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Is healthcare really at risk of cyber-attack?

Every healthcare clinic and hospital around the globe remains at risk of being attacked by cybercriminals. And remember

Small does not mean safe!

Image of person typing on a laptop with stethoscope

By and large, the tantalizing target on healthcare’s back has been attributable to outdated IT systems, fewer cybersecurity protocols and IT staff, valuable data, and the pressing need for medical practices and hospitals to pay ransoms quickly to regain data.


And 2021 stats from a US Cyber company (Herjavec Group) make for stark reading

  • Healthcare provider attacks have more than quadrupled since 2017

  • Attacks don’t just steal or encrypt data – they are now targeting internet enabled medical devices (MRI scanners) and interfering with their productivity

  • It is highly likely that cyber-attacks have resulted in deaths and serious injury of patients

  • 93% of healthcare organisations had suffered a cyber enabled data breach over the past 3 years. Two thirds had had 5 or more.

  • Most healthcare providers felt ill-equipped to deal with the threat of cyber-attacks against their organisation

So, what is a DDoS attack?

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, website, or network by overwhelming it with a flood of Internet traffic. And recent experiences have shown that Healthcare is frequently a target for such attacks.

Image of lots of traffic being focused to one

DDoS attacks frequently come from multiple sources to make their identification more difficult. It can also hinder the victim organization’s attempts to stop the DDoS.


In lay terms it’s like an unexpected traffic jam clogging up the highway, preventing regular traffic from arriving at its destination.


DDoS normally present themselves, as you would expect, by a slowing or crashing of a company’s network or website. Which costs you time, reputation and money and potentially drives your customers to competitors websites.


The Fortified Health Report of 2020 notes that DDoS attacks can be used to disguise other network attacks that are planned to take place concurrently i.e., ransomware attacks, and that these attacks can affect internal hospital equipment that is network enabled as well internal attacks. The technology and capability behind DDoS is increasing rapidly and all organizations need to be prepared to meet the DDoS challenge.


Can you protect yourself from these attacks?

DDoS attacks are notoriously difficult to prevent. The attackers don’t necessarily need internal access to the network as the attack is from the outside. They are increasing in complexity and sophistication meaning that defense against these dark arts needs continual review. But the key points for protection to remember are:

  • Know your network's traffic. A free tool that we can recommend here is Police CyberAlarm

  • Create a Denial-of-Service Response Plan within your incident response plan

  • Make your network resilient and practice good cyber hygiene – using CE principles

  • Scale up your bandwidth. The greater the bandwidth the more effort a DDoS attacker will have to make to crash your site. Moving your operation to the cloud may help.

  • Take advantage of anti-DDoS hardware and software. Speak to your Managed Service Provider (MSP) if you have one.

  • Make sure all staff know the symptoms of an attack and respond quickly to it using your plan.


What next?

The impact of a successful attack against your website or network can be catastrophic and lead to website downtime, loss of business and loss of reputation. In the worst cases it can lead to the closure of the business altogether. But all is not lost.


So, what can I do?

Here at the centre, we would advise you to do three things now:

  • Join our growing business community by signing up to free core membership of the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre. You will be supported through implementing the changes you need to make to protect your business and your customers.

  • For small and medium sized businesses in the Eastern region we would recommend that you look at improving you overall cyber resilience through the free Little Steps pathway we provide to Cyber Essentials – the basic government backed kite mark standard for cyber security. Join the centre as a free member and we will take you as far as the CE accreditation process. If you want to pay for the assessment, we can refer you one of our Trusted Partners – all regionally based cyber security companies that can help you become accredited. And remember that a company operating under Cyber Essentials processes is 99% protected either fully or partially from today’s common cyber-attacks.

  • We would also recommend that you speak to your Managed Service Provider and / or website company to discuss how they can implement cyber resilience measures on your behalf.


Reporting a live cyber-attack 24/7

​If you are a business, charity or other organisation which is currently suffering a live cyber-attack (in progress), please call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 immediately. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Reporting a cyber-attack which isn't ongoing ​

Please report online to Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. You can report cybercrime online at any time using the online reporting tool, which will guide you through simple questions to identify what has happened. Action Fraud advisors can also provide the help, support, and advice you need.

Alternatively, you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (textphone 0300 123 2050).


The contents of this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of The Cyber Resilience Centre for the East is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others. Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the East provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us.

The Cyber Resilience Centre for the East does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published on this document. The Cyber Resilience Centre for the East is not responsible for the content of external internet sites that link to this site or which are linked from it.

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