Cyber-Attacks on Healthcare Institutions on the Rise: Public Health Watch Report

Brian P. Dunleavy | Contagion Live | August 2, 2017

With news this week that White House officials were fooled by a self-proclaimed “email prankster”—who posed as Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, and recently ousted Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, during correspondences with various cabinet members—it’s worth remembering that there are cybersecurity implications for healthcare institutions as well.

Brian P. DunleavyAs noted in a Washington Post report on July 13, 2017, we have entered a “new era of cyber-conflict,” and healthcare is hardly, well, immune. As part of what the Post describes as a strategy of “disruption and constant harassment designed to signal capability and the threat of escalation,” multiple healthcare facilities, from England’s National Health Service to private, university-based hospitals here in the United States, have experienced cyber-attacks, with dramatic consequences.

A commentary published on July 12, 2017 by The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) highlights some of the potential hazards. The authors cite a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which found that some 90% of participating healthcare organizations had experienced a data breach in the past 2 years alone, and that 64% had experienced an attack targeting medical files in 2016 (a 9% increase over 2015)...