67% of healthcare organisations suffered a cyber security incident in the last 12 months

New research by data security provider Clearswift, a HelpSystems Company, revealed that 67% of healthcare organisations have experienced a cyber security incident in the past year, highlighting the serious threat that data breaches and malicious attacks pose to the UK’s health-related data.

The research, which surveyed senior business decision makers within healthcare organisations across the UK, found that almost half (48%) of incidents within the sector occurred as a result of introduction of viruses or malware from third-party devices – including IoT devices and USB sticks. With investment in IoT within healthcare expected to continue growing throughout 2020, it is particularly important that the industry focuses on securing devices.

In addition to this, the survey found that further causes of cyber security incidents within the healthcare sector included employees sharing information with unauthorised recipients (39%), users not following protocol/data protection policies (37%), and malicious links in emails and on social media (28%).

“The healthcare sector holds important patient data, so it is alarming to see such high numbers of security incidents occurring in the industry,” said Alyn Hockey, VP of Product Management, Clearswift, a HelpSystems Company.

“The healthcare sector needs to securely share data across departments and organisations in order to facilitate excellent patient care. With the proliferation of third-party devices in this process, it’s more important than ever that the industry bolsters its cyber security efforts to reduce the risk of everything from unwanted data loss to malicious attacks and focusses on keeping patient data safe and secure.”

The number of security incidents are in stark contrast with further findings from the survey which revealed less than a quarter (24%) of respondents had an adequate level of budget allocated to cyber security. And seemingly, there is disparity between where budget is being spent and where it actually needs to be placed, with 46% of respondents revealing investment is put into database security, versus just 26% for endpoint security.

While there remains a need for additional budget to be allocated to cyber security across healthcare organisations, the data shows that a number of incidents have already made board members sit up and take note of the potential risks. 33% of those surveyed stated that ransomware attacks – such as the WannaCry incident that took place across the NHS in 2017 – have had the biggest impact on board level involvement and spend around cyber security. Further hacks that involved third-party data aggregator losses, such as the AMCA healthcare breach, were also identified by 29% of respondents as having influenced the level of spend and board involvement on the issue.

Hockey added:

“Understanding what is threatening the safety of the critical data you hold is the first step in mitigating the risk. Therefore, cyber security strategies across healthcare organisations need to rapidly evolve to account for new threats against the sector. While many aspects of staying secure come from keeping employees trained to recognise threats, technology should play a key role in helping reduce the risks that come with innovation. It’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’ an incident occurs so investment is required to ensure healthcare organisations are prepared for any type of threat.”