Why municipal governments should look to hospitals for healthier cybersecurity

Baltimore’s recent ransomware attack proves just how easily critical infrastructure can be brought to its knees. The irony that cyber blackmailers used a tool developed by the NSA to protect people will be lost completely on those residents suffering without essential services.

This is not a one off. More than 20 cities have already been targeted this year.

It’s a threat that is alarming many in municipal government but will surprise no one that works in the healthcare industry. 88% of all ransomware attacks on US industries last year were made on healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs)1. And 85% of the most successful malware attacks last year included ransomware2

Why are HDOs and municipalities so commonly ransomware victims?
  • They are heavily and increasingly reliant on information technology resources;
  • Cybersecurity practices are often relatively weak;
  • Denial of essential services really can have a profound impact on operating efficiency;
  • There are the means to pay substantial ransoms
The simple fix

It’s not hard to defeat a ransomware attack, it just takes the basics of security hygiene. Baltimore would have greatly increased their chances of repelling the attack had they applied freely available software patches, operated with effective backups, restricted user rights and retained system logs.

So, problem over? No. It is probably only starting.

Ransomware attacks are just the beginning

This is the nub of this blog: ransomware attacks are the tip of the iceberg. If municipal government’s focus simply on ransomware, they will ignore the expanding cyberthreat landscape.

Returning briefly to the healthcare industry. It’s fixing the ransomware pandemic but has recognized this is the tip of the cybersecurity iceberg. They foresee the perfect cyber storm created by the massive data growth thanks to telemedicine, health apps, machine learning and predictive modelling. And that’s before patient self-diagnosis and the automated hospital really kick in.

Learn more about the Healthcare’s big data dilemma with this simple infographic

Add to this regulated infrastructure that’s not designed with security in mind, more connected mobile devices and an absence of highly skilled security experts – and the attack surface is increasing exponentially.

What’s in it for the attacker? Highly personally identifiable patient medical records can fetch 10 to 20 times more than personal financial data on the dark web.

That’s why the healthcare industry is accelerating its cybersecurity maturity.

Do municipal governments need to look beyond ransomware?

You could argue many of the base elements the healthcare industry is triangulating to reconize new cybersecurity threats also exist in the municipal space – they just take a slightly different form:

  • The emergence of digital government, most notably the convergence of mobility and apps
  • The data explosion that will come with smart cities and the growth of AI and robotics
  • The personalization and digital CX that will automate the collection of personal data
  • The likelihood that all this will be built around aging infrastructures.

So, more data, more personally identifiable information, more devices and applications, and more mobility and connectivity. Municipal governments must look to a new breed of cyberthreat, a smarter type of cybercriminal and a new world of cyber pain.

Could healthcare enable a healthier outlook for municipal government security?

Municipal government could certainly look to industries like healthcare to accelerate their cybersecurity maturity. They would see the emergent ways that sensitive and valuable data is being protected from cyberthreats. They would see the emergence of cloud workload protection platforms, deception technologies, better prepared networks, automated “follow me” infrastructures, full network packet data capture and a “no nonsense: operations approach.

See a recent webinar where 3 healthcare security experts addressed the big new cyber security challenges the healthcare industry is facing.

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