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Attacks on medical records up disproportionately

Carl Leonard, Websense

30-September-2015 Medical networks 200% more likely to experience data theft from attacks

The scene was set for a change in the threat landscape back in 2014 when Websense saw incidents towards hospitals had increased 600%.

“When we look on 2015 attacks thus far, we want to understand why healthcare still has a disproportionate – 340% – amount of security incidents,” said Websense Principal Security Analyst Carl Leonard. “When we cut into the complexity of attacks we found 1 in 600 advanced malware that seeks to evade detection, is more complex, and unfortunately, most likely to be effective.”

The Websense 2015 Industry Drill-Down Report on Healthcare indicates users in the health industry are less likely to protect themselves, and yet are 200% more likely to experience data theft from attacks.

Why is that so, when the threat landscape is so challenging?

“They’re trying to balance patient care delivery with security, and the move to electronic health records, BYOD when physicians are accessing data on their phones, connected devices, and IoT to assess patients,” Leonard said. The staff are busy doing their day jobs and not prioritizing connecting with the network. Consider the core business – clinics, pharmaceuticals, patient care –I’m sure in forthcoming years we’ll see more hardened machines, and the software running on them, deployed.”

Health care users’ decisions have the patient in mind, and sometimes that tough decision between balancing patient care vs everything else, goes towards patient care.

How secure are electronic health care records systems and databases, and the facilities where they’re stored?

For consumers this is a privacy concern. It consists of historical records, with PII of the sort only discussed between doctor and patient. It’s a complete data set that can be used for fraud, including fraudulent insurance claims, to attack email addresses, and thieves can trade the data on the underground market.

“We’re finding that data incredibly valuable to delivering patient care,” said Leonard. “It’s incredibly impactful if you lose client trust when their data is stolen. It’s absolutely imperative to the confidence the patient has.”

The report is intended to help paint a picture not just of the threat presented, but also how to mitigate. What strategy do health care providers need to employ for best protection?

“You have to assume you’ve been breached,” said Leonard. “With volume and complexity of threats, assume there’s data exfiltration in your network. Try to understand it and the threat it poses to your business.”
1.    Apply early threat detection, such as intercept the email before it gets to the doctor’s laptop.
2.    Neuter the payload before it talks to its command and control system.
3.    Apply other controls, such as proven backup systems that have NOT backed up the ransomware.
4.    User training and employee educating are also vital. The report says health care workers are 74% more likely to be fooled by phishing schemes, and therefore are 450% more likely to see ransomware within health care organizations.

Modern information risk management teams are assigning data owners – members of the business – who understand and will support the business’s needs to secure data, for which they are responsible.

“That’s how you make sure security is discussed at the table, and you assess security posture, from pen testing, through examining the quality of encryption in your databases, to the presence to a quality data theft prevention tool, and user training,” said Leonard.