Why Healthcare Data is a Primary Target for Cybersecurity Threats?

Published on : 30 Jan 2023

healthcare data and cybersecurity threats

Over the past several decades, cybercrime has evolved to be more comprehensive, threatening, and damaging. There is an emerging trend of cybercriminals attacking all sorts of individuals and organizations in the industry. The healthcare industry has been a soft target for many years and healthcare data is a prime target for cybercriminals intent on stealing data. Gaining an understanding of why healthcare data has become such a prime target among these nefarious-intentioned hackers is key to gaining a more nuanced perspective on cybercrime and its relation to healthcare. Here is why healthcare data is a prime target for cybersecurity threats.

Healthcare Data Is Confidential and Sensitive

In most healthcare institutions, there are databases that house a large amount of private information about patients. This can include information such as addresses, private health-related information, and financial information. If organizations take advantage of healthcare-related apps, such as nursing apps, that means there are also large databases of employee data that hackers may be able to breach as well.

As one can imagine, this sensitive information is the exact type of data that hackers intend to steal or exploit. As such, healthcare is seen as an industry ripe with opportunities to find large amounts of this confidential data on masses of individuals for cybercriminals. With access to a healthcare organization’s computer network, hackers can benefit in several ways. These include selling patient information to other criminals and holding the data hostage for ransom money.

Weakness of Legacy Computer Networks in the Healthcare Industry

For many healthcare institutions, such as hospitals, computer networks were installed years ago. This means that they have to rely on outdated technology that can’t always be updated or fixed.

Oftentimes, these older legacy computer networks have less robust defenses than their more recent counterparts. As such, they are more vulnerable to cyberattacks of various kinds.

While many organizations are aware of these issues, they avoid installing new systems and networks for several key reasons. One is the cost factor as setting up new systems and infrastructure is typically expensive to install. Another is the difficult nature of the undertaking, as it may disrupt operations for a time while being installed and all staff will have to be adequately trained on using the new system.

All of this has resulted in healthcare organizations being an easy target for cybercriminals. Older systems and infrastructure are easier to be hacked and breached. Many cybercriminals will target this industry knowing that they are both weaker and house large amounts of valuable data.

How Data Breaches Affect Healthcare Organizations

Data breaches in the healthcare space can have devastating effects on the organizations that fall victim to them. One of the most immediate consequences of data breaches is the loss of trust in patients. This loss of trust may cause patients to seek out service and treatment at different institutions that they believe will be better at maintaining data that revolves around patient confidentiality, leaving the victimized hospital less profitable.

Beyond sentiments concerning the trustworthiness of the organizations that fall victim to data breaches, these instances can also disrupt operations in significant ways. This can result in patients not receiving high-quality care and ultimately experiencing negative health outcomes as a result of the data breach-caused chaos.

Data Breaches Are a Serious Threat to Healthcare

Healthcare institutions are ripe with private data that can be useful to cybercriminals. By targeting healthcare organizations, especially those with outdated computer systems cybercriminals have a lot to gain. Hopefully, as time goes on, more and more healthcare organizations will seriously prioritize cybersecurity and do everything in their power to prevent data breaches.

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.