Telehealth is biggest threat to healthcare cybersecurity, says report

While a new study indicates that this year the healthcare industry has marginally strengthened its security posture relative to the last, it warns that growing dependence on telehealth by providers after the COVID-19 pandemic now poses a new slate of patient data threats.

The study , released by SecurityScorecard and DarkOwl Thursday, found that telehealth networks have experienced a huge increase in targeted attacks.

“The rapid speed in which telehealth applications were rolled out during the pandemic has rendered them tempting targets for cyber criminals,” said Sam Kassoumeh, SecurityScorecard’s COO and co-founder, in a statement to Healthcare IT News.

WHY IT MATTERS

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a multitude of enticing openings for bad actors, ranging from phishing attempts to patchy work-from - home security activities fuelled by fear of crisis.

DNS wellbeing was the only region that had seen a decline in the amount of findings of vulnerability.

“Recognizing that most telehealth systems operate over insecure networks, most organisations were likely trying to minimise the risks by safeguarding their DNS health,” the researchers wrote.

The SecurityScorecard/DarkOwl report, which examined more than 30,000 healthcare organizations from September 2019 to April 2020, notes that the reliance on telehealth amplifies risk as well.

THE LARGER TREND
Security experts have pointed to the sheer pace of the mass transition to telehealth as a cause of concern, calling cybercriminals the COVID-19 crisis “blood in the water”

"You have the ability to increase risk whenever you make a change to an IT climate," said Andy Riley, executive director of security policy at managed-security-services provider Nuspire, in an interview with Healthcare’s IT News. “When you bring in dramatic change the capacity is rapidly growing.”

ON THE RECORD

  • “While healthcare professionals may be protecting physical health through the use of telehealth services, they also need to ensure that they do not put data health at risk instead,” the researchers wrote in the study Thursday.
  • “From a dark web viewpoint, DarkOwl has awareness of several pandemic-infringed organisations that would possibly involve patient data and/or diagnostic testing,” they said.
  • "In 2020 and during the pandemic, DarkOwl also noticed a rise in the use of ransomware as a tool, with the healthcare industry emerging as a prominent dark Web target.

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