Healthcare Industry At the Top of Cybersecurity Threats in 2021

May 3, 2021
a syringe sitting on top of a covid 19 vaccine vial symbolizes the increased cybersecurity threats for healthcare industry

If you do a quick search on the biggest threats to cybersecurity in 2021, you’ll find that  health care tops the list of greatest concerns. As soon as COVID-19 vaccines became available, reports of vaccine-related activity on the dark web spiked, but  this is just the latest item in a long list of cyber threats in the healthcare industry.

Phishing attempts to derail vaccine distribution as reported by Gordon Corera for BBC, supply chain concerns and ransomware represent the biggest cybersecurity threats to health care in 2021.

“The complex global supply chain for vaccines ranges from factories in one country to internet-connected fridges in another,” reported Corera.

As previously reported by Corera, it was already suspected that hackers attempted to dismantle the “cold chain” processes required to keep vaccines at the correct temperature. In that instance, phishing emails were used to attempt to gain understanding into how governments intended to distribute the vaccines.

Misinformation campaigns are a global cyber threat

Potential impacts to the physical vaccine and the infrastructure required to transport it aren’t the only threats – misinformation can result in major impacts to vaccine rollout and the general health and safety of a nation’s residents.

“The UK Army's 77th Brigade has supported a Cabinet Office investigation into whether foreign states are driving anti-vaccine fears within the UK,” reported Corera.

The concern of misinformation is world-wide, adds Corera, noting that the deliberate spread of misinformation was a high-priority topic at the Aspen Institute Cyber Summit.

Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) agrees. As reported in the CIS Blog, 2021 Cybersecurity Trends to Prepare For, the CTI Team “assesses there will be a significant increase in COVID-19 vaccine targeting, such as attacks against pharmaceutical companies and distributors for ransom, vaccine-based phishing lures, or misinformation campaigns about the vaccine.”

Despite promises, ransomware attacks have multiplied

On top of new threats related to COVID-19, cybersecurity professionals are dealing with an uptick in an old nemesis: ransomware.

“There was some talk at the start of the pandemic from criminal gangs that they would not target health,” said Corera. “But it did not last and attacks have multiplied.”

He shared that over the course of one day in October, six American hospitals were targeted by ransomware requests of at least $1 million, resulting in some cancer treatments being cancelled.

Three of the seven experts polled for the CIS Blog listed ransomware as a top concern in 2021 for all industries, including health care.

Lack of cybersecurity expertise and staff is a major concern

Adding to the overall concerns for cybersecurity this year, Michael Wicks, a cybersecurity engineer, added that one of his greatest concerns is a lack of cybersecurity staff.

“The demand for cybersecurity professionals to secure the fast-expanding digital world continues to increase, as does the necessity for innovative new ways to combat ever-growing cyber threats,” said Wicks in the CIS Blog, “There is a dire need to encourage students to explore all that the cybersecurity and information technology fields have to offer.”

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Categories: Cybersecurity