FBI Agent to CHIME Attendees: The Cybersecurity Environment Is Becoming More Dangerous

Mark Hagland | Healthcare Informatics | August 15, 2016

FBI Agent Timothy J. Wallach shared with CHIME/AEHIS LEAD Forum attendees some of the latest disturbing trends

The level of cybersecurity threat is growing exponentially in healthcare right now, but there are some very clear strategies that the leaders of patient care organizations can and should do in order to fight back. That was the core of the message that Timothy J. Wallach, a supervisory special agent in the Cyber Task Force in the Seattle Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told attendees Monday morning at the CHIME/AEHIS LEAD Forum Event, being held at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront in Seattle, and sponsored by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2—a sister organization to Healthcare Informatics under the Vendome Group, LLC umbrella).

Timothy J. WallachSupervisory Special Agent Wallach began his presentation on Monday morning by discussing the main groups that pose threats to healthcare IT security and to IT security across industries. There are six main groups and sources of threats: hacktivists; cyber-criminals; insiders; espionage; terrorism; and warfare, he noted. Hacktivists are low-level threats primarily motivated to deface websites and initiate DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks against entities they are politically opposed to. Insiders are individuals within organizations who either purposefully or inadvertently expose their organizations to breaches and cybercriminality. Terrorists are beginning to consider how they might use technology to attack potential targets. And warfare involves actual nations waging war on each other. The two biggest threats by far, he said, are cybercriminals and those involved in cyber-espionage—including hostile foreign governments.

With regard to the biggest group of those threatening healthcare organizations right now, Wallach noted that the cyber-criminals involved now are conducting activity to steal information and monetize it. “Healthcare information is worth a lot of money on the dark web,” he said. “The bad guys want to target information that they can eventually monetize.” And patient records are treasure troves of usable data, unfortunately for the leaders of patient care organizations. Meanwhile, the leaders of nation states are now actively also involved in cyber-criminality, Wallach said. They are generally attempting to steal information for economic or political gain or for espionage purposes. What’s important to understand in this context, he said, is that hostile foreign governments’ cyber-criminal activities are “generally well-funded, highly technically adept, and very sophisticated”...