The healthcare sector has embraced a range of digital technologies, from interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) devices to advanced telehealth services, all in the pursuit of enhanced patient care.
While this has improved accessibility and efficiency, it has also significantly broadened the potential attack surface for cybercriminals.
This expanded threat landscape is further complicated by the pace at which these technologies are being adopted.
Rapid digital transformation often outstrips the implementation of adequate security measures, leaving gaps that malicious threat actors can exploit.
According to the most recent Australian Digital Health Agency cyber security report, the number of weekly cyberattacks in the healthcare industry increased by 69 per cent from 2021 to 2022.
As such, healthcare organisations must evolve their cybersecurity strategies continually to keep pace with technological advancements.
The challenge lies in striking the correct balance.
On one hand, organisations need to harness the latest technological innovations to provide high-quality patient care.
On the other, there is an imperative to protect sensitive patient data and maintain robust security protocols.
The sweet spot lies in achieving a nuanced understanding of both the potential of these technologies and the risks they introduce.
Proactive and predictive risk management is crucial in this context. Healthcare facilities must tailor their cybersecurity strategies to their unique operating environments.
However, technology alone will not suffice.
For the best chance of defence, organisations must secure the digital perimeter while taking a team-oriented approach to ensure every staff member – from IT teams to frontline healthcare staff – understands the specific risks associated with different technologies and operational practices, as well as their role in remaining compliant with cybersecurity best practices.
This requires a shift in perspective, ensuring all personnel view cybersecurity as an integral part of the healthcare delivery process and not as a separate entity that remains the sole responsibility of the IT department.
Education about the latest cybersecurity threats and practices is vital to achieve this. It helps hospitals and healthcare organisations make significant progress towards cultivating a culture of cybersecurity awareness.
Organisations should implement regular training and education programs to inform staff about the latest threats and best practices.
This culture must also extend beyond the confines of the organisation. Patients, too, play a role in maintaining the security of their data, especially as telehealth and remote monitoring become more prevalent.
Educating patients on safe digital practices, like securing their home networks and recognising phishing attempts, improves care.
An overarching cybersecurity strategy should include third-party vendors and partners to ensure a unified defence against potential cyber threats.
The journey towards digital resilience in healthcare is ongoing, marked by a need to develop comprehensive security strategies encompassing all aspects of patient care.
Effective cybersecurity in healthcare is not a one-time effort; it’s a continuous process of adaptation and improvement.
It involves regular assessments of internal and external risks, updating protocols as needed, and ensuring that all employees, from the boardroom to the clinic, are educated and aware of their role in maintaining a secure digital environment.
As healthcare continues to evolve, the organisations that succeed will recognise the importance of cybersecurity in patient care.
They will be the ones that move beyond embracing technological innovation also to build and maintain a secure, resilient digital infrastructure that prioritises education and safeguards the well-being of their patients and the integrity of their data.
Jason Whyte is the general manager for the Pacific at Trustwave, a cybersecurity management and consulting company.