Preventing 85% of Healthtech Cyber Attacks: How to Implement Basic Security Measures

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Aga Brzycka

Updated May 20, 2024 • 8 min read
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Healthcare technology keeps on evolving and with it, so do its threats. With the advancement of healtech solutions comes the increasing importance of safeguarding data security and privacy.

The way I see it, the integrity and security of patient data stand as a non-negotiable priority.

Ensuring data security is imperative to prevent interception and unauthorized access to confidential information, highlighting the necessity of employing robust security measures such as strong data encryption.

However, this does not seem to be the norm for many companies in the industry.

Research highlights that 85% of cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure sectors could have been averted through the adoption of basic security measures, including timely patching, utilization of multi-factor authentication, and adherence to the principle of least privilege.

Regulatory frameworks play a pivotal role in upholding the quality and trustworthiness of digital health systems, thereby reinforcing the importance of adherence to data security standards.

Recent insights have reported a concerning uptick in cyberattacks targeting healthcare data, highlighting the value this data holds on the black market and the subsequent need for stringent security measures.

Statistics have shown a 32% increase in impacted Americans from 2020 to 2021 alone and a staggering 221% rise since 2018.

A report indicated that there has been minimal improvement, as healthcare organizations continue to neglect fundamental security protocols.

At least there’s some hope, as another report released by consulting firm Guidehouse revealed that 85% of organizations were intending to boost their digital and IT budgets for 2024, with cybersecurity emerging as their foremost investment focus.

I want to look at the technologies that not only are improving our healthcare system but which could be also posing a greater threat to patient data.

The rapid growth of technology in healthtech

AI and machine learning:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being integrated more and more into healthcare systems for tasks such as diagnostics and predictive analytics. Securing the data used for AI/ML applications can pose a threat due to the reliance of these algorithms on vast amounts of sensitive data.

IoT devices and edge computing:

The proliferation of Internet of Things devices in healthcare, including medical devices, sensors, and wearables, necessitates robust security measures. Protecting these devices and their data, especially at the edge (close to the data source), is crucial.

Data interoperability:

Healthcare organizations are striving to achieve data interoperability to enhance patient care and outcomes, allowing different systems to seamlessly share and access patient information. Efforts should be put in ensuring that this sharing is conducted securely to safeguard patient data privacy.

Cloud computing:

Many healthcare organizations are transitioning to cloud-based solutions for storing, managing, and processing healthcare data. It’s important to implement robust cloud security practices to protect data and privacy in the cloud environment.

Knowing this, here are some practices our clients implement, as you should, to ensure compliance and data security in healthtech.

Keeping healthcare data safe when collaborating with vendors

Protecting sensitive personal data

Safeguarding sensitive personal data is one of the most important factors for your clients. This includes medical records, diagnostic information, and personal details, all of which demand stringent protection measures against unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats. To fortify the security of health IT systems, robust encryption, access controls, and intrusion detection systems are indispensable.

Compliance with data protection regulations

Adhering to data protection regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is non-negotiable for healthtech solutions. These regulations impose strict guidelines on data collection, storage, and exchange, with hefty penalties for noncompliance.

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): GDPR mandates rigorous data protection standards for individuals within the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). Companies processing personal health data must comply with GDPR's requirements, including obtaining explicit consent and ensuring data portability.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA sets standards for safeguarding sensitive patient data in the USA, particularly electronic protected health information (ePHI). Covered entities must adhere to HIPAA's Privacy Rule and Security Rule to uphold patient data privacy and security.

Ensuring data transmission security

Secure transmission of data between healthcare providers, individuals, and health IT platforms is essential to keep away interception and unauthorized access. Employing robust encryption and secure communication protocols like HTTPS ensures data confidentiality during transit.

Implementing authentication and access control

Strict access controls and authentication mechanisms are imperative for limiting data access to authorized users only. Technologies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and biometric authentication enhance the security of health IT solutions by verifying user identities.

Embracing data reduction practices

Data minimization practices involve collecting only necessary data for specific purposes and retaining it for the shortest duration possible. This reduces the risk of data exposure and ensures that sensitive data is not retained unnecessarily, thereby minimizing potential security vulnerabilities.

Conducting regular security audits and updates

Regular security audits and assessments of health technology solutions help identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could compromise data security. Timely software updates and patches address known security vulnerabilities, while continuous monitoring and auditing maintain the integrity of the system.

Individuals must have control over their data and understand how it is used and shared. Transparent consent mechanisms provided by healthtech empower individuals to grant or revoke access to their data as needed. Educating individuals about data usage is essential to ensure informed consent.

Fostering employee education and awareness

Human error remains a significant factor in data breaches. Proper training for healthcare staff and technology solution providers on secure handling of personal data is vital to mitigate the risk of inadvertent data disclosure and enhance overall data security.

Securing cloud storage solutions

As many healthtech companies rely on cloud storage for data management, ensuring the security of cloud providers is crucial. High security and privacy standards, including encryption, data redundancy, and disaster recovery measures, are essential to protect personal data stored in the cloud.

Establishing incident response plans

Healthtech companies should have well-defined incident response procedures in place to address data breaches or security incidents swiftly and effectively. A prompt and coordinated response minimizes the impact on personal data and preserves user trust in the system.

The future of data security in healthtech

Looking ahead, emerging technologies like blockchain offer promising solutions for increasing data security and integrity in healthcare by creating an immutable and transparent ledger for healthcare records and transactions.

Compliance with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, along with robust security measures and implementation of emerging solutions, are essential for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of patient information.

Keeping up with these security measures should not be just a bonus of your business, but an integral pillar of it, if you want to ensure that your clients remain satisfied, and their privacy is ‘healthy’.

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Aga Brzycka

Client Partner at Netguru

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