A personal health record leak has me over my knees
Is the Canadian healthcare system considered a big fish for cyberattacks?
The Canadian healthcare system has records of all Canadians who have visited the hospital or other health clinics at least once.
Healthcare facilities have access to our personal information such as our address, phone number, occupation, healthcare card number, and other confidential data that can be used against us if it falls into the wrong hands. Hackers can use secrets or confidential information about specific sectors in the healthcare system to carry out ransomware. As a result, the healthcare system's intellectual property may be highly exposed to cyberattacks if preventive measures are not taken.
Importance of Healthcare Data and Information Cyber ProtectionClick on the title below to expand
It is necessary for hospitals, healthcare professionals, and healthcare staff to invest in cybersecurity due to its importance. Cybersecurity involves the protection of all electronic information and assets that are digitally stored from authorized access. In Canada, cybersecurity must address three important issues: data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Data confidentiality is the privacy of information and limiting authorizations to view, share, and use the information to protect private data against unauthorized access, disclosure, and theft. For example, your social insurance number is data that you would keep confidential.
Data integrity refers to the overall accuracy, validity, and consistency of information over time. It is important as it ensures data is safe from external forces. For instance, if data integrity is compromised, the data is recoverable and searchable as it can be traced back to the original source.
Data availability refers to the accessibility, reliability, timeliness and relevance of information. If there is no data available, this indicates that the data is not accessible, meaning you have no data at all. Data availability is critical in the healthcare system because healthcare professionals need to access data to diagnose and perform proper treatments accurately.
Cybersecurity is important in the Canadian healthcare system for several reasons. If data is compromised in the healthcare setting, it will affect the smooth and normal functioning of the health sector across the country. Healthcare organizations, institutions, and hospitals have specialized information stored in their system. Most of the data is sensitive, like Hospital Information System/ Electronic Health Record (HIS/HER) systems and clinical decision support systems, e-prescribing, and other helpful information that should be accessible to their third party. Cyberattacks tend to target information through email contact, such as phishing; hence hospitals must protect all sensitive and non-sensitive data from all kinds of attacks.
The healthcare system faces many consequences as a result of cyberattacks. Cyber extortion, or ransomware, is the most common as cybercriminals seek money. This involves cybercriminals asking for money when they have access to sensitive information, and in exchange for money, they exclaim that they will erase the private information they stole. However, even if the money is paid, there is no guarantee that the criminals will stop the cyber activities.
The Worst Cyber Attack
A denial of service (DoS) attack is one of the worst cyberattacks that the healthcare system can encounter. When this kind of attack happens, it can shut down the entire healthcare network system because hackers are flooding the target network with traffic. Consequently, users will no longer have access to information from the system that received the DoS attack. Furthermore, they can send information that can cause an attack on the system. When the attack occurs, it can block the system, making it impossible for legitimate users to carry out their tasks. In addition, it can affect account holders, members, and employees of the hospital.
Other DoS attacks exploit vulnerabilities that cause the target system or service to crash. In these attacks, specific inputs are sent to take advantage of pre-existing bugs in the target that subsequently crash or severely destabilize the system so that it cannot be accessed or used.
Ultimately, DoS attacks could lead to the stealing of important sensitive information. When this kind of information gets to the wrong hand, it could negatively affect the healthcare system. For example, it would be embarrassing when a patient's record of a kidney transplant gets to the wrong hand. Likewise, the personal health records of any patient should never get to the wrong hand. It is the duty of hospital management to ensure that sensitive information in their custody is well protected.
Why Target Healthcare System?
The Canadian healthcare system is considered a big fish, and that is why cybercriminals will do anything to compromise their database. When they attack, they get sensitive information about patients such as names, addresses, phone contacts, and other personal information. These attackers know a lot they can benefit from the information when they get it. For instance, they can demand money in exchange for them staying away from such data. Moreover, they can sell the information they get from the hospital system or compromise the entire system. After all, money is the majority of a cybercriminal's primary motive.
Because of the importance of healthcare data information, top management can consider investing in cyber insurance. Healthcare management knows that it can be disastrous to their system when criminals have access to their database stored on their cyber. Cyber insurance can serve as a safety valve in cyberattacks because it can help them recover quickly and provide essential services to their customers. It will take time before they recover from any major cyberattack, but it becomes more straightforward for the recovery with insurance coverage. It can also help them to fortify their server system.
Data Breaches and COVID-19
Healthcare cybersecurity systems are essential during the COVID-19 era due to the high number of patients admitted into hospitals and healthcare facilities. The hospital system is the focus of cyberattacks because healthcare institutions and healthcare workers are on the frontline. Furthermore, many national resources are distributed to the healthcare system due to the high demand for vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPE), and more, making healthcare attacks a large target because cyber attackers may wish to commit theft. Criminals want to take their share in the resources at the disposal of the hospitals. Moreover, they can use sensitive information to demand money from hospital patients. They can even attempt to steal from stakeholders. Therefore, it is important for hospitals not to compromise their security system, especially while COVID-19 still poses a considerable threat to society.
When there is a data breach, the hospital must recover information as soon as possible. The management should put together a functional response team of experts to work out how to retrieve information and prevent it from happening again. The other step is to identify and restrain the attack. It is also helpful to find out the scope of attacks such as email, web, and the system network. When they discover it, they have to erase any further attack and begin working on recovery measures. Most importantly, top management has to conduct a forensic and root cause analysis of the problem to help prevent future attacks. Besides, they have to conduct an impact analysis and inform outside parties or partnerships to also know and take preventive measures. It is the responsibility of hospitals to protect their data, and thus, they need to invest in cyber insurance.
It is also important that the healthcare top management take adequate preventative measures to protect themselves against attack. The Canadian health system has to heavily invest in cybersecurity, such as obtaining cyber insurance, because they transact most of the activities through the internet. Their database contains lots of confidential information and valuable data that are digitally stored. Therefore, healthcare authorities must pay special attention to data protection. They have to reevaluate their security measures to ensure that their system is not compromised and protected with top security measures. As a result, there is no doubt that the Canadian healthcare system is considered a big fish for cyberattacks.