The health industry, in the crosshairs of cybercrime

The rapid digital transformation of the sector exposes it more easily to attacks. Cyber resilience and robust security strategies are the key to curbing serious consequences

The healthcare industry is among the top targets for cybercriminals due to its handling of large amounts of sensitive patient data and the centrality of its operations.

The industry has been rapidly adopting digital technologies such as electronic health records (EHR), telemedicine and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, which provides great benefits, but at the same time, more entry points for cybercrime. The interconnected nature of these systems means that a security breach in one part of the network can potentially compromise the entire healthcare infrastructure. 

COVID-19 in turn, had a significant impact on the growth of cybersecurity breaches in the sector, basically because the industry was forced to quickly adopt new technologies to enable remote healthcare and telemedicine. All this fast implementation, was often done without sufficient cybersecurity measures, leaving healthcare organizations vulnerable to attacks. 

In 2023, for the 13th year in a row, the healthcare industry reported the most costly data breaches, with an average cost of $10.93 million, which is nearly double that of the financial industry, according to points out the World Economic Forum. 

Globally, the sector has experienced a year-on-year increase in cybercrime of 30%, while 1 in 44 organizations have suffered ransomware attacks in the second quarter of 2023. The healthcare sector is the second most affected by these types of attacks, with 1 in 27 organizations, which represents a year-on-year increase of 16%. 

Specifically, cyber attacks on health institutions in Latin America have been increasing. According to him Kaspersky Threat Landscape The industry is among the most attacked with 5,28% of the total attack attempts with techniques such as phishing, ransomware and denial of service attacks.

The greatest cyber risk that the sector is facing is not only the theft, kidnapping or loss of data as such, but the alteration in the operation of the system as the main objective. In the case of hospitals, clinics or health institutions, it can have serious consequences on health care.

In this sense, among the most notable cases were two cyber attacks that occurred in 2022 on the website of the National Institute for Food and Drug Surveillance (Invima) In colombia, which produced the non-availability of information and applications external to the institute.

It is worth noting that ransomware group activity in Latin America increased in 2023 with an inclination towards the sector health among your favorite objectives. Among the cases that were announced is the computer attack on public platforms in Costa Rica which caused convulsions in the expanded network of hospitals and clinics. Cybercrime group Rhysida has quickly gained notoriety for its large-scale ransomware attacks. Targeting targets in Latin America and beyond, this group has affected 17 hospitals and 166 clinics, including the attack on PAMI (National Institute of Social Services for Retirees and Pensioners of Argentina) that interrupted vital services, affecting medical care and the processing of medications and treatments.

The region, under the magnifying glass

According to the report “Cybersecurity in the health sector in Latin America and the Caribbean” published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2020, the countries in the region present a medium-low level of maturity in cybersecurity, with an average score of 47 out of 100. The report highlights that the main challenges are: ldue to a lack of awareness, training and culture in cybersecurity, the shortage of specialized human resources, the absence or insufficiency of regulations and standards and the vulnerability of infrastructure and computer systems.

Regarding this last point, cyberattacks are increasingly targeting health for various reasons. On the one hand, medical institutions They often use a combination of new and old technologies, which can result in unresolved vulnerabilities. On the other hand, the growing incorporation of cloud-based solutions in the sector, the increase in connected devices and smartphones, and the adoption of 5G and IoT technology are factors that increase the incidence of these attacks. Furthermore, the sector is not exempt from how cybercriminals They use Artificial Intelligence to bypass controls, automate and accelerate your attacks with greater precision and range.

The commitment to resilience

Guarantee the cyber resilience It is essential to maintain the continuity of medical operations and keep your reputation safe. The problem is that at the same time as its digital transformation, the health sector must undertake a cybersecurity strategy that allows them to anticipate and avoid the risks of cyber attacks. 

An essential part of developing a cybersecurity strategy is the identification and classification of sensitive information.‍ Second, the paradigm that should prevail in the industry is the Zero Trust model and preventive approaches, such as multi-factor authentication, strong passwords and data backups. It is also necessary increasing awareness and training in cybersecurity, both for users and health service providers.

On the other hand, it is necessary updating and modernizing infrastructure and computer systems, in order to guarantee its availability, integrity and confidentiality, as well as interoperability and compatibility with international standards. Finally, the incorporation of Emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and cloud computing, which offer benefits to improve the quality, efficiency and security of systems.

It is worth noting that despite the adverse scenario, andhe focus on cybersecurity is not yet prevailing in the health industry who privilege - logically - medical issues.

Given the importance, scale and interconnectedness of the healthcare industry, it is clear that No organization or government entity can address the issue of cybersecurity alone.. A collaborative and systemic approach within the ecosystem is key: most healthcare organizations and hospitals globally lack the IT infrastructure and professionals necessary to establish an internal cybersecurity area, so it is central the search for solid strategic partners who are capable of designing the most robust and effective digital security strategies in the face of the alarming outlook for the sector.

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