‘Cybersecurity Has Become a Full-Time Job’ in Healthcare

Neil Versel | MedCity News | November 28, 2016

If 2015 was supposed to be the “year of the hack” in healthcare, cybercriminals really were just getting started. This year, we have seen the rise of ransomware targeting healthcare organizations, plus continued phishing attacks and even some good, old-fashioned laptop theft. Then, on Oct. 21, hackers unleashed a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the East Coast, effectively shutting down access for millions to popular sites, including Twitter, Spotify, PayPal, Netflix and Comcast. According to Ilya Braude, vice president of technology at digital health consulting firm Medullan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the attacks infected Internet of Things devices with malware.

“It didn’t target a specific product,” Braude said. “It attacked Internet infrastructure.” That could have huge implications for healthcare, which is just starting to embrace the IoT. “This is something that’s going to accelerate,” Braude said. In other words, it’s been another rotten year for healthcare cybersecurity. Organizations, including providers, payers and even some vendors are scrambling to keep up as the nature of security threats evolves. Case in point? Less than a week after the DDoS attacks, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) issued a call to action on cybersecurity. The nonprofit group recommended the following:

  • The healthcare industry should adopt “a voluntary, universal information privacy and security framework with use cases and implementation guidance—scalable for a wide range of healthcare organizations and inclusive of small, medium, and large providers”;
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should create a “cyber leader” role in the form of an “elevated chief information security officer” to serve as an example for healthcare organizations nationwide; and
  • Government and private organizations need to address a workforce shortage in cybersecurity...