Cyberattacks in life sciences and health sectors have surged in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In a dynamic world of intensifying and accelerating digitalization, cybersecurity is becoming the main driver of competition. Many cybercrime gangs promise to avoid attacks on health care institutes until the situation of COVID-19 doesn’t get in control. Google is also disturbed from spam emails and trying to block hundreds of millions of daily COVID-19-related spam content.  

Take One Look at January to March Cyberthreat Trends   

  • 40% of malicious URLs were found on good domains. It is usual for legitimate websites to be hacked.   

  • 36% of phishing attacks get increased. Phishing sites now use HTTPS or SSL certificates to help internet users believe that website pages are legal and secure.  

  • The percentage of ransomware attacks also gets increased by 148% in March 2020 compared to Feb 2020.  

Recently the U.K.’s Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) warned organizations to improve their cybersecurity in coronavirus response and urged them to ask their staffs to use strong passwords. In April 2020, the target of hackers was WHO (World Health Organization). In just a week, hackers leaked over 450 email addresses and passwords of WHO employees, mainly those who managed the matter of Coronavirus.   

Criminals constantly try to attack on the health care industry for various reasons. Everyone knows clinics and hospitals have a low level of automation for information security and support. Many of them are dependent on outdated software. Additional threats are linked to digital transformation, trust deficit, remote data access, and the reason for online risks in healthcare is the lack of training. It is suspected that COVID-19 can have a far-reaching impact on this industry.   

According to more than 195 Pages of Research Reports, the worldwide Home Healthcare Market Size and Share will expand from USD 281.10 Billion in 2019 and is projected to exceed USD 454.34 Billion by 2026. This market is the main root for many vulnerabilities.   

Discover top cybersecurity challenges in healthcare industry:  

  • Ransomware Attacks.  

  • Insider Threats.   

  • Telemedicine and Remote Connectivity.   

  • Sensitive Data Protection (PII/PHI).  

  • Healthcare Apps and Connected Devices.   

Ransomware Attacks   

Ransomware takes control over the files in the infected system and allows attackers to demand a large sum of money. Since 2016, there have been around 172 ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations in the U.S. The biggest problem is these attacks cost more than US$157 million to health care departments. The health care sector is already beating with the NetWalker Ransomware Gang, which is specializing in spreading attacks through spam emails. One of the haunting attacks in health care happened in 2017. At this time, WannaCry ransomware punctured the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) hospitals. About 19,000 appointments were cancelled, so you can expect the massive disruption in the medical field during this attack. Nearly one-third of NHS trusts were affected and suffered a loss of US$155 million.   

Insider Threats   

Equipment misuse and human errors happen more than hacking. The IBM Security Cost of Insider Threat report found that major reasons for insider threats are Criminal Insiders (14%), Credential Theft (23%), and Negligence (63%). Half of the incidents occur due to negligent contractors or employees. The cost of credential theft remediation is US$871,686, whereas the actual cost of negligence is US$11,450,000. Insiders can be those who intentionally get access to personal health information for making profits. The 2019 Verizon Data Breach investigations report called insiders one of the most dangerous actors in the health care organization.   

Telemedicine and Remote Connectivity   

Nowadays, clinics and hospitals run at limited capacity due to the fastest spread of Coronavirus infections. They allow only those patients first who can’t be treated well at home. Patients with fewer symptoms are suggested to get treatments through online consultations. Telemedicine has been popular for many years. Before the pandemic outbreak, patients were less active for virtual visits to doctors. However, people prefer safety today, and they are ready to contact doctors online. Thousands of clinics in the United Kingdom choose remote consultations. Due to a cluttered bureaucracy and regulatory restrictions, companies had limited access to telemedicine. In Europe, standards for data protection and privacy are very strict. Right now, healthcare organizations have no option left except to choose telehealth and their operations. The more technologies companies will adopt, the more cyber-attacks can happen in the future. 

Sensitive Data Protection (PII/PHI)   

PHI helps attackers earn a lot of money. On the Dark Web, attackers can sell PHI (Personal Health Information) worth US$1,000. They can capitalize on stolen medical records through medical identity theft, methods of extortion, the opening of new lines of credit, or tax return fraud. In January 2020, the health care records of about 50,000 patients may have been compromised due to unauthorized access to two workers’ email accounts of a Minnesotan hospital. In February 2020, a phishing campaign made a target to employee accounts of a California health care network. In this attack, personally identifiable information of many patients was exposed, and about 200,000 former and current patients were affected. With the increase in digital adoption of life sciences and health care domains, the storage and collection of health care records has increased, and this makes it challenging to protect the patient’s personal data.   

Healthcare Apps and Connected Devices   

The 2019 Verizon Mobile Security report demonstrates that 25% of health care sectors faced mobile security incidents. Google Play Store and Apple App Stores offer many applications for downloads. Some health care apps are convenient and easily accessible, but these apps don’t give a guarantee for protecting personal information and sensitive data transmission. Apple Watch, Fitbit, and other fitness bands store personal health data publicly and privately in clouds. If security is not provided to these apps during the software development process, cybercriminals can commit attacks on health care organizations. There is no firm threat protection mechanism, and governance is yet established. Medical devices are five times more vulnerable in comparison to regular devices and apps.   

It’s Time to Take Actions Against Cybersecurity in Healthcare Industry   

People can easy to trust health care providers with their data because they are proficient in saving lives. To maintain this trust, it is essential for health care organizations to protect and secure their information, especially if they are working through modern applications or software. Health care and life sciences businesses need to develop a robust and highly adaptive security system. IT hygiene requirements should be flexible and implemented and maintained well across all IT and medical devices.   

Remember always, there is no particular spot for vulnerabilities in the IT stack. Vulnerabilities can be appeared in the database, the network, servers, or any endpoint of the IT stack. IT professionals should ensure that all systems are patched with the current security patches and develop a process for security updates.   

Companies should execute IoT security practices for remotely connected devices and replace outdated systems within the organization. High-risk and internet-facing systems should be hardened based on industry best practices.   

One should implement 100% multifactor authentication to protect against unauthorized access. Always use secure web gateways for remote access. You can disable insecure protocols and services if they are not needed and try to prevent data leakage from endpoint controls. Execute automated systems for data encryption, data classification, and data masking.   

Companies should also use Data Loss Prevention Systems for networks, emails, and endpoints for real-time loss monitoring. Use data masking solutions with industry best encryption practices. You can conduct access reviews periodically to make sure access is available for authorized users only. It is vital to establish secure coding guidelines and embrace dev-sec-ops and email security for all development programs. You need to focus on managing risks, threats, and vulnerabilities, rather than just focusing on regulatory compliance. Use mandatory quizzes and certifications in planned security awareness campaigns about social engineering attacks.   

Use automation and AI for reducing false positives and proactive threat hunting. Companies should plan for quick IT recovery and fast detection to enhance resiliency in case of a breach.    

A managed security services organization can assist health care companies with a comprehensive data security program. Working with experienced and knowledgeable cybersecurity testing company comes to a plus point for increasing visibility, reducing costs, and getting a high level of protection against breaches.   


Health care is the most required and expensive industry when it comes to the cost of a data breach. Due to telemedicine, remote work, digitalization, we can say cybersecurity is worth investment. Health care providers need to invest in Software Testing and Quality Assurance for medical equipment, devices, applications because the cost of a breach in the healthcare industry is about US$7.1 million.   


Raghav Vashishth

Raghav is a Consultant QA associated at BugRaptors. He has diverse exposure in various projects and application testing with a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of SDLC. He is having 7 plus years of hands-on experience with blue-chip companies like Hitachi, Vmware, and Kloves. He is well versed with API Testing, Manual testing, Mobile application testing, Web application testing and able to create effective documentation related to testing such as Test Plan, Test Cases, Test Report, etc.


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