The Human Factor In Healthcare Cybersecurity 

Cybersecurity brings to mind images of people tinkering away on green computer screens in dark rooms, but social engineering attacks have become increasingly common. An IBM study found that 41% of initial access to attacks across all industries is due to human error, such as phishing. It involves people simulating an organization you work with and sending fake invoices for you to click. The human factor in healthcare cybersecurity is often the difference between a prevented security breach and one with severe consequences.

Huge companies like Apple or Amazon are being targeted, so cyber security is an essential issue to tackle as attackers are getting much more sophisticated. How does this situation affect healthcare organizations, and what can they do to minimize information security risks?

This brief thought leadership piece will offer some solutions.

Preparing Members Of A Healthcare Organization For An Attack

If you talk with healthcare cybersecurity professionals, they would quietly tell you that the most significant cybersecurity threat for a data breach, for example, is humans. If we can get rid of humans, we’d have no issue. That’s a joke I heard once.

All jokes aside, cybersecurity incidents in healthcare organisations take many forms, some technological, but tools like firewalls and other solutions have minimized these risks. Human error is a part of every endeavor that involves people. Human behavior is not entirely predictable and prone to mistakes, so a criminal mind planning ransomware attacks exploits these vulnerabilities.

How can we tackle this issue? Here are a couple of ideas.

Selective Security Awareness Training

The conventional wisdom was that healthcare providers should put all their staff through standardized cybersecurity training to enlighten them about potential threats and keep everyone safe. There has been a slight shift in this paradigm.

Awareness training remains a top solution to prevent a cyber attack in the healthcare industry, but who are the ones that should be educated? The answer to this question has evolved over time. While healthcare staff must be informed about cyberattacks in general and trained to minimize risks, some people present a higher risk based on the impact a breach of their credentials would have on an organization. 

If you manufacture medical devices, for instance, and your organization has 10.000 employees, it would be wise to spend less time and resources educating all of them intensively. Instead, it would be more productive to focus on the 150 members of your staff that are holding the purse strings. Why? Because they’re the ones most likely to be targeted.

Hackers are aware that getting access to a credential from a critical healthcare staff member opens them the doors to enact a damaging ransomware attack because they get access to email accounts, business contacts, invoice procedures, payments approvals, supply chain workflows, and other critical components of the operation of your organization, compromising patient safety and business results.

Reacting to a Cyber Threat

Imagining that basic security controls and cybersecurity awareness programs will prevent all attacks is naive. The likelihood of every healthcare organization being breached at some point is high. The healthcare system as a whole must face this reality and prepare for it.

Risk assessment is crucial to simulate the impact of an attack on organizations. Backup and business continuity strategies are critical to prevent disruptions in human services and weeks or even months of having your systems down. 

These questions are essential to simulate different scenarios and react to cybersecurity attacks before they occur.

  • How are you going to react from a technology standpoint? 
  • How are you going to react from a personal standpoint? 
  • Is there an insider threat you have yet to consider that can produce a security incident?

The Optimal Healthcare Cybersecurity Posture

The importance of cybersecurity in healthcare cannot be overstated. A breach of information security can result in the interruption of critical health-related services.

An effective proactive posture to simulate responses to possible attacks is crucial since the response to an attack is equally or more important than preventive measures.

Although technology will continue to advance and prevent many types of attacks that take advantage of technical vulnerabilities, it cannot be relied on to avoid all kinds of threats, as hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, targeting a constant vulnerability: people.

As finite beings, human error is a part of our experience. In cybersecurity, the chances of it occurring must be minimized by providing awareness training to specific individuals within an organization to help them make better decisions and avoid becoming victims of a phishing attack that can surprise anyone in a moment of distraction.

My team helps cybersecurity organizations create content for the healthcare industry. If you need help with your content marketing, please get in touch.

Serg Valencia

Serg Valencia

Serg Valencia is a Healthcare Writer & Content Consultant who helps Payers, Providers, Pharma Brands, and HealthTech companies generate an impact with their message.

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