Health data security: Protecting patients from ransomware attacks

Why healthcare cyber resiliency is critical as we move beyond recovery.

By Ripu Bajwa

The healthcare systems have been at the heart of societal and economic recovery in recent times. Their resiliency and innovation as India sought to build more equitable and digital futures for all have been immense, helping facing the ongoing pandemic and other everyday medical challenges. Now, as governments collaborate with healthcare leaders and tech experts to realize the true potential of digitally-driven service solutions, the progress made in recent times must be protected, and enhanced.

Healthcare vulnerabilities
Already straining under a backlog of pandemic patient appointments, health systems are relying on digital transformations to turbocharge long-term resiliency. But cyber attacks disrupting operations at large hospitals can result in a lack of access to patient data, creating delays and cancellations of time-sensitive procedures. Patients’ lives are put at risk. As per a report by KPMG, India continues to remain the second largest country to face cyber attacks and these cyber attacks can be attributed to malware and ransomware, both of which have been particularly impacting the healthcare industry.

Preventative cyber technology is constantly evolving with new innovations to protect data and keep pace with the bad actors, however, a collaborative public and private sector approach is now needed to maximize resilience.

Protecting health data
Health data is the lifeblood of progress when it comes to solving healthcare problems. But accelerated digital transformations have created increasing complexities – and data protection must evolve to meet new demands. For example, after a tumultuous couple of years, healthcare waiting lists escalated, placing pressure on facilities and staff.

Health records and mobile devices streamlined wait times and minimized patients’ time spent in hospitals, as IoT and Edge computing powered patient monitoring. Behind the frontlines, AI technologies led the charge on healthcare research — enabled by high performance computing. The pandemic brought about a rapid transformation in the sector where large quantities of data were being generated, stored, and exchanged. At the initial peak of the pandemic, 7 million cases of cyber attacks on the healthcare industry were registered in India. With a 300% surge in cyber attack incidents in India, it is more important that key decision makers place intrinsic security at the heart of their digital strategies.

Better together
Protecting these datasets requires a ‘people, process, and best of breed technology solutions’ approach. While there is no antidote or 100% fail-proof approach, enlisting a cyber strategy that focuses on all three areas is critical. But the risks of not acting now far outweigh the short-term cost of investing in tighter cyber strategies.

The powerful combination of digital twin, IoT, AI, and data analytics will boost patient outcomes and hospital performance. But this must be supported by stringent cyber security to evolve with the trust of patients and healthcare providers— and remain operational in the event of a ransomware attack.

As we look to more equitable, sustainable futures that put citizens at the forefront of progress, healthcare cyber security is more than a hot topic — it’s a lifeline.

The writer is director and general manager, Data Protection Solutions, Dell Technologies, India.

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