Hackers are mostly driven by the potential for financial gain. A possible attack’s worth is proportional to the size of the breach and the importance of the data that was compromised. While sectors like banking and software development can be severely harmed by cyberattacks, healthcare is uniquely vulnerable.

By 2021, 45 million people will be affected by this type of cyberattack, making healthcare a top target. The fact that this number has increased in recent years indicates that this sector remains a prime target for cybercriminals.

The amount of highly sensitive information stored in hospitals and clinics is astounding. Giving a hacker your email address and password is one thing; giving them access to your whole medical record is another.

It’s also difficult to forget attacks like the ransomware that locked down all 400 Universal Health Services clinics in the United States for months. Without access to vital information like operation notes and patient histories, healthcare facilities sometimes cannot function. Hackers take advantage of this obvious truth and make money off the ransoms these institutions pay.

The only effective defence against the rising tide of healthcare cyber threats is a comprehensive security awareness training program. To better equip your users to deal with healthcare cyber threats, this post will cover the five most common and deadly ones.

1.   Ransomware

Some of the most personal details of an individual’s life may be stored in a healthcare provider’s database. That’s why cybercriminals target hospitals and other healthcare facilities so frequently with ransomware.

In this kind of assault, the target computer is infected with a virus—typically a trojan worm—that encrypts all of the user’s data. The hackers then post a message on all of the compromised machines, demanding payment in exchange for the decryption of the data they have locked away.

These viruses have become so complex over the years that eliminating them without the assistance of the criminals who created them is next to impossible. Therefore, the best line of defence in this scenario is a preventative one.

These infections are usually spread by phishing attacks that include a malicious link or file. Users should be warned against opening attachments or downloading software from unknown sources. It’s crucial to verify that it’s valid before proceeding.

2.   Spear Phishing

There is a constant sense of urgency in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic. Since some workers in these environments are likely to not complete adequate verifications before sending over the material, spear phishing attacks thrive in these environments.

Hackers in this type of attack use sophisticated social engineering techniques to trick their targets into sending them private data. This data is then exploited for identity theft or sold on the black market. Criminals frequently take advantage of work-related stressors, such as requests for last-minute information or impersonations of superiors.

When it comes to cyber security, verifying the origin of an email is a must. Emails can include wholly fake addresses or addresses that look similar but have the wrong domain name, making spear phishing assaults easier to spot.

3.   DDoS Attacks

Millions of pings, typically sent by email, are sent to the target server, causing it to crash and become worthless for as long as the attack persists. Most DDoS assaults on government websites are rapidly mitigated because of the nature of the target.

When directed at a website-based tool that is essential in a hospital, however, the same attack can have terrible results. Even an hour without access to computers can have serious consequences in the healthcare industry. To end the DDoS attacks and regain control of the compromised server, hackers typically demand payment.

In this scenario, it is the IT department’s responsibility to protect against DDoS attacks rather than the users. In many cases, you can successfully counter an attack in progress by employing countermeasures such as increasing your available bandwidth on demand and using a content delivery network (CDN) to filter out malicious requests. Many up-to-date servers also include hardware safeguards against such intrusions.

4.   Insider Threats

Employee theft is a common problem in healthcare facilities, and it’s unfortunate that this is often the case. Physically installing a virus or botnet on a system to steal data or shut down a whole network is another terrifying prospect.

It is crucial to maintain a strict hierarchy of roles for data access, and ideally, all the data should be anonymized so that it is useless to any potential thief. Medical centres should have clear rules and regulations about patients bringing their own devices and plugging them into equipment.

5.   Bad Bots

These malicious programs masquerade as regular Internet users in order to penetrate defences and overwhelm a website with requests until it crashes. During the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination, similar attacks have been documented in several countries.

For ransom, cybercriminals would release malicious bots that would either crash websites or book up all available appointments. Traditional phishing techniques are the most typical means of infection in a healthcare facility.

Warn your users to be cautious when visiting external links and to never install anything without first checking with IT. Furthermore, before downloading any work file, viruses should be checked for and removed.

Awareness is protection.

The healthcare sector will forever be a soft target for hackers. Hackers would always go out of their way to target institutions like hospitals and clinics, whether it’s for the sake of gaining access to sensitive information or because the repercussions of a breach would be so devastating.

Educating your patients on the numerous risks you face as a healthcare provider is the most effective way to maintain a secure environment. Because of their naiveté, most people easily fall prey to these pitfalls. All these dangers are simple to spot if you know what to look for, and a solid hardware policy can protect against them.