Weekend reading to make you feel insecure, indeed. Healthcare continues to be one of the most vulnerable sectors to hacking, breaches, ransomware. (It likely was one of the top 5 on the list handed to Mr. Putin in Geneva a week ago.) It doesn’t help that many organizations from providers to payers, legacy devices to apps, figuratively have a ‘Welcome Hackers’ neon sign on their doors, virtual and otherwise.
Three articles from the always interesting Healthcare Dive, two by Rebecca Pifer and the third by veteran Greg Slobodkin, will give our Readers a quick and unsettling overview:
- According to cybersecurity company Sophos in their 16-page report, 2020 was an annus horribilis for healthcare organizations and ransomware, with 34 percent suffering a ransomware attack, 65 percent confirming the attacks encrypted their data, but only 69 percent reported that the encrypted data was restored after the ransom was paid. Costs were upward of $1 million. Their conclusion: assume you will be hit, and at least three backups. Dive 24 June
- The BMJ found that lax or no privacy policies were a key problem with over half of mobile health apps. 23 percent of user data transmissions occurred on insecure communication protocols and 28.1 percent of apps provided no privacy policies. There’s a lot to unpack in the BMJ study by the Macquarie University (Sydney) team. Our long-time Readers will recall our articles about insecure smartphone apps dating back to 2013 with Charles Lowe’s article here as an example. Dive 16 June
- Old medical devices, continuing vulnerability that can’t be fixed. Yes, fully functioning and legacy medical devices, often costing beaucoup bucks, are shockingly running on Windows 98 (!), Windows XP, outdated software, and manufacturers’ passwords. It’s hard to believe that Dive is writing about this as it’s been an issue this Editor’s written about since (drumroll) 2013 when TTA picked up on BBC and other reports of ‘murderous defibrillators and pacemakers’. If too far back, try 2015 with Kevin Fu’s and Ponemon’s warnings then to ‘wash their hands’ of these systems even if they’re still working. Chris Gates quoted in the article: “You can’t always bolt-on security after the fact, especially with a legacy piece of equipment — I’ve literally handed checks back to clients and told them there’s no fixing this.” Dive 23 June
What to do?
- If you are a healthcare organization, think security first. Other organizations in finance and BPO do, locking down to excruciating points. And yes, you’ll have to pay a premium for the best IT security people, up your budgets, and lower your bureaucracy to attract them. Payers are extremely vulnerable with their wealth of PHI and PII, yet tend to skimp here.
- Consider bringing in all your IT teams to your home country and not offshoring. Much of the hacking occurs overseas where it’s tougher to secure servers and the cloud reliably and fully.
- Pay for regular and full probes and audits done by outside experts.
- If you supply a mobile app–design with security and privacy first, from the phone or device to the cloud or server, including data sharing. There are companies that can assist you with this. One example is Blue Cedar, but there are others.
- If you supply hardware and software for medical devices, think updates, patches, and tracking every bit you sell to make sure your customers do what they need to do. Even if your customer is a past one.
(Side message to NHS Digital–don’t rush your GPDPR upload to the summer holidays. Make it fourth quarter. Your GPs will thank you.)
Suggestions from our Readers wanted! While your Editor has been covering security issues since early days here, she is not an expert, programmer, or developer, nor has stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately.