The healthcare industry is a common target for cybercriminals. This is exacerbated in today’s post-pandemic landscape, with the average data breach costing institutions an estimated $10.1 million per incident—the highest of any industry.

The industry at large houses critical information about personnel, systems, and infrastructure that must be protected at all costs. To achieve this, robust data security measures in healthcare are essential.

This blog will explore the most common forms of cyber threats in healthcare and the data security measures that should be implemented to counter these threats.

The most common cyber threats in healthcare

Just within the third quarter of 2022 alone, 1 out of 42 healthcare organisations was the victim of a ransomware attack. The cost per data breach has also been growing for healthcare organisations year-on-year, with an increase of 42% over the past two years.

Understanding the scope of threats organisations face is key to implementing measures to counteract them. Here are the most common cyber threats in healthcare in 2023.

These attacks happen when a malicious party uses seemingly legitimate communications to extract information or expose users to malicious downloads. The most common form of phishing in healthcare occurs through email.

Phishing attacks cost businesses $4.91 million per incident. Thus, having data security measures in place to counteract these threats is vital.

These attacks happen when a malicious party injects some form of malware into a network to infect or encrypt sensitive data—demanding a ransom to be paid in order to resolve the issue.

The frequency and severity of ransomware attacks have been increasing in the healthcare industry over the past few years, averaging a cost of $4.54 million for businesses.

DDoS attacks
These attacks happen when a multitude of fake connection requests are directed at a targeted server, forcing it offline. While these attacks do not have the same potential for data breach as the above, they can still disrupt operations drastically.

Hence, effective data security measures in healthcare like Reverse Proxy servers are necessary to manage them.

Data breaches
A breach tends to be the result of a majority of cyber attacks. A malicious entity will enter the infrastructure and possess, modify, or hold critical data captive so that operations cannot continue as normal.

Healthcare is a sector that is significantly exposed with the daily average for data breaches in the US being recorded at 1.94 in 2022—an almost 100% increase over just 5 years.

Regulation for data security in the Australian healthcare sector

Australia’s Privacy Act 1988 states that healthcare organisations operating in Australia must take “such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to protect the information from misuse, interference, loss and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.”

The Act outlines the requirements for healthcare service providers to ensure data protection. These are:

  • Procedures must be put in place so that only authorised personnel can access privileged information.
  • Security measures must be put in place to prevent unauthorised access both internally and externally.
  • Procedures must be put in place where personal information does not readily showcase the identity of the person.
  • Secure procedures must be put in place to delete or destroy medical records in instances where they do not need to be retained.

Essential data security measures in healthcare

By following these requirements, healthcare organisations in Australia must implement data security measures to counteract the threats that they are exposed to.

Here are the essential data security measures in healthcare that can ensure an optimal level of data security.

Implementing access controls
Ensuring that only authorised personnel have access to privileged data can limit the risk factors associated with data leakage and breaches. It can minimise instances of phishing and other forms of social engineering attacks exposing entire swathes of data.

Conducting training on internal teams
Conducting training programmes for healthcare professionals and other personnel who handle sensitive information is vital. It can help them understand the importance of data security along with the best practices for handling sensitive information.

Understanding and following regulations
Understanding and following the guidelines and compliance requirements set by regulations like GDPR and Privacy Act 1988 along with relevant state-based regulations can help Australian healthcare providers establish robust data security measures.

Conducting risk assessments consistently
Risk assessments are vital in helping organisations understand their risk landscape. Cyber risk assessments in particular can help healthcare providers keep track of risks to patient data and information systems, so that they can be mitigated effectively.

Ensure optimal data security in your healthcare organisation with informed risk management procedures

Implementing effective data security measures in healthcare organisations requires a solid understanding of the risks that their data is exposed to. This is where risk assessment tools in healthcare can provide valuable insights.

By understanding the risk landscape from top to bottom, your organisation can develop and implement strategies that will ensure data security and minimise the risk of losing millions of dollars.

Conduct quick, effective risk assessments with SECTARA and take your risk management plan to the next level

SECTARA offers a comprehensive risk assessment platform that is simple, precise, and accessible to all practitioners that healthcare providers can use to conduct quick and effective risk assessments with methodological rigour to ensure the highest level of risk management.

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