By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


Though cybercriminals are usually incentivized by financial gain, the reality is that a cyber-attack can create far more damage than just hitting an organization fiscally. This is especially the case when it comes to healthcare organizations. Health data is far more valuable to a cybercriminal, going for roughly 10 or 20 times more than a generic credit card number. Therefore, we can expect to see a surge in healthcare breaches. However, the impact of this won’t just cripple a facility financially. It’s possible a cybercriminal could take over a hospital, manipulate important hospital data, or even compromise medical devices.


It’s already started

These sort of breaches are already happening. At the start of 2016, three UK hospitals in Lincolnshire managed by the North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust were infected by a computer virus. The breach was so severe it resulted in hundreds of planned operations and outpatient appointments being cancelled.


The event, which officials were forced to deem as a “major incident,” also made it difficult to access test results and identify blood for transfusions, and some hospitals struggled to process blood tests. This is one of the first examples of a healthcare cyber security breach directly impacting patients in the UK, but it won’t be the last.


Follow in the footsteps of enterprises

Breaches like these have put a great deal of pressure on healthcare IT professionals. Though there has been a shift in mentality in enterprise, with security becoming a priority, the same can’t be said for the healthcare sector. This needs to change. The situation is worsened with most healthcare organizations often having budget cuts, which make security a hard thing to prioritize.


It doesn’t need to break to be fixed

Many healthcare IT professionals assume that management will only focus on security once a significant breach occurs, but it’s time healthcare organizations learned from enterprises that have seen breaches occur and acted. In the meantime, there is work that requires little investment that IT professionals can do to protect the network.


Educate and enforce

Employees are often the weakest link when it comes to security in the workplace. An awareness campaign should encompass both education and enforcement. By approaching an education initiative in this way, employees will have a better understanding of potential threats that could come from having an unauthorized device connected to the network.


For example, healthcare workers need to be shown how a cybercriminal could infiltrate the network through hacking someone’s phone. This would also start a dialogue between healthcare employees, helping them to prioritize security and thus giving the IT department a better chance of protecting the organization from a breach.


It’s naturally assumed that a healthcare IT professional should be able to effectively protect his or her organization from an attack. However, even the most experienced security professional would struggle to do so without the right tools in place. To protect healthcare organizations from disastrous attacks requires funding, investment, and cooperation from employees.


Find the full article on Adjacent Open Access.