US healthcare sector ‘biggest victim’ of cyber attacks

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A new paper has suggested that the US healthcare sector has suffered the highest number of cyber-attacks in 2021, raising alarm about the loopholes as the dependency on digitisation grows. Cloud SEK, an AI-powered threat intelligence firm has collated data from across the globe and reported that the US has accounted for 28 percent of all the attacks on the healthcare industry in 2021.

The threat to the healthcare sector grew exponentially during COVID-19 as “safeguarding the medical and financial information of patients emerged as a new challenge for healthcare companies”.

Vaccination records of the patients were the most targeted, followed by personally identifiable information (PII) of patients and healthcare workers from various medical institutions along with administrative information such as blood donor records, ambulance records etc.

The report stated: “In the year 2021, North America dominated healthcare IT by recording a total revenue share of 47.1 percent and is expected to grow at the fastest rate in the coming years.

“The North American healthcare industry is starting to rapidly rely on IT services to improve patient care and reduce medical costs.

“The presence of various renowned medical care facilities in this region is another reason for the prominent market growth in the area.

“Given the healthcare industry’s growth, expenditure, and digitalization in the USA, it is easy to see why it is the most targeted country when it comes to cyberattacks on the healthcare industry.”

According to Verified Market Research, the global healthcare industry was valued at $359.2billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $665.37billion by 2028.

The data shared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claims that the US national healthcare expenditure alone has surpassed $4.1trillion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 6.2trillion by 2028.

The analysis shows that Phishing is the most common cyber threat in healthcare, where malicious links are embedded in an otherwise innocent email.

It explained how several phishing campaigns were uncovered during the global pandemic, in which attackers posed as the WHO and sent malicious links to people claiming to be the most recently issued safety guidelines.

On Monday, Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health confirmed it experienced an “IT security issue” that reportedly began on October 3.

The health system giant, which is the second-largest nonprofit health system in America, has 140 hospitals in 21 states

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Rahul Sasi, Founder and CEO, CloudSEK said: “Given the scale and significance of the healthcare industry, it is vital for institutions, employees, and healthcare professionals to ensure that the data they gather and store is not leaked or exploited by cybercriminals.

“Cyberattacks on the healthcare industry impact everyone including healthcare organizations, staff, and patients.

“The healthcare institutions and related government entities should follow the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Compliance to ensure the data is not leaked or exploited by cybercriminals.”

The report suggested that there is a need to create a cyber-resilient healthcare ecosystem with the growing number of cyberattacks.

India recorded the second-highest number of attacks, with a total of 7.7 percent of the total attacks on the healthcare industry in 2021, followed by France which ranked third in the world with 7 percent of the attacks.

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