Blog Post July 19, 2022

Modernizing Healthcare: Your Proactive Cyber Defense

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Modernizing Healthcare: Your Proactive Defense is a part of Adlumin’s Cyber Blog and industry-specific content series. For more information about how your organization can protect itself from cybercriminals, browse more from our knowledge-rich series here.  

This past year cyberattacks have continuously stolen headlines as cybercriminals target large corporations. Specifically, the healthcare sector leads by industry with the most breaches. HIPPA Journal reported on IBM Security’s Data Breach Report stating that healthcare data breaches are the most expensive compared to any other sector averaging $9.42 million per incident. Healthcare providers are forced to cancel surgeries, outpatient procedures, and other critical patient care because of forced operation disruptions—emphasizing the severity of damage that these breaches cause. In fact, a study by Vanderbilt (2019) found an increase in negative patient outcomes (typically in time-sensitive treatments) following ransomware service outages.

When health records are exposed, patient privacy is at risk. Healthcare records are the most valuable data set on the dark web and, as such, are lucrative targets for criminals. Moreover, medical data breaches can lead to monumental penalties under HIPPA’s Privacy and Security Rules. The best proactive defense is to equip your frontline workers with the skills to recognize and report suspicious activity. A comprehensive and actionable cybersecurity framework requires a robust and tailored cybersecurity training program for all employees.

The Value of Healthcare Data

Healthcare data has a high black market value because it typically contains multiple pieces of sensitive (financial, insurance claims, etc.) information for one individual instead of one piece of information found in other industry breaches (like an email address). Due to the desirability of individuals’ profiles, there is a substantial monetary gain for cybercriminals. One report values stolen healthcare records at $250 compared to $5 for a stolen credit card.

What Makes the Healthcare Industry Vulnerable?

While lucrative records attract criminal activity, the data-sharing, transient nature of healthcare providers creates an additional opportunity for exploitation. Traditionally patient records reside in several clinical information systems, including electronic medical records (EMR) or healthcare records (EHR), and PACS, DICOM, or RIS systems in medical imagery, often operated on legacy systems.

HIoT/IoMT internet-connected devices such as patient telemetry, dosage metering, and other patient wearable devices have grown in adoption year over year. And the next phase of digital disruption is ushering in machine learning-assisted detection and even predictive roles in the evaluation of tumors, robot-assisted surgery is on the rise in remote communities, drug management and dispensaries are connected to CIS systems, and even non-medical systems like automated facilities management pose a threat.

Vulnerability 1: Outdated Legacy Systems

The leading causes of data breaches within the healthcare industry are outdated legacy systems and cybersecurity unawareness, which go hand in hand. While replacing legacy systems is the safest option and improves practitioner and patient experiences, it’s often impractical or out of budget. These legacy systems (often no longer supported by the vendor) leave organizations vulnerable to cyberattacks through easily accessed “back-door entry” into systems holding patient information and medical data. These legacy systems often lack third-party support. Finding the essential support to fix or address issues can be challenging when technology is outdated or cannot be updated without causing a domino effect disruption to other services.


Healthcare organizations must prioritize and align with a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) platform. These platforms detect, anticipate, and prevent malicious threats across a healthcare organization’s network. Not only do they anticipate threats, but features such as a User Entity and Behavior Analytics (UEBA) within an MDR platform take data from individual users and entities such as servers, workstations, and endpoints and ingest it into the platform for baselining expected behavior. This allows for total network visibility when tracking behavioral patterns.

In addition, MDR platforms can offer Continuous Vulnerability Management (CVM) to close the gaps between security assessments and significantly reduce risk. This cloud-based service gives organizations immediate visibility globally into where their IT systems are vulnerable to the latest threats and how to protect against them.

Vulnerability 2: Cybersecurity Unawareness

Employees who use devices without adequate training on cybersecurity protocols immediately put your organization at risk for a data breach. Human error is deemed one of the top reasons for breaches as employees face increasing threats in their email inboxes, web browsers, and networks. Everyone who handles patient data needs to understand their responsibility and role in recognizing a cyberattack.


Implementing a proactive defense program, typically with third-party providers, empowers employees with the proper skills to identify and report suspicious activity. A proactive defense program is fully managed security awareness testing and training designed to reduce the risk posed by cybercriminals. Training is vital within the healthcare sector to comply with set policies and industry regulations by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996. Conducting simulated phishing campaigns to employees can dramatically improve your cybersecurity posture.

Prioritizing Proactive Defense

Healthcare data breaches are destructive and impact patient outcomes. Implementing proper cybersecurity standards across your organization goes a long way to shutting down dangerous opportunities without sacrificing services. Ramping up your cybersecurity proactive defense program doesn’t have to be daunting and is usually outsourced to a third party for cost-effectiveness.

Modernizing healthcare systems improves communications between doctors and patients through protected and monitored smartphone apps, telehealth software, and texting. Additionally, it improves operations, resulting in better healthcare delivery, lower costs, and a more efficient workforce. By actively addressing your healthcare organization’s vulnerabilities, you can enhance the quality of care and advance in the industry. To succeed in this effort, you must create a cybersecurity culture to ensure that employees and staff members are an asset instead of a vulnerability.