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Cybersecurity: The Hidden Health Tech Crisis No One’s Talking About

Cybersecurity: The Hidden Health Tech Crisis No One’s Talking About
Roel Decneut, CMO at Lansweeper

The life-saving capabilities of technology in a healthcare environment are beyond dispute. Medical professionals in hospital environments rely on networked medical devices to access and share patient information rapidly to reduce the time it takes to make life-saving decisions and deliver essential patient care.

Connected devices in healthcare environments allow medical professionals to monitor patients more closely, improve medical assistance and use data for analytics and medical research. Technology is allowing medical staff to work smarter with earlier interventions and diagnoses in the treatment process.

But the increased use of IT in healthcare is not without its risks. 

Healthcare cyber attacks in the US rose by 55% in 2020, impacting more than 26 million people. Attacks on healthcare providers now represent a $13.2 billion industry, with the average data breach cost per record rising to $499 last year.

Many devices are running outdated software, making them vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. Ransomware attacks, malware, and hackers target vulnerabilities in medical devices to access and steal patient information and compromise devices – which ultimately can put patients in danger.

Not only are medical devices critical to modern-day patient care, but they are also extremely expensive. Nefarious attacks that disable or compromise MRI machines, for instance, can have potentially traumatic effects on the healthcare department. 

An Amplified Threat

Healthcare is a particularly attractive target for cybercriminals, and that threat is amplified by the willingness of healthcare organizations to allow staff to use their own devices and install them on their networks, opening up an access point for malware from an employee’s computer or mobile device to gain entry to the IT network and put critical medical devices at risk.

There is a real risk that healthcare networks will become IT ‘jungles’ with large swathes of unregistered devices and increased security threats that can wreak havoc on organizations. 

The 2021 Ransomware Threat Report from Palo Alto Networks found cyber extortion had “reached crisis levels” as attackers focused on industries and organizations with operations most vulnerable to systems outages or data loss. One in five ransomware cases investigated by the unit in 2020 involved providers that depended on computers to treat patients.

The vulnerability of the healthcare sector was highlighted again recently by the Protenus Breach Barometer which found more than 40 million patient records were breached and a 42% increase in hacking incidents.

There is no question that the rising incidence of cyber-attacks and breaches in healthcare and the compromising or disabling of networks and devices can be a matter of life or death for patients.

What can be done to reduce the risks?

Leaders in healthcare are focused rightly on the ways technology can improve the work of medical professionals and health outcomes for their patients. They are understandably less conscious of the dangers that come with it. 

Healthcare leaders are not IT leaders or professionals. Their area of expertise is healthcare not technology. They don’t have the time to spend trying to ensure every device in their facility that is connected to the network is running up-to-date software and secure. Besides, it is a near impossibility for them to be aware of every device that is connected to their network.

In nearly every case, healthcare leaders are reliant on outsourced support to ensure their technology estate is secure, performing optimally, and inventoried. But this can be further complicated if they are using a number of outsourced IT providers for different departments or aspects of their healthcare provision.

Healthcare organizations may have a perception of the value of their technology assets from the amount of money spent on the different IT contracts they have signed over the years but it is unlikely to be entirely accurate. Do they know if those “assets” are up-to-date? Are they being used effectively? Are they performing optimally? Are they secure? Where are they being used? Are they being used at all?

What about the assets that the organization did not purchase, the personal devices being used by medical professionals on the network during their working day? Are they secure? Are they up-to-date? Are there any controls over how those devices access the network and what parts they can access? 

These questions highlight just some of the abundance of potential issues that can plague healthcare leaders. 

Healthcare ITAM Essentials

IT asset management (ITAM) in Healthcare is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential. 

ITAM allows an organization to get a very clear picture of all the devices on the network. It is possible to discover every asset on the network without having to install any software – particularly useful in an area like healthcare where the assets encompass a wide range of diverse devices. 

Agentless scanning is a cost-effective way to rapidly create a complete inventory of all devices on the network, including Windows, Linux, and Mac devices, printers, routers, switches, and, in the case of a hospital or other medical environments, any networked medical devices.

Scanned devices are automatically sorted into categories based on their device type. Locating devices and checking configuration is extremely easy. Sort devices by IP or find a specific one through a filtered search in the web console.

ITAM enables organizations to build a comprehensive, up-to-date, and centralized inventory of hardware, software, and user information for their networked assets, helping assess threats and vulnerabilities and respond to security incidents. 

By providing a single source of truth about the state of the network, ITAM helps healthcare organizations save time and resources while benefiting from streamlined compliance and reporting.

And by preventing IT assets from turning into liabilities, they can focus on using technology to help medical professionals provide improved healthcare to their patients.


About Roel Decneut

As Chief Marketing Officer of Lansweeper, Roel is a strategic leader with a future-forward vision and a focus on identifying opportunities through creative and collaborative processes. Roel has more than 20-years’ worth of experience working in international IT and technology and his dynamic work has created a best-in-class Digital Marketing Engine and Partner Program accelerating the growth of the Lansweeper business.


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