Biggest Cyber Threats in Healthcare

A recent study has shown that credit card information or social security numbers are worth way less than medical records. In monetary terms, medical data is worth as much as $363, whereas credit card and social security numbers are just sold for a maximum of $2. The healthcare industry accounts for roughly 18% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). It is also predicted that global spending in this industry is expected to increase by 125% by the year 2040. This is why; the healthcare industry is more vulnerable to cybercrimes than any other.

Biggest Cyber Threats in Healthcare

The healthcare industry has been working with minimum finances, trying to provide top-class facilities and patient care to the public. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to cybersecurity as most of the money is spent on purchasing the latest biotechnology, paying staff, or maintaining facilities. This has laid out an open field for attackers who can hack into medical data systems using the following types of attacks.

Data Breaches

According to HIPAA, there were almost 2.8 million data breaches per month during the year 2021 due to employee negligence, insider threats, and credential-stealing malware. These breaches all point to the lack of resources most hospitals and clinics have. They can't stay up-to-date with the current protocols and cybersecurity threats. They also aren't able to hire a knowledgeable IT department that oversees any breaches or is fully aware of the ongoing trends of cyber-attacks. This provides easy access to hackers, who steal valuable patient information, social security numbers, prescriptions, and test results. Data leaks can cause harm to the organization's reputation as well as trouble for patients.

These organizations need to invest in experienced and certified cyber security personnel. MBA programs with healthcare concentration teach professionals necessary strategies to implement to prevent data breaches


We've discussed above that the healthcare industry is the most vulnerable to cyber-attacks because of how sensitive the information it carries. Hackers break into the system and steal valuable medical records. They also sometimes put up malicious links in emails that, once opened, infect the entire system and halt every process. Organizations are forced to pay a huge amount to either restore the system or protect important records from getting leaked.

There have been numerous incidents of how sensitive medical information has been stolen. But this one particular incident of 2019 shows how dangerous these threats can be. Springhill Medical Center in Alabama suffered a malware attack that caused their machinery to stop working. A baby was born with the umbilical cord around its neck because the heart rate monitor failed to alert the staff. The baby suffered severe brain damage and passed away after nine months. The hospital faced many trials and had to defend itself against an error that could have easily been prevented but the malware attack made it impossible.


A phishing attack is a way of manipulating individuals into giving away valuable and sensitive data. These attacks have gotten very common and are socially engineered based on the ongoing trends. The most common way this happens is through an email. The hacker pretends to be from the organization and tricks the victim into resetting passwords or transferring large amounts to fraudulent accounts. These emails can also contain malicious links that infiltrate the network and gain access to billing records and invoices.

People usually fall for such tricks because hackers put effort into studying the systems and how the management communicates with the staff. The generated phishing emails are very similar to the organization's set email templates, making it difficult to identify an attack. It is, hence, crucial to train every staff member of the facility on the importance of cyber security and how to watch out for such emails.

Insider Threats

It is not always someone from the outside who wishes to hurt the organization. The healthcare industry is the only industry that has suffered more from insider threats (56%) than external threats (44%). It can be due to the carelessness of the employees who may have forgotten their devices in public areas or logged off from the system. But sometimes, disgruntled employees may decide to purposely disclose information and leak valuable data as some sort of protest or to reap benefits from how valuable these records are. These employees understand the system inside out. They also have access to the system and networks that give them an edge over an outsider. Any employee with ill intent can use all the vulnerabilities of the system to expose the organization to cyber threats.

Third-Party Risk Management and Suppliers

Healthcare and IT are merging day by day. But when it comes to knowledge, the staff isn't much equipped with important IT knowledge. Hospitals and clinics rely on third-party vendors that provide data management services, health IT needs, and supply chains to bridge this gap. Organizations are misled into collaborating with vendors that do not provide foolproof cyber security. Their valuable data and records become more vulnerable and their systems become more prone to cyber-attacks.

Healthcare organizations must do thorough checks before signing deals with vendors. They need to ensure that proper security measures are in place that would not jeopardize patient privacy and processes.

Cloud Threats

A unified healthcare system ensures that the entire staff is well-connected and has access to any patient's record from anywhere within the system. They use cloud storage for easier data retrieval and quicker access to information. Countries with a national healthcare industry have patient data and records on cloud-based storage systems so that the required record can be accessed from anywhere within the country.

Unfortunately, not all cloud-based data solutions are secure and compliant with HIPAA. This makes them an easier target for hackers. Organizations are recommended to use a private cloud or set up data centers on the premises to ensure protection and encryption of data before putting up or retrieval of information.

Denial of Service (DoS) attack

Denial of Service is a way of flooding the network with spam to halt all systems and operations. The network becomes overwhelmed after receiving and sending vast amounts of data and fails to perform its basic duties. Such attacks are very harmful, especially in the healthcare industry. This is because healthcare workers need immediate access to patient information, test results, and prescriptions. Slower networks can cause hindrance in providing excellent patient care. They can also result in malpractice and can put patients a great risk.

In 2018, Boston's Children's Hospital had its system collapse in retaliation to an ongoing child custody case. The hospital lost nearly $300,000 in two weeks trying to mitigate the hackers.


The healthcare industry is the most at risk of cyber threats. The recent trends indicate that every organization needs to take strict measures against such attacks to protect their valuable information. Knowledge is power and being one step ahead of hackers can give healthcare organizations an edge over them. They need to put in efforts to ensure excellent data management and protection. By taking the right measures, they can safeguard the personal interests of their patients as well as their reputation.