Hospitals and the wider healthcare ecosystem are being urged to improve their cybersecurity infrastructures, following a year in which they’ve needed the protection of volunteers to save systems, money and even lives across Europe.
At the Kaspersky NEXT event, which took place virtually on 16 September, Cyber Volunteers 19 (CV19) Co-founder and partner at Red Goat Cyber Security, Lisa Forte discussed with Kaspersky’s Yury Namestnikov, why such intervention was required, and what lessons need to be learnt as both the pandemic and cybercriminal activity are fought.
The misconception that the healthcare sector is impervious to cyberattacks has once again been exposed this year. A global pandemic served as a red rag of vulnerability rather than a protective shield, and it wasn’t long before incidents akin to the 2017 NHS Wannacry attack began to reach the news. Back in March, the Czech Republic’s Brno University Hospital was forced to shut down its entire IT network – a decision which also impacted its COVID-19 testing facilities. Almost simultaneously, an unsuccessful attack was launched on the World Health Organisation to affirm this pandemic’s position as an opportunity for cybercriminals.
Both attacks are documented in upcoming film, hacker:HUNTER H(ack)cine, which was previewed at Kaspersky’s NEXT event. The film echoed both Yury’s and Lisa’s sentiments during their discussion in regard to the dangers that lurk, but also the often-inadequate security that exists in the healthcare space.
Initially, ransomware was the most prevalent form of attack, given the vital data that is stored across hospital systems. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in phishing scams across the entire medical supply chain. Fake sales of protective equipment and even attacks on ventilator manufacturers and testing laboratories have occurred. This ties in with Kaspersky witnessing a general 30,000% increase in phishing, malicious websites and malware over the course of the first weeks of the pandemic. There was also a spike to one million COVID-themed cyberattacks every day in the first week of March, according to Kaspersky data.
Cyber Volunteers 19 helped healthcare organizations across Europe protect and respond to the deluge of attacks and cyber threats during the most challenging of years.
“With COVID-19, what we at Cyber Volunteers 19 realised is that funding and education regarding cybersecurity in the health sector has been so bad for so many years. In some hospitals, they have two-person IT teams for the entire institution, to manage all data, patients and systems, and then cybersecurity as well. That’s not workable.
“We’ve also seen incidents of entire patient files being shared accidentally by furloughed staff, where everyone suddenly had access to each other’s results. Where is all that data now?
“When we come to writing up a big report of what we’ve learned, funding will be a big thing as it impacts the levels of man power and education that you need to carry out effective cybersecurity. Nothing is off limits to these criminals. Not even hospitals full of seriously ill people!” explained Lisa Forte.
In addition to the report, an intelligence briefing has already been released by CV19 across Europe in almost every native language, to ensure maximum reach of vital cybersecurity guidance. An awareness campaign has also been promoted internally by Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) of each country, while the movement has also extended beyond Europe now, to sister groups in Australia, Dubai, Brazil and the US.
Lisa’s, and the organisation’s, rallying cry is for healthcare institutions – through improved funding – to better know where their data is in the future, to better train their staff on the significance of cybersecurity, and to have response plans in place should an attack occur. A sentiment shared by Kaspersky as we concluded this year’s NEXT event.
“What this year will have hopefully taught the sector is the need to plan before something bad happens. Even if the initial time and investment seems big, planning for the worst can save time, money and – in the case of healthcare – lives.
“Cybersecurity is not something you can invest in retrospectively. Threats constantly evolve, so you need to constantly improve and modify your protection. There are ready-to-use technologies out there to ensure a baseline of protection that would make it impractical, timely, or too expensive for a cybercriminal to attack this critical sector,” added Yury Namestnikov, Kaspersky’s Head of Global Research and Analysis Team.
This article was first published by Kaspersky