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Category Archives: Healthcare

What’s next for healthcare cybersecurity in 2021?

What’s next for healthcare cybersecurity in 2021?

The year 2020 saw the highest increase in cyberattacks registered by a single sector ever. The health-care industry in the second quarter of the year saw a 63 percent rise (from the previous quarter) in sophisticated attacks while Q3 saw a 39 percent increase. Put together, this has set the warning bells ringing across CERT teams and cybersecurity vendors trying hard to stop these cyberattacks from derailing the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The mode of attack
In over 79 percent of the attacks, healthcare service providers were kept away from critical data including patient records, device calibration information and administrative documentation. Such data was held to ransom to put psychological stress on these healthcare institutions (many of whom had frontline Covid-19 healthcare workers) to pay off steep ransom to free their data. This cycle has repeated innumerable times this year.

The hackers also exposed several weaknesses in the way healthcare institutions approach cybersecurity:

  • Use of unpatched and outdated software that is well past its prime as well as untested collaborative platforms
  • Less than secure data storage practices
  • Lax attention to cybersecurity
  • Lack of a proactive and complete outlook towards cybersecurity
  • Lack of employee sensitization on cybersecurity threats

As many as 42 percent of healthcare institutions we spoke to this year had experienced some form of breach due to a cyberattack. Majority of them (71 percent) paid the ransom quietly and got their data back. The others did not respond to questions on what happened after the cyber-attack citing confidentiality reasons.

“Hackers view healthcare institutions as easy targets for a cyberattack because of prevailing practices and pre-existing vulnerabilities that have been around for years, if not decades. This is also one of the sectors where the time taken to monetize a cyberattack is the shortest. Together these two factors have contributed immensely in turning healthcare into one of the most vulnerable sectors out there. In many ways, the cybersecurity journey of many healthcare providers is just starting,” said Kiran Zachariah, VP Digital Security at Subex.       

Looking ahead
The volume of cyberattacks is not expected to decrease in 2021. But we are expecting healthcare service providers to mount a strong challenge to hackers and to move away from being easy targets for malware developers and other adversarial entities. We are expecting attacks on R&D institutions to rise significantly as hackers shift their attention to the results Covid-19 vaccines are getting from real-world trials. Such attention will extend to other areas witnessing frenzied R&D efforts.

Healthcare institutions need to ramp up their cybersecurity efforts and increase the distance between them and hackers. Wasting hackers’ machinations through deception and by deploying solutions that detect and contain attacks early is one option to consider.

Subex is here to help
Subex Secure is a suite of solutions that includes Subex Secure Edgetech, Subex Secure Threat Intelligence and Subex Secure Security Operations Center services. Our OT and IoT security solution Subex Secure is agentless, non-intrusive, and built for discovery, detection, mitigation, and protection. It can passively and actively discover devices and their vulnerabilities and contain threats and prevent lateral movement through rapid digital detention. It can be deployed to scale and in a staggered and proactively flags threats and vulnerabilities through a 3-step filter process.

We can help you improve your cybersecurity posture so that you can focus your energy and attention towards fighting Covid-19 and other healthcare challenges out there. Connect with natalie.smith@subex.com to learn more.

IoT poised to transform healthcare

Among the sectors where the Internet of Things is offering a non-conventional way to address traditional challenges, healthcare stands out not just in its uniqueness but also in bearing significant potential to positively transform the quality of life of citizens. As the use cases increase, so does the scope for IoT to do more and this is just a beginning. In the days to come IoT will bring in a drastic reduction in healthcare administration costs, improve the efficacy of medicines and improve our ability to identify and isolate disease vectors well before they reveal their darker side.

Healthcare is a vast ecosystem. IoT has already made deep inroads into applications such as remote patient monitoring, clinical trials, pharma administration, personal healthcare, drug testing, insurance, robotics, smart pill cases, and treatment. Preventive healthcare is another area where IoT is helping. IoT enabled wearables are providing real-time data on every individual’s health enabling physicians to diagnose early warning signs of disease and administer medication or other interventions before it turns into a major risk to the person’s health.

With evolving technology and improving connectivity (with the arrival of 5G) and personalization of medical attention, it will be possible to do a lot more with IoT. For instance, data on responses to a certain medicine (collected and analyzed anonymously) will enable doctors to derive the exact dose to be given to the patient to ensure maximum drug efficacy. Smart jars will also remind patients to have their medicines on time and in the right dosage. This will help prevent misuse of vital medicines such as antibiotics.

Smart pills add a unique dimension to IoT. Smart pills, or simply digital pills, are medications prescribed to patients and come with edible electronic sensors that dispatch wireless messages to devices like patches, tablets or smartphones that reside outside the body when ingestion of these pills.  Since this technology will allow patients and doctors to track their drug regimen compliance, increasing patient adherence, it could lead to savings to the tune of $100 – $300 billion annually in the US alone.

Adoption challenges

Storing, securing and managing data are aspects that still pose a challenge to widespread IoT adoption in the sector. In addition, there are reliability and security issues with data alongside the lack of infrastructure and training among providers. This is because there are providers who lack the infrastructure to harness and analyze data even when it flows freely. Another issue is the cost of wearables. It is still not cheap enough for it to be used widely by populations in rural areas.

Security is still a key concern for the whole eco-system. With a diversity of devices, communication flavors, storage options, through fare networks, every aspect brings in its own security challenge. Since patient data is involved in the form of healthcare records or treatment efficacy, there are many entities and individuals out there who would want to get their hands on this data. Healthcare devices could also be highjacked to be used as conduits to launch larger Distributed Denial of Service attacks on other networks.

With so much data floating around in the networks, privacy issues have already come to the fore. Groups are suggesting that with smart pills, for instance, a surveilled compliance scenario would emerge and the doctor or the pharma company may end up receiving and hoarding more data than necessary.

The road ahead

The challenges that IoT brings forth should be measured against the benefits that it delivers. Overall, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to view healthcare minus IoT interventions in varied aspects. As these interventions get bigger and the benefits expand, the challenges will also be addressed. For a country like India that is trying to bring affordable healthcare to the masses, IoT is more than a game changer. What changes is not just affordability but also the availability of timely medicare. The savings in terms of replacing traditional and more costly alternatives are alone for India to give more attention to IoT.

India will definitely enable the emergence of many interesting use cases.

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