Thomas Grove

Someone is targeting your hospital for a ransomware attack. Are you ready?

June 6, 2023

Data Security, Ransomware 5 Minute Read

If you’re a hospital CIO or IT infrastructure manager, you’re familiar with the anxiety-inducing topic of ransomware. It’s the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, knowing that a single attack could bring your entire hospital to a screeching halt, compromise your patients’ sensitive data, and damage your reputation.

Because the healthcare industry is seen as an easy target, personal health, and related data are an attractive target for schemers trying to create ransom scenarios. Furthermore, hospitals are at a particularly high risk of ransomware attacks due to the critical nature of their services and the time-sensitive data they handle. Restoring data is a far more pressing matter for a hospital than, say, a tennis club restoring its reservation system.

In this first of a series of blog posts on data security, we will discuss the steps a hospital must take to protect itself from the ever-present risks of ransomware.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

The first step toward protecting a hospital from ransomware is to conduct a thorough risk assessment by identifying the hospital’s vulnerabilities and assessing the likelihood and potential impact of a ransomware attack. A risk assessment effectively enables the prioritization of security efforts and allocation of resources. The hospital should also conduct regular risk assessments — required annually by HIPAA — to ensure that security measures remain effective and that the organization can confidently respond to cyber-liability insurance applications.

Implement Security Best Practices

After identifying vulnerabilities, the hospital should implement security best practices to mitigate those risks. These best practices include ensuring that all systems are patched and up to date, enforcing strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, and restricting access to sensitive data. The hospital should also have a disaster recovery plan in place to quickly recover from a ransomware attack.

Train Employees on Cybersecurity Awareness

Employees are often the weakest link in an organization’s cybersecurity defenses. As such, it is crucial to train all staff on cybersecurity awareness, including how to identify and report suspicious activity. Employees should also be aware of the risks of phishing attacks, which are a common vector for ransomware attacks.

Back-Up Data Regularly

One of the most effective ways to protect against ransomware is to back up data regularly. This ensures that if data is encrypted or otherwise compromised in a ransomware attack, the hospital can quickly restore it from a backup. Store backups securely and test regularly to ensure they are effective.

Segment Networks & Restrict Access

Hospitals should segment their networks — divide networks into smaller subnetworks and restrict access between them — to limit the impact of a ransomware attack. If one segment is compromised, it will be contained, and the rest of the network will remain secure. The hospital should also restrict access to sensitive data by only granting permissions to those who need it to perform their job functions.

Implement Advanced Threat Detection & Response

Advanced threat detection and response tools enable hospitals to quickly identify and react to ransomware attacks. These tools use machine learning and other advanced techniques to identify suspicious activity and alert security teams. They can also automatically respond to threats by quarantining infected systems and blocking malicious traffic.

Monitor & Update Security Measures

Finally, hospitals must regularly monitor and update their security measures. This includes keeping security software up to date, monitoring logs for suspicious activity, and regularly reviewing access permissions. The hospital should also conduct regular penetration testing to identify any weaknesses in its security measures.

Rapid Incident Response

Unfortunately, regardless of what they do, some hospitals and healthcare systems will get hit with a ransomware attack. When this happens, the first minutes are critical. Hospitals must be ready to jump in immediately with lightning-fast incident response. While most hospitals can’t afford to staff a response team with the required skills around the clock, the good news is that a number of IT support providers stand ready with the emergency services required to get ahead of a ransomware incident when it first strikes.

By taking the measures listed above, hospitals can keep their sensitive data and critical services safe from cybercriminals looking to exploit vulnerabilities. The potential cost to a hospital or health system in terms of both dollars and reputation is far too high to not be prepared. If you don’t have the resources on the ground now, find a partner who can jump in at a moment’s notice and ensure the safety of your valuable data.

Medsphere offers hospitals a free IT assessment that provides a better understanding of existing IT infrastructure and cybersecurity readiness. Our team of experts conducts a comprehensive analysis of your hospital’s IT infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities, prioritize risks, and detail best practices that will protect your hospital from ransomware and other cyber threats.

Contact us today to schedule your free assessment and take the first step toward securing your hospital’s IT infrastructure.

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