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How to Protect Your Practice from a Medical Ransomware Attack

Did you know that medical ransomware attacks are on the rise? 

Beginning in November 2020, there has been a 45% increase in attacks specifically targeting healthcare organizations around the world. To put this into perspective, healthcare practices account for almost 2x the overall increase in cyber-attacks across all industries worldwide.

With 2021 ransomware trends indicating a targeted effort to exploit medical and dental practices, medical practices must bring their cybersecurity into alignment to adapt to the evolving digital landscape.

In this article, we’ll look at how to protect your practice against a medical ransomware attack, including an overview of how hackers target medical practices, the reasons for it, and how you can ultimately protect your business using PCIHIPAA’s OfficeSafe.

Ransomware & Healthcare

To get an idea of the situation facing healthcare practices being targeted by ransomware and other cyber security threats, take a look at the following numbers on cyber security:

  • The average ransomware payment per incident is currently $154,108 (Source: Coveware)
  • 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error and oversight. (Source: Cybint)
  • Data breaches exposed 36 billion records in the first half of 2020. (Source: RiskBased)
  • The cost of US healthcare ransomware attacks is estimated at $21 Billion in 2020 (Source: HIPAA Journal)
  • In 2020, 92 individual ransomware attacks affected over 600 separate healthcare facilities (including clinics, hospitals, etc.), affecting over 18 million patient records. Bear in mind that these numbers also don’t account for for unreported incidents. (Source: Comparitech)

It’s obvious that a medical ransomware attack can be catastrophic for any healthcare practice. However, the real question is, why is this occurring? 

We’ll shed some light on why medical practices are targeted, and how OfficeSafe from PCIHIPAA is the most effective solution to cyberthreats for medical practices.

Understanding Ransomware Attacks for Healthcare Providers

How Ransomware Attacks Work

Ransomware is a portmanteau of “software” and “ransom”, which means that hackers are able to target medical practices through software that holds a digital portion of the business hostage. Hackers typically demand payment in exchange for access to be returned, which can cause substantial business interruption or compromise the practice’s day-to-day operation itself. 

Hackers get into your business in a number of ways by exploiting security flaws in files, networks, servers, IoT devices, or by simply human error. The most common means of infiltration include:

  • Malicious Downloads
  • Phishing Attacks
  • Compromised Credentials

Once a practice has been compromised, there are two main methods that hackers leverage their unauthorized access:

  • File Encryption
  • Data Theft

File Encryption

Hackers deny a practice access to their data via sophisticated file encryption and demand payment to regain access. This makes it impossible to recover these files without paying the ransom.

Data Theft

Because hackers only profit if their victims pay the ransom, some practices choose to accept the loss of their data or incur the higher cost of  data recovery methods. In response to unpaid ransom, the hacker may threaten to expose public data or sell it on the black market – both of which can have serious liability and ethical issues. Furthermore, this may trigger a costly HIPAA audit, penalty fees for non-compliance, and even shutting your doors for good.

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For both of these methods, most negotiations happen behind closed doors to avoid controversy and undermining the credibility of a practice’s patients. 

Why Do Medical Ransomware Attacks Occur So Frequently?

Medical ransomware attacks happen for a number of reasons: 

Overburdened Staff 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for ransomware. As a result, healthcare staff have been overburdened with adhering to stringent safety protocols as well as running a business with less resources. 

Considering most cybersecurity is maintained in-house by staff, the human element increases the possibility of being manipulated and hacked simply by oversight. Or, staff may be too distracted to spot social engineering tactics. 

New Available Technology

Attacks are getting easier and cheaper for hackers to deliver sophisticated attacks more frequently. The rise of blockchain-encrypted digital currency (i.e. Bitcoin) has made ransomware it substantially easier for hackers to cover their tracks and leave no trace. Also, artificial intelligence (AI) can be utilized to overwhelm standard security protocols, leaving medical practices unable to detect and defend against ransomware attack. 

Outdated Software and Hardware

Many medical practices have been suffering from increased overheads while contending with reduced profits. In turn, many practices have been forced to cut corners, using outdated devices or old licenses that can be easily exploited by hackers. For example, a Bluetooth-enabled medical device that hasn’t been regularly updated to meet the latest HIPAA guidelines can be hacked, enabling unlimited access to an otherwise secure network. 

Cyber Security Solutions from PCIHIPAA

To avoid a medical ransomware attack, partnering with PCIHIPAA is the solution your medical practice needs to stay safe from cyber threats.

OfficeSafe from PCIHIPAA boosts your practice’s cybersecurity and simplifies compliance in an all-in-one comprehensive package. Some of OfficeSafe’s most valuable features for healthcare providers include:

    • Adaptability: OfficeSafe has the capability to help small practices and medium enterprises for all of their needs
    • Simplified Compliance: PCIHIPAA offers a comprehensive HIPAA compliance solution that removes the guesswork and constant revisions of policies. This includes such instances as audits by HHS (Health and Human Services) and Merchant Processing (PCI Compliance) with OfficeSafe Pay (a platform designed to save money on excessive credit card processing fees)
    • Responsive to Ongoing HIPAA/PCI/OSHA Updates: OfficeSafe from PCIHIPAA is designed to help create internal policies and procedures according to HIPAA’s Seven Fundamental Elements of an Effective Compliance Program

Ongoing IT/Network Support and Evaluation: PCIHIPAA provides a number of network and IT solutions, including:

  • Comprehensive Risk Assessment
  • Email Encryption & Encrypted Cloud-Based Data Backup
  • Evolving Cybersecurity Measures: PCIHIPPA’s HIPAA compliance solution offers proper preparation that includes:
    • Data backup plan
    • Data restoration plan
    • Emergency mode operations plan
    • Incident Management in accordance with the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.
  • Preventing Potential Liability Issues: PCIHIPAA offers $250,000 in Cyber Insurance Coverage.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Monthly and annual rates are available that outperform other comparable HIPAA compliance solutions on the market. 

With the complexity of ransomware and other threats, thousands of medical practices nationwide use OfficeSafe to simplify their compliance requirements. By partnering with PCIHIPAA, healthcare providers / covered entities keep their practice protected, health information private, and ultimately get the peace of mind they deserve. 

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