Join us for a Q&A with Jamie Reid, Advantum Health’s SVP of IT Infrastructure and Security, as he shares some best practices for avoiding phishing and ransomware attacks in the healthcare industry.
U.S. Healthcare Cyberattacks Reach Record High Average of $10.10M
The healthcare industry has suffered the costliest cyberattacks in the United States for over a decade. In 2022, the average cost of a healthcare cybersecurity breach hit a new record high of $10.10 million.
In March, nearly 6 million patients discovered cyberattackers stole their personal information. A month earlier, a Chicago-based healthcare system estimated that a ransomware attack would cost them $150 million.
Data breaches significantly harm healthcare providers due to sensitive data and reputational damage. Patients need to trust providers with their clinical care and the security of their personal information.
In light of recent reports of healthcare data breaches, we spoke with Jamie Reid, Advantum Health’s SVP of IT Infrastructure and Security, about the healthcare industry’s unique cybersecurity challenges.
What is your role at Advantum Health?
Jamie: In my role, I safeguard our IT infrastructure’s dependability and efficiency to ensure the stringent protection of our network data. This responsibility extends to maintaining compliance with the SOC2 framework, which assures our clients that we effectively manage and secure their data.
I also ensure that our company adheres to all pertinent healthcare regulations, IT infrastructure, and security standards.
These requirements include HIPAA compliance, which is critical in the healthcare industry to guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of protected health information. Another requirement is PCI Compliance, the standard that governs processing and storing payment card information, further enhancing our data security measures.
How has IT security management evolved during your career?
Jamie: The most notable change in the field of cybersecurity has been the exponential surge in the number of threats. Now, we encounter these challenges with relentless frequency daily, which is a stark departure from when I initially entered the IT sector.
At the time, viruses and other threats certainly existed, but our internal ecosystem self-contained most applications. The maintenance of security was relatively more manageable. However, the rise of cloud-based applications and the shift to remote working environments have made data protection significantly more difficult.
Today, we confront an intricate landscape of invisible and global threats emanating from every corner of the world. The malicious entities behind these threats persist with unwavering tenacity.
As a result, we have shifted our focus towards proactive measures and continuously seek strategies to preempt and neutralize threats before they can wreak havoc. The daily deployment of software patches highlights the magnitude of this evolution.
What is healthcare’s most prominent cybersecurity threat?
Jamie: From a data security standpoint, the most substantial risk consistently originates from email communication, typically due to inadvertent human errors.
Cyberattackers frequently use email as a conduit for “phishing” activities, luring individuals to disclose their login credentials and thereby facilitating unauthorized access to our systems and confidential data.
Additionally, a significant risk is associated with email attachments containing hidden malware. If activated, this malware could install harmful software on our devices, increasing security threats. A single misguided click on a link or an accidental disclosure of user credentials can provide these attackers a way into our network, putting our entire organization and clients at risk.
For these cybercriminals, it’s a game of probabilities. They bombard organizations with deceptive emails, patiently waiting for someone to fall for their trick. Unfortunately, the odds often favor these malevolent actors.
For example, just last week, I came across an article detailing a cyberattack that led to a Florida health system being out of operation for an astounding 13 days. This incident is a stark reminder of the potential severity of such threats and highlights the critical importance of vigilance in our cyber practices.
What are some best practices to mitigate these risks?
Jamie: Ensuring our employees are well-educated about email risks is critical. Annual training sessions are no longer sufficient to mitigate these risks.
At Advantum, we’ve instituted a weekly communication and training regimen that is efficient, engaging, and measurable. Additionally, we regularly perform phishing simulations; if employees unintentionally click on a simulated phishing link or reveal their credentials, they are instantly redirected to training resources.
In addition, our patch management operations are a key component of our cybersecurity efforts. Patch management isn’t a sporadic task but a daily routine, and the released patches aren’t merely adjustments to functionality—they most commonly address significant security vulnerabilities.
Another fundamental part of our security blueprint is implementing a multi-layered IT security strategy. This approach integrates protection measures across different areas, including email, desktop computing, infrastructure, and perimeter management.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, allocating resources to a round-the-clock security monitoring system is vital. A continuous, day-and-night security monitoring system that promptly detects and addresses potential threats will substantially reduce the risk of security breaches. Hiring a reputable security monitoring provider can be helpful, especially for organizations with limited resources.
What is unique to healthcare when it comes to cybersecurity?
Jamie: It’s essential to acknowledge that our cybersecurity approach must encompass all devices within our network, particularly given the increasing number of connected devices within healthcare facilities such as hospitals.
These devices can range from sophisticated medical monitoring systems to everyday office equipment, many of which operate on systems that necessitate regular patching for optimal security.
For instance, numerous medical monitoring systems run on specific operating systems that, like any other technology, require routine patching to mitigate potential vulnerabilities. If the patching process skips these devices, they could become weak points in our IT system and make our entire network susceptible to potential cyber-attacks.
Consequently, our commitment to comprehensive cybersecurity must include every single connected device, guaranteeing that each component is individually secure to maintain the integrity of the overall system.
The average cost of a healthcare cybersecurity breach reached a record high in 2022, and millions of patients have had their data stolen in recent attacks. These breaches not only cause financial damage but they also erode patient trust.
To delve into the unique cybersecurity challenges faced by the healthcare industry, we spoke with Jamie Reid, Advantum Health’s SVP of IT Infrastructure and Security.
During our Q&A, Jamie emphasized the ever-present nature of cybersecurity threats, with constant attacks and evolving techniques. He highlighted the significant risk posed by email as a common entry point for cyberattacks, often exploiting human error through phishing attempts and malicious links.
To mitigate cyberattack risks, healthcare companies should:
- Conduct ongoing employee education and training, with regular communication and interactive sessions.
- Prioritize patch management
- Adopt a layered IT security approach encompassing various aspects like email, desktop, infrastructure, and perimeter management.
- Invest in a reliable 24-hour security monitoring system.
Healthcare organizations can protect patient data, strengthen defenses, and guarantee a safer digital environment by prioritizing cybersecurity and implementing best practices.
Visit our website to learn more about Advantum Health.