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Ransomware in Healthcare: Lessons from the “Change Healthcare” Attack

On February 21, 2024, the world witnessed one of the most significant cyberattacks on Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group.

One of the biggest ransomware attacks that has ever happened in history.

It sent shockwaves through the healthcare sector and beyond.

It was noticed when attackers took advantage of a server vulnerability lacking multi-factor authentication.

This unfortunate incident cost the company over $800 million in the first quarter. It is expected to cost around $1.6 billion in a full year.

The impact of this incident is huge. Small healthcare providers and rural clinics nationwide haven’t recovered from the loss yet. Patient safety is still a question mark.

Being a part of UnitedHealth Group, Change Healthcare is one of the biggest healthcare service companies in the world. If this can happen to such a big company, small healthcare enterprises and clinics are seriously threatened.

Seems like nobody is immune to such cybersecurity attacks.

Not a One-Time Incident: Alarming Rise

More than 540 healthcare companies reported security breaches in 2023 alone.

It impacted more than 133 million patient records.

A 156% increase in similar events from 2022.

It’s a concerning picture of how healthcare data safety around the world is crippling.

Is Your Medical Data Safe?

Lessons Learned in the Wake of Attack

There are some learnings that healthcare companies need to incorporate into their system to prevent such mishaps in the future.

1. Never Ignore Basics

Many basic regulations were missing in Change Healthcare. Unprotected multi-factor authentication (MFA) was one of the basics that was compromised.

It is quite likely that MFA was not configured, allowing attackers to remotely access Change Healthcare’s systems – making the situation highly avoidable.

2. Follow Compliance

Whatever digital platform you’re using to communicate with patients, doctors, patients, or admins, it should be integrated with all the security safeguards on their physical, network, and processes.

Make sure your tech solutions pass through all the HIPAA and PHIPA protocols.

3. Do Network Segmentation

Segmentation of the network can prevent the system from breaching further.

If one section of the network is compromised, the ransomware remains restricted and can’t spread to other sections.

4. Improve Defense

Make sure your tech team builds a strong defense for your organization.

You can also shift to a zero-trust model that reduces data access and identifies who is accessing the data in the network.

Cybersecurity Challenges Faced by the Healthcare Industry

1. The Use of Legacy Systems

Legacy systems are one of the outdated technologies and most hospitals or health centers are still using them.

The fact that technology is changing so quickly just serves to increase the risk that comes with its outdated nature.

Most of the old apps, network protocols, and operating systems incorporate a legacy system. It is full of security flaws and loopholes that can be manipulated by attackers.

2. Data Breaches

One of the most common security threats among healthcare organizations.

Hospitals have a large database of electronic health records (EHR) and it must be accessible to the patient.

So there is a need to balance data security with its accessibility to the patients. It’s a challenging job to protect this data against unauthorized access.

3. Insecure Medical Devices and Equipment

There are a growing number of networked devices. Most of them have poor security.

These are the weak points that allow attackers to gain access and breach the patients’ sensitive data.

4. Phishing

Phishing is an unauthorized attempt to steal credentials or medical data, for malicious reasons.

Phishing is the preferred method for data breaches, accounting for 16% of all breaches.

5. Lack of Budget

As providers have a limited budget, they spend most of it on patient care. They don’t prioritize building cybersecurity around their system.

Later, they are more vulnerable to data breaches or other security incidents.

Need for Cyber Security Solutions for Healthcare

  • Protect sensitive patient data
  • Ensure regulatory compliance
  • Prevent service disruptions
  • Mitigate ransomware attacks
  • Streamline security management

Common Practices to Mitigate Prevent Cyber Threats

  • A security agreement between vendors and contractors in case of a breach.
  • Routine assessments and risk analysis after adopting new technologies.
  • Robust audit controls and scrutinize activity within information systems.
  • Regular reviews to identify and mitigate potential risks.
  • Integration to multi-factor authentication.
  • End-to-end encryption to protect health information.

How We Can Help

At SyS Creations, we are a team of 50+ healthcare IT professionals including developers, business analysts, compliance specialists, and QA engineers who are dedicated to safeguarding your healthcare organization.

1. Meet Regulatory Requirements

When it comes to following regulatory requirements, we never compromise.

We comply with PHI and HIPAA regulations to make sure your system remains guarded against any threats to the integrity of such information.

2. Safeguard Sensitive App Data

Healthcare apps built by SyS Creations protect the sensitive app data, such as user data, encryption keys or backend API keys.

3. Mitigate Supply Chain Risk

Our tech experts help you assess the security posture of your vendors and partners to reduce future risks.

4. Fight Malware & Protect Patient Data

Exploiting vulnerabilities and misusing system features are the common practice of cybercriminals. Our company safeguards healthcare organizations by fighting malware and protecting patient data.

5. Prevent Reverse Engineering & App Tampering

Reverse engineering allows attackers to analyze your app, find weaknesses, access sensitive data, and tamper with the app. We use proven strategies and advanced technologies to keep your apps secure.

Don’t Wait for a Cyberattack to Cripple Your Practice: Let’s Connect

SyS Creations is trusted to protect almost 90+ applications including industry-leading organizations, ranging from Startups that went public, to Fortune 500 companies, and WHO-featured NGOs.

More than building software and applications, our solutions deliver an exceptional user experience while adding robust security features.

We work to make healthcare safer, one app at a time.