Many Healthcare Organizations have been Compromised by Cyberattacks

Eighty-one percent of health care executives say that their organizations have been compromised by at least one malware, botnet or other cyber-attack during the past two years, and only half feel that they are adequately prepared in preventing attacks, according to the 2015 KPMG Healthcare Cybersecurity Survey.

Furthermore, in polling 223 chief information officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers and chief compliance officers at healthcare providers and health plans, KPMG found the number of attacks increasing, with 13 percent saying they are targeted by external hack attempts about once a day and another 12 percent seeing about two or more attacks per week.  More concerning, 16 percent of healthcare organizations said they cannot detect in real-time if their systems are compromised.

 “The vulnerability of patient data at the nation’s health plans and approximately 5,000 hospitals is on the rise and health care executives are struggling to safeguard patient records,” said Michael Ebert, leader in KPMG’s Healthcare & Life Sciences Cyber Practice. “Patient records are far more valuable than credit card information for people who plan to commit fraud, since the personal information cannot be easily changed. A key goal for execs is to advance their institutions’ protection to create hurdles for hackers.”

Greg Bell, who leads KPMG’s Cyber Practice, feels also that many organizations not seeing frequent cyber-attacks may underestimate the threat.  “Healthcare organizations that can effectively track the number of attempts have less cause for worry than those who may not detect all of the threats against their systems,” Bell said. “The experienced hackers that penetrate a vulnerable health care organization like to remain undetected as long as they can before extracting a great deal of content, similar to a blood-sucking insect.”

When asked about readiness in the face of a cyber-attack, 66 percent of execs at health plans said they were prepared, while only 53 percent of providers said they were ready.  Larger organizations, in terms of revenue, are better prepared than smaller ones.

Malware, software designed to disrupt or gain access to private computer systems, is the most frequently reported line of attack during the past 12 to 24 months, according to 65 percent of survey respondents.  Botnet attacks, where computers are hijacked to issue spam or attack other systems, and “internal” attack vectors, such as employees compromising security, were cited by 26 percent of respondents.

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