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 KPMG.
Furthermore, in polling 223 chief information officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers and chief compliance officers at health care 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,” said Bell. “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.
According to the KPMG survey, the areas with the greatest vulnerabilities within an organization include external attackers (65 percent), sharing data with third parties (48 percent), employee breaches (35 percent), wireless computing (35 percent) and inadequate firewalls (27 percent).
The KPMG survey found that spending to prevent cyber-attacks has increased at most institutions, but it has to be on the right initiatives and fit the organization’s strategy, said KPMG’s Bell. “There are no cookie cutter approaches to security,” offers Bell. “An organization with a mobile workforce may have a far different technology need from an organization that processes healthcare claims, for example.”