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There’s no denying the dire security situation healthcare organizations are currently facing. However, so much of what you read online or see in the news revolves around specific malware threats or ransomware attacks. What is often missed is the underlying problem—the human factor.
A recent Verizon cyber security report found that human error is a leading cause of cyber attacks across all industries. The healthcare industry especially must find new ways of addressing human error to avoid falling victim to the same attacks that have plagued organizations for years.
Human error is a broad category that is used to encompass a variety of different vulnerabilities that originate with individual employees.
Verizon’s research found that for the healthcare industry, human error boils down to three main issues—insider privilege misuse, inattentive employees, and physical loss/theft. Losing track of physical devices gives attackers the easiest entry point into healthcare organizations, but the other two forms of human error present a more challenging problem.
Privilege misuse and inattentiveness lead to greater vulnerability to phishing attacks. Even as attackers developed more than 220,000 new pieces of malware daily in 1Q 2016, the most sophisticated malware is useless without the initial human compromise.
The healthcare industry faces a constant battle against phishing attacks as more attackers try to access valuable protected health information (PHI) every day for nefarious purposes.
The first step in mitigating the potential for human error in cyber security is to understand the phishing attacks that compromise your employees in the first place. According to a recent study from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), there was a 20% increase in the number of known phishing websites between October 2015 and March 2016. Worse yet, these websites are being used to launch increasingly dangerous threats.
There are many different types of phishing schemes, but here are a few that anyone should be familiar with—security professional or otherwise:
Regardless of the specific type of phishing scheme, Verizon found that users across all industries open malicious emails approximately 30% of the time. Unfortunately, it only takes one of your employees to open one of these emails to compromise your whole network.
If your employees are willingly (but unknowingly) giving attackers access to your electronic health record systems, there aren’t many cyber security solutions that can help you. This is why you have to mitigate human error at the source.
It seems like cyber security experts have been talking about the same need for employee training for years. However, Patricia Skarulis, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has some recent advice for healthcare companies looking to address human error:
Ongoing employee training should be top-of-mind for any security leader, but you can’t entirely rely on this for protecting your electronic health records. Attacks happen fast (just look at what happened at the Wyoming Medical Center, where human error allowed attackers to access more than 3,000 records in just 15 minutes). Having the right in-line security appliances and out-of-band monitoring tools in place is equally necessary.
Healthcare organizations need to keep up with the evolving cyber security landscape—but that means deploying a complex stack of appliances and software solutions.
Looking to add inline or out-of-band security monitoring solutions, but not sure where to start? Join us for a brief network Design-IT consultation or demo. No obligation - it’s what we love to do.
Ross is the European Sales Director for Garland Technology with over 30 years experience in the networking & security industry. Ross's experience spans computer/network engineering, consultancy, sales and senior EMEA business management roles.