, and industry-led guidelines, best practices, methodologies, procedures, and processes" are provided in "Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices: Managing Threats and Protecting Patients" by HHS and Healthcare and Public Sector Coordinating Councils to aid healthcare cybersecurity regulations. 

    National standards established under the HIPAA Security Rule safeguards people's electronic personal health information (ePHI). The Security Rule requires compliance with administrative, physical, and technical protections, including, among others, access control, to ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and security of ePHI.

    The HIPAA Security Rule standards and implementation requirements are mapped to the relevant NIST Cybersecurity Framework sub-categories in NIST's "HIPAA Security Rule Crosswalk to NIST Cybersecurity Framework" document. 

    2. Safety from ransomware

    The "Ransomware Fact Sheet" from HHS provides detailed instructions for avoiding and recovering ransomware, especially about HIPAA notification requirements. 

    CISA's advisory "DarkSide Ransomware: Best Practices for Preventing Ransomware Attacks" (AA21-131A) offers mitigation advice to prevent business disruption from ransomware attacks. It includes- 

    • remote access requires multi-factor authentication 
    • enabling robust spam filters to block end users from receiving phishing emails 
    • putting in place a user education program and mock spear phishing attempts 
    • software updates for operating systems, programs, and firmware 
    • setting up antivirus or anti-malware software to run routine scans 

    Implementing Cyber Security in Healthcare with Best Practices 

    How to prevent cyber-attacks in healthcare? The adoption of cutting-edge technology by healthcare organizations has increased recently. Examples include AI, big data, VR and AR, blockchain, etc. They can offer superior patient care and diagnostic services because of the advancements that help medical facilities work more effectively and are some of the cybersecurity trends in healthcare. 

    1. Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices to transform patient care

    The Internet of Things already impacts the patient and doctor sides of healthcare. Patients can monitor their health through the connectivity of devices like electrocardiograms, thermometers, glucose monitors, ultrasounds, and more. Moreover, many hospitals are now using "smart beds," which include sensors that can sense the presence of a patient and modify themselves to provide the right support without requiring a nurse to step in the healthcare cybersecurity market size. The Internet of Things can also improve at-home patient care. Smart medication dispensers, for instance, can notify doctors when patients don't take their medication and immediately upload information to the cloud. More generally, IoT technology in healthcare enables clinicians to be aware of any potentially risky patient behavior. 

    2. Automated diagnosis using Artificial Intelligence (AI)

    By utilizing medical knowledge that AI systems have thoroughly evaluated and memorized, AI in healthcare will help healthcare practitioners improve patient outcomes. These systems can deliver therapeutically pertinent information to doctors and researchers using data in electronic health records for urgent requirements. Cognitive systems that generate real-time 3D visuals are intended to enable the rapid diagnosis of serious illnesses like cancer and diabetes. They could spot recognizable physiological traits in the scans. AI systems provide patients with readily available, reasonably priced, and high-quality care. It helps in the prevention of healthcare cybersecurity attacks. 

    3. Blockchain to improve the security of health data 

    By improving the security, interoperability, and privacy of health data, blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector. By increasing the effectiveness and removing intermediaries from electronic medical records, the application of this technology in healthcare could offer a new framework for health information exchanges. Additionally, because every link in the chain must confirm a transaction before it can be accepted, blockchain can address the identity management issue, which might promote innovation in the healthcare industry. For instance, the Ethereum blockchain can be used by a system called MedRec to maintain medical records. It qualifies as a clinical and research blockchain since it grants users access to census-level data from medical records. 

    Emergency Resources That are Essential for Cybersecurity

    Every healthcare institution should, ideally, have both fundamental and sophisticated security measures in place. By doing this, defense-in-depth can be ensured, such that if one control fails, another will take its place. As an illustration, a virus might breach a company's firewall but be stopped by an antivirus program. But not every security incident can be avoided. Here, blocking and tackling become important. For healthcare cybersecurity, a strong incident response plan is essential to prevent or deal with any security issues quickly and effectively.

    The basic security measures include: 

    • Antivirus 
    • Data/file backup and restoration 
    • Prevention of data loss 
    • Gateway for email
    • At-rest encryption

    The following are some of the advanced security measures: 

    • Preventing theft tools 
    • Disaster recovery and business continuity plan 
    • Electronic forensics 
    • Segmenting the network 

    How to Prioritize Cyber Threat Prevention in Healthcare?

    Cyberattacks are a persistent concern in today's top healthcare cybersecurity companies. It has demonstrated the value of prioritizing the remediation of Cybersecurity threats. 

    1. Get the Stakeholders Involved in the Process

    Remediation of cybersecurity threats is frequently entrusted to the "IT guys". Stakeholders, including those in senior management roles and those with distinctive viewpoints, experiences, and talents that IT may not possess, are crucial in determining how to prioritize addressing cybersecurity threats. 

    2. Find threats to your online security

    Determine the danger categories, scenarios, and occurrences when identifying cybersecurity threats. Threat categories are sophisticated classifications that identify dangers in important IT functions. Determine the danger scenarios or typical situations for each threat category after determining the threat categories. Threat events are particular weaknesses under a given threat scenario. 

    3. Decide what level of risk is tolerable and unacceptable

    Set a limit for what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable level of risk for the organization. This limit should have a specific monetary value determined by the organization's capacity for accepting financial losses and risk tolerance. 

    4. Create a scale to measure the financial impact

    A similar financial impact results from cyberthreat. If senior management is unsure of the financial implications of cybersecurity concerns, it is difficult for them to make wise judgments. It is crucial to develop a scale to evaluate the economic effect of each dangerous event that has been detected. 

    5. Establish a probability scale

    Make a scale to measure the likelihood that each hazard event will occur over a specific period. Verify that the probability scale has an equal number of levels as the scale measuring economic effect. 

    6. Assessment of the level of threat

    Determine the severity level for each danger event. Multiply the cost of the financial impact by the likelihood that it will occur to determine the threat level severity for each threat event. 

    7. Find out how close the threat event is

    The financial impact and likelihood of a threat event changing over time are frequently variable. Threat proximity is the link between a threat's likelihood and its timing. Occasionally, these variations are unpredictable. However, some threat events can be anticipated. The danger of losing essential employees is always present. Before the release of a new product, there is a limited window of opportunity for data breaches. After a certain time, the chance of a project going over budget significantly after staff reductions either increases or decreases. 

    Cybersecurity in Healthcare: Use Cases

    A tiny community health institution in Wyoming was targeted in a cyberattack in 2019. In addition to running roughly 20 clinics around the county, Campbell County Health also runs a 90-bed acute care hospital in Gillette. Before demanding a ransom, the attackers stole medical equipment and private patient data. 

    The attack forced staff members at Campbell County Health to cancel services like endocrinology, radiography, and respiratory therapy. The hospital sent patients to other hospitals in Denver and South Dakota. There were no cash registers, emails, or faxes. Doctors were forced to use pen and paper to note medical concerns, and with prescription records inaccessible, patients were compelled to bring medication bottles to visits. Many security experts believe it is a matter of when, not if, a cyberattack will occur against any healthcare company. 

    What Makes Cybersecurity in Healthcare so Challenging?

    Any of the cybersecurity concerns that any firm faces and particular difficulties specific to the healthcare industry exist. They must defend against attacks on their endpoints, databases, and networks. They are in charge of safeguarding the confidential financial and medical data of their patients and staff. They frequently defend priceless intellectual property. They also face difficulties that few other companies do. The number of linked medical devices has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Almost all medical devices are web-enabled or linked to the organization's operational network.

    According to healthcare cybersecurity statistics, healthcare providers daily deploy more connected medical devices, accounting for up to 74% of all devices connected to a hospital's network. The term "mud jacking" is now commonly used to refer to assaults targeted exclusively at connected medical equipment due to the ubiquity of medical device hijacking.

    Frequently, the patient's life depends on this connected equipment. The ability to disable or adjust them can mean the difference between life and death. Like any digital gadget, they require upgrades to stay functional and secure.

    Patient monitoring bracelets, crash cart equipment tracking, ventilators, portable X-ray machines, and vital sign monitors are some examples of connected medical equipment. These gadgets connect across the hospital network, giving clinicians access to crucial patient data saved in electronic health records. Doctors can deliver more affordable care because of the transmitted data. Clinicians can work more quickly and safely. And each of those gadgets serves as a point of access for cybercriminals. 

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    Cyber-attacks on healthcare are still evolving, and as a result, so must cybersecurity defenses. We must improve our situational awareness of what is occurring and communicate more information about what is happening to our peers and colleagues if we remain ahead of these threats. Healthcare organizations must keep assisting cybersecurity experts in protecting patient data. This is the best opportunity to improve staff knowledge and skills while bolstering cybersecurity defenses. 

    A framework is a dynamic document that requires modifications and staff education through adoption. Healthcare businesses may, however, go up against cybercriminals fully prepared and prepared to respond to them by positioning cybersecurity as a value proposition and developing clear action plans. With KnowledgeHut’s best Cybersecurity certification programs. you can master cybersecurity concepts like network security and access control with real-world case studies. 

    Our top cybersecurity instructors at KnowledgeHut will help you thoroughly understand key cybersecurity concepts such as cloud security, network security, identity, access management, infrastructure management, and more. Join now!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is cybersecurity in healthcare?

    Protecting electronic data and assets from unwanted access, use, and disclosure is a component of healthcare information security. Confidentiality, integrity, and data availability are cybersecurity's three objectives. 

    2Why is cybersecurity in healthcare so difficult?

    Cybercriminals worldwide have long seen the healthcare sector as a prime target. They can gain access to highly valuable patient data and maliciously utilize it to sabotage the patient's treatment plan and reduce uptime, which is crucial.

    3What are different cybersecurity threats?

    The following are some cyber threats that medical cybersecurity should be aware of:  

    • Malware  
    • Ransomware 
    • DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks 
    4How can we avoid cybersecurity threats?

    Individuals and companies may thwart hackers and maintain their data privacy by investing in cybersecurity software, utilizing a VPN, and being informed of typical attack techniques. 


    Vitesh Sharma

    Blog Author

    Vitesh Sharma, a distinguished Cyber Security expert with a wealth of experience exceeding 6 years in the Telecom & Networking Industry. Armed with a CCIE and CISA certification, Vitesh possesses expertise in MPLS, Wi-Fi Planning & Designing, High Availability, QoS, IPv6, and IP KPIs. With a robust background in evaluating and optimizing MPLS security for telecom giants, Vitesh has been instrumental in driving large service provider engagements, emphasizing planning, designing, assessment, and optimization. His experience spans prestigious organizations like Barclays, Protiviti, EY, PwC India, Tata Consultancy Services, and more. With a unique blend of technical prowess and management acumen, Vitesh remains at the forefront of ensuring secure and efficient networking solutions, solidifying his position as a notable figure in the cybersecurity landscape.

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