Ransomware Poses Increasing Threat to Healthcare Companies

doctor discusses ransomware attacks on healthcare

The age of technology has brought exponential advancements to the healthcare industry, but it has also brought threats in the form of cyber threats and ransomware attacks. Unfortunately, rates of cyber attacks are ever-increasing, and health practices are a popular target. 

This is why it is so important to prepare and protect your business data. Healthcare data is not only susceptible to devastating financial losses, but also personal privacy loss. 

That’s why it is important to stop ransomware attacks from taking down the systems that your practice needs and your patients depend on. Read on to learn more about ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry and how you can protect your practice’s data. 

What is Ransomware?

A ransomware attack is essentially when a system gets hacked and a form of malware infects the system and the files within it, blocking data from the authorized user’s reach. Ransomware will generally corrupt files or make them inaccessible until a ransom is paid, hence the name.

As mentioned above, this data is critical in a medical environment, as today, patient records and information are almost invariably all stored digitally. 

Ransomware can get to a system through a few different means; the most common are through an email or pop-up ad that contains malware. Malware can often manifest itself as something that appears innocent, persuading even the most careful to expose their systems.

Why is the Healthcare Industry Targeted for Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware attacks often target the healthcare industry due to the amount of disruption and devastation they can cause. Hackers know that without access to essential data, privacy will be compromised and important processes may be obstructed, and due to the time-sensitive nature of healthcare, these companies may be more willing to pay a ransom to get needed data returned quickly.

Attacks on healthcare practices are also popular because many hospital devices rely on internet-connected specialty equipment such as patient monitors, thermostats, and sensors which are limited in their ability to be upgraded and easy to hack.

What are the Outcomes of a Ransomware Attack?

The outcomes of a malware attack could be devastating for any business, let alone the healthcare industry. Some of the implications could include a complete shutdown of operations, damaged data, financial loss, and expensive repairs. In one week alone this year, several hospitals in the US were targeted by ransomware attacks, and in October, the Universal Health Service (UHS) was hit by a cyberattack that took down all of its IT systems.

Even for well-established organizations, it took two weeks to fully restore operations. Affected hospitals were forced to redirect ambulances and relocate patients to nearby hospitals, causing havoc for both the medical staff and the patients themselves.

For healthcare companies, ransomware attacks can cause disruptions that endanger patients and cause patients to lose trust in an organization. They can also cause significant financial losses due to down time, unrecovered data, or lost money due to actually paying the ransom, as some companies have done when they are left with no other immediate recourse. And if a breach is found to have been caused by a failure to comply with HIPAA regulations, organizations can face even greater financial losses and legal penalties.

How Can You Protect against Ransomware Attacks?

Luckily there are things you can do to help protect yourself and your business against a ransomware attack. 

Detect It and Stop the Spread

One of the most important measures to protect your data is to immediately identify malware that has entered your systems. Ensure you have adequate threat detection software that can instantly alert you if something has made its way to the system. Once you’re alerted, you’re in a much better position to minimize damage.

Even with a qualified IT team, it’s essential to consult experts in cybersecurity, especially when it comes to healthcare data. They will be able to install security software, monitor your data, and defend against attacks 24/7. A company offering Texas cybersecurity services can help provide your business with trusted, personalized cybersecurity solutions. 

Have External Backups in Place

It is important that all your data, especially operation-essential data, is not stored in just one place. You should have it backed up using encrypted cloud software or external hard drives. 

Whichever your preferred backup method, if your data is stolen in a ransomware attack, you’ll be much more prepared with backups in place. Be sure to back up your data regularly in a secure location.

Train Your Employees

It is important that your entire workforce is aware of the types of attacks that could occur and what to look out for. 

The majority of malware is delivered via advertisements and email, so it is important to make staff aware of potential threats with thorough security awareness training. They should also be briefed on what to do should they spot something suspicious.

By following the above guidelines, you will put your healthcare practice in a better position to protect the data of your employees and patients.