Hospital cybersecurity checklist for 2023

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Hospitals are tempting targets for hackers because of multiple factors:

1. Hospitals are crucial for the functioning of the country and can’t just stop working, making the man ideal ransomware target
2. The hospital operate vast amounts of very sensitive (and thus very valuable) data
3. The hospital staff ranges from accountants to surgeons, often very specialized people who do not possess high IT skills and the networks are full of various devices connected to the internet which are often not up-to-date or are using old or very niche software prone to vulnerabilities. This often goes hand-in-hand with incredibly busy IT staff and less-than-ideal cybersecurity budget.

Here is a short checklist of vulnerabilities hospital networks face, so that you can find out if your network is ready to fight the new generation of cybersecurity threats:

Ransomware attacks: Hospitals are prime targets for ransomware attacks due to the critical nature of their services. Attackers encrypt sensitive patient data and demand a ransom for its release. If hospitals don't have proper backups or cybersecurity measures, they may feel compelled to pay the ransom.

☑ Inner vulnerabilities: More often than not through social engineering means such as phishing. Given that due to the number of staff and their IT skills it is nigh impossible to ensure everyone are able to distinguish phishing, it is important to employ a security measure – such as DNS protection – which stops the users from accessing malicious domains.

Incident response and malware activation: even if someone brings the malware to the network, the malware needs to communicate with its author to conclude a successful ransomware attack. Stopping this communication provides additional layer of protection when the first one fails.

Legacy systems and software: Hospitals often rely on legacy systems and outdated software due to the cost and complexity of updating them. These systems might have unpatched vulnerabilities, making them easy targets for attackers.

Medical device vulnerabilities: Many medical devices are connected to networks to improve patient care and monitoring. However, these devices can have security vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit to gain access to hospital networks, potentially leading to data breaches or disruption of critical medical equipment.

IoT devices: It is hard or often impossible to protect IoT devices by traditional means. It is vital to have a network-wide protection which makes sure no one takes advantages of vulnerabilities in the embedded software.

Devices not protected on the network level: Since the old software tends to offer a lot of avenues for the hackers to employ, it is crucial not to protect the devices only in the device itself, but with a network layer as well. Given that the attacks can be specific for very niche software which may not be a part of all the standard threat intelligence feeds, it is better to employ a solution which detects malicious domains not only based on existing databases, but which analyses domains themselves to see whether they might be malicious (such as DNS protection called Whalebone Immunity).

Remote work and telehealth security: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work and telehealth services. Ensuring the security of these remote connections and telehealth platforms is crucial to prevent unauthorized access to patient data.

Home-office: Given that some form of home-office is nowadays more or less a standard (mostly for non-medical staff), it is wise to ensure that the employees are safe even when they are working remotely. This can be achieved via number of ways, but ideally it should be a part of the already existing network-wide solution to ensure compatibility and effectivity (such as Home Office Security which is a free and fully integrated part of Whalebone Immunity).

Lack of staff and time: There are innumerable devices connected to the internet in all hospitals, often spread over numerous buildings or even city districts. The IT staff is often swamped with tasks, which is not helped by users not updating their software or disabling essential security functions.

High-maintenance and hard-to-implement protection: It is vital to look for a solution which the users do not come to contact with at all. This radically cuts down on IT staff time and reduces the risk that something goes unnoticed. For example Whalebone Immunity protects the network on DNS level without a need to install anything on the devices themselves – and with automations and notifications the IT staff can pinpoint the compromised device with ease.

☑ Leaked credentials: Vast majority of people only uses one or two passwords for all of their accounts all over the internet. Once one of the passwords leaks, it is very easy for anyone to try to access any databases or internal portals the hospital has. Moreover, usually you can buy long lists of such contacts for just a few dollars on the dark web.

Identity protection: To insure that in the case of a leak no further damage is done it is crucial to employ a measure which notifies the domain owner when the credentials connected to the domain are found on the internet. Ideally the service should notify you even about leaks that happened even in the distant past. A leak which happened over 10 years ago might still pose as an attack vector, if it has never been sanitized.

Lack of cybersecurity Awareness: Training staff members to recognize and respond to phishing attacks, social engineering, and other cybersecurity threats is crucial. A lack of awareness can lead to unintentional security breaches.

Users messing with the security solutions: We know that nothing is 100% people-proof, but the closer one can get, the better. Ideally it should be a solution which works independently on the user and which poses a barrier between the threat and the network, so that even when users try to make a mistake, they can’t.

Interconnected systems: Hospitals have various interconnected systems, including electronic health records (EHR) systems, billing systems, and more. A vulnerability in one system could potentially compromise the security of the entire network.

Multi-layered protection is the only way to get close to being safe

Did you not tick all of the boxes? It is very possible, since the standard solutions just can’t keep up with the hackers. Instead it is vital to layer the protection and widen the cybersecurity perimeter.

That is often unfortunately lengthy and costly process, nevertheless thanks to DNS protection Whalebone Immunity, you can have the protection of the whole network up-and-running in a matter of hours with no need for special hardware or investment. Given its precise nature, it is an affordable mean of protection while maintaining the highest quality – if you do not trust us in that, just ask the European Commission who have chosen us for DNS4EU, an official DNS resolver of the European Union.

Watch a 2-minute video on how Immunity works or ask for a free trial run which just takes 2–3 hours to set-up, no matter how complex your network is.

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