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Healthcare Ransomware, Connected Devices Top Security Issues

Healthcare ransomware threats, the increase in connected devices, and more IoT initiatives are top security concerns in the industry, a study found.

By Elizabeth Snell

While the increase in connected devices and more options for Internet of Things (IoT) create massive streams of data and options for productivity, they also create more openings for security threats, according to a recent study. Furthermore, healthcare ransomware threats are also one of the top data security concerns for healthcare providers.

Healthcare ransomware concerns are key security issue for organizations

The second annual National IT Trends in healthcare study from Peak 10 found that 59 percent of respondents said that data privacy and security are still primary concerns due to recent ransomware attacks on hospitals.

Peak 10 interviewed 157 C-level executives and information technology professionals across the country for the report, and found that healthcare leaders are working to keep pace with big data, interoperability, as well as current data security threats.

“The responsibilities of healthcare CIOs are shifting rapidly,” wrote the report’s authors. “What was once an operations-based, day-to-day focused role has morphed into a strategic position, predicated by forecasting future needs based on today’s trends. Challenges include reacting to ever-changing regulations, implementing technology solutions to solve complex problems, improving patient care and outcomes and meeting regulation and security requirements.”

In terms of healthcare data security, the report also showed that many providers are still facing compliance challenges, and that constant change within regulation has a large impact on IT departments.

Cybersecurity issues can also be difficult to address, typically because of the “current talent and team bandwith.”

However, more healthcare organizations reported that they are using third-party services to assist in their approach to data privacy and security.

The majority of healthcare organizations - 89 percent - either currently have anti-virus, or plan to use it in the future. The next most popular security tool was email/web security, currently or soon-to-be utilized by 85 percent of respondents. Encryption options and security assessments were the third and fourth most popular tools, respectively.

Peak 10 graph of chosen healthcare security services

The survey also found that respondents are not extremely confident in their organization’s ability to combat security threats. Specifically, 54 percent of those interviewed rated their security program at the B level, while 32 percent gave their program a C.

“Security and risk are major concerns in the healthcare world,” the report states. “So much is at stake if a potential vulnerability becomes a breach. While an initial hesitation to work with third-parties is common in healthcare, a solid amount of IT decision makers are purchasing security services from third parties in an effort to shore up overall security posture.”

Peak 10 graph of healthcare security program grade

An increasingly popular trend though, according to the survey, is more healthcare organizations are looking to cloud technologies.  

For example, more entities are willing to consider outsourced services as there was a 33 percent increase in SaaS models since 2014.

However, the healthcare cloud is not without its own obstacles. Eighty of respondents said their top concerns with moving to the cloud were security and data privacy issues, with costs and loss of control over data being cited by 60 percent of those surveyed.

“As healthcare organizations continue to reap operational and financial benefits through shared computing resources, putting more applications and even full infrastructures into the cloud are becoming viable options,” wrote the report’s authors.

Likely a way to combat the data and privacy concerns, IT budgets are expected to increase over the next few years for healthcare organizations. Specifically,  67 percent of participants estimated an increase in the next two years, while just 51 made the same prediction in 2014.

Overall, the survey results were similar to those from the inaugural 2015 survey. In that report, 70 percent of respondents said they need partners to assist with those healthcare data security and privacy concerns. Moreover, 60 percent those interviewed explained that third party partners relieve their IT staff’s time and resource constraints.

Image Credit: Peak 10

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