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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Alarms about healthcare cyberattacks are getting louder


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/MastStatus

Cybersecurity alarm bells have been ringing loudly across the healthcare industry this month. The FBI has warned healthcare facilities that medical devices (like patient monitors or infusion pumps) often run on outdated software that could be vulnerable to hacks. OakBend Medical Center in Texas has been the victim of a major ransomware attack by a gang that claims to have stolen 1 million patient records. A report showed that patients in hospitals facing cyberattacks are more likely to die.

Along with the series of warnings comes growing awareness of how dangerous cybersecurity breaches are in healthcare. Healthcare organizations are increasingly reliant on internet-connected devices to do things like track patient records and deliver medications. And they are increasingly the target of ransomware attacks, which can steal data and shut down the systems they use to deliver care.

Experts have spent years frustrated that hospitals aren’t taking cybersecurity seriously. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, that tide has started to change. With its warning this week, the FBI is joining Congress in taking medical device vulnerabilities seriously — earlier this summer, senators proposed legislation that would require the Food and Drug Administration to issue more regular guidance on the cybersecurity of medical devices. medical devices. The FDA has also asked for more power to set cybersecurity rules.

There is also a greater awareness of how cyberattacks can harm patients, which many people in the healthcare industry were hesitant to acknowledge. A cyberattack on the University of Vermont’s health network during the pandemic gave researchers the opportunity to make clear that these disruptions are degrading patient care. Last year, a survey found that more than two-thirds of healthcare organizations hit by ransomware had longer hospital stays for patients and delays in procedures during attacks. In the new report from a think tank in Washington, DC, a quarter of organizations dealing with ransomware said they had higher death rates.

Incidents like the OakBend Medical Center hack are so common these days that they barely register on the national news barometer. Most people don’t realize they happen so regularly or are so dangerous. But with things like congressional action and FBI warnings gaining momentum, experts hope cybersecurity is finally starting to become a priority. “I believe we are making progress to finally fight ransomware,” said Oscar Miranda, chief technology officer for healthcare at cybersecurity firm Armis. The edge Last year.

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