While the use of technology has become an indispensable part of the healthcare industry, the very same systems have enabled the proliferation of extensive cyber threats. As the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore notes, malicious cyber activities will continue to rise so long as COVID-19 remains a global healthcare crisis.
During this critical period, healthcare institutions and companies may wish to review currently implemented cyber security measures and step up cyber vigilance training amongst staff so as to prevent or mitigate potential disruptions to the operations of these critical infrastructure and sectors. Industry players may also wish to consider the challenges and risks faced during the current pandemic when devising future systems and strategies, in preparation for a post-COVID-19 world.
According to a Channel News Asia report on 17 June 2020, instances of cyber attacks utilising COVID-19 related tactics have increased by over a hundred times between March to April 2020. While this appears to be a trend occurring across all industries, the healthcare sector has been the worst hit, facing an increase in phishing attacks by almost 200 times between January to April 2020.
Cyber threat actors have been capitalising on the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19 to conduct malicious cyber activities. These include phishing attacks that utilise COVID-19 themes or masquerade as official sources to lure victims and steal information and credentials using malware.
Cyber security experts note that the healthcare sector is a particularly lucrative sector for cyber threat actors due in part to the large amounts of medical records and personal data being processed in the industry. In recent months, cyber threat actors have also been attracted by the valuable research data and intellectual property relating to vaccines, treatments and testing of COVID-19 developed and held by healthcare organisations. The complexity and extent of the various financial, administrative and clinical systems used in healthcare also contributes to the increased risk of cyber threats faced by the industry.
Experts have advised that the healthcare sector may wish re-examine existing approaches towards cyber security - for instance, by integrating security into the design of technology solutions, rather than including it as an afterthought. Education of healthcare professionals and staff has also been raised as a key measure in tackling cyber security threats.
More information on COVID-19 related cyber security threats can be found here.
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