Why Is Healthcare Cybersecurity so Challenging?

By Zachary Amos •  Updated: 09/27/22 •  5 min read

The healthcare industry tends to be hit especially hard by cyberattacks. The number of attacks has increased by 44% in 2022. It is concerning that facilities have been unable to make improvements to prevent patient records from being exposed. 

Healthcare cybersecurity is a problem, but it hasn’t changed much. Many people are working to meet these demands, but resources are lacking to allow them to do so. Threats will continue to disrupt the system if proper security measures aren’t taken.

Here are some common reasons for healthcare security problems. 

Lack of Qualified Professionals

Healthcare services recognize the problem and are fully aware of what needs to be done. The problem is that information security and healthcare informatics professionals are in short supply. The demand is so high that it is hard to execute getting the resources needed. 

The cybersecurity industry has difficulty filling jobs, making this even more of an issue. Skilled experts are in high demand, so they are quickly hired by well-funded companies first. It is important to find qualified professionals to ensure the security of patient records. Unfortunately, healthcare organizations can’t afford these professionals. 

An Underfunded System 

Underfunding has been an ongoing issue for hospitals and clinics, especially in their IT departments. The annual cost of cyberattacks against hospitals is $6 billion, but there are many limitations when it comes to budgeting. The budget gets even slimmer in the area of cybersecurity efforts. 

Slow efforts are happening to make this change since the current ones are not enough. Healthcare organizations plan to increase cybersecurity investments, but the expenditures seem small. Hospitals only spend around 5% of their budget on cybersecurity, which needs to be more significant. Healthcare organizations are starting to get more money for cybersecurity, although it is unclear exactly how much.  

Poorly Managed Systems

An array of devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, could potentially be vulnerable to attacks. Busy healthcare institutions like hospitals pose a greater risk due to a large number of people. It is imperative to remember that hackers are drawn to larger facilities like this. Data breaches in healthcare have not declined and can cost billions of dollars. 

To tackle something this large, high-risk industries like hospitals need to add security requirements with vendors about purchase agreements. Double-checking that firmware is up to date should be a priority, and they should be notified when equipment is at risk. 

A cheap improvement to make is properly training employees. Human error causes most medical data breaches. Healthcare providers with the proper knowledge on how to prevent cyberattacks could potentially reduce the number of these occurrences. Education is only one part of the puzzle that leads to improvement, but it’s a huge step forward. 

Ever-Changing Requirements

Cybersecurity requirements constantly evolve, making it harder for healthcare providers to keep up. Insurers are increasing premiums, limiting coverage, and adding security requirements. To get a policy, they require multifactor authentication measures and more. 

Healthcare workers are trying to meet new demands, but the lack of resources such as qualified professionals and money makes it harder. Now that insurance policies have increased costs, investing in their own cybersecurity programs is even more challenging.  

Poor Network Security 

Network security needs to be prioritized for a safer cyber system. Healthcare often faces data breaches, insider threats, cloud risks and phishing attacks. The pandemic made its impact on cybersecurity as well. Since employees were working from home, hackers could access information by phishing emails due to unprotected Wi-Fi networks. 

Fortunately, there are ways to improve cybersecurity to ensure sensitive data is adequately protected.

●    Implement antivirus software: This software can help protect network security overall. However, these systems require constant updates to combat ever-changing cyberthreat tactics. Healthcare organizations must prioritize keeping up with the upgrades to protect against hacking attempts.

●    Create strong passwords: Having strong passwords and updating them regularly can keep networks more secure. Strong passwords typically include 12-14 characters with a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Enforcing regular password updates is vital. Employees should understand the difference between weak and strong passwords as part of their work operations. 

●    Establish a security culture: It is essential to enforce cybersecurity’s importance. Creating a security culture will help make managing security a lot easier. Things will be safer when every team member is on the same page and is on top of their responsibilities. All employees are responsible for protecting patients’ data. 

The Bottom Line

Healthcare faces many challenges, one of which is cyber threats. Security must be treated as an imperative practice to keep everyone protected. Hackers see this industry as an easy target to profit from because of the lack of cybersecurity. Organizations must deal with their weakness and protect patients’ information.

Zachary Amos

Zachary is a tech writer and the features editor of ReHack Magazine where he covers cybersecurity and all things technology.