Why Are Australian Hospitals Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?

Cyber Attacks

As we head into 2023, we cannot help but stay cognizant of the growing menace of cybercrime. Australia, in particular, has been at the receiving end of such crimes with the reporting of Optus and Medibank data breaches. These hacks have left millions of sensitive customer records in the hands of cybercriminals, who threaten to sell or expose them if their ransom demands are not met. These are not random incidents but well-coordinated attacks on the systems and processes of Australian businesses and entities. Even the government sector is not immune to this, with the ATO reporting repeated hacking attempts.

Experts from cybersecurity companies advise Australian hospitals and the healthcare sector to be on guard given the escalation of such attacks to steal patients’ data. According to Sean Duca, the Regional Chief Security Officer of the global firm Palo Alto Networks, “while Australians are increasingly aware of the consequences of cybercrime, there’s not enough focus on its potential to cripple systems.”
Importantly, given that the healthcare sector uses a lot of internet-connected devices, if they get hacked or remotely compromised by cybercriminals, the hospitals will go into limbo. They will be forced to pay a ransom to protect the lives of patients. For example, cybercriminals may hack into pacemakers or other embedded devices in patients, endangering their lives.

Growing Spectre of Cybercrime in Australia

Dr. Ahmed, the senior computing and security lecturer at Edith Cowan University, predicts more cyber attacks targeting Australia’s health infrastructure are in the offing due to Australia’s highly digitised hospital systems. According to him, international hackers are targeting Australia due to its wealth, vulnerability due to COVID, natural disasters, and a rising cost of living.

Experts from cybersecurity support services suggest that it is only a matter of time before more people see their data being leaked than what has transpired so far in the Optus and Medibank hacks. To tackle such threats, the Minister for Cybersecurity, O’Neil, announced a 100-strong cybercrime operation led by the Australian Signals Directorate and Federal police. As per the national plan, the number of cyberattacks in Australia is set to double in the next five years.

Besides, the country will experience a shortage of 3,000 skilled cybersecurity personnel by 2026. However, Mamoun Alazab, a cybersecurity researcher, has expressed apprehensions about whether announcing such operations could drive cybercriminals to challenge the system. According to him, the cost of $42 billion to Australian businesses due to cyber incidents is minuscule. Botnets will be the new modus operandi for cybercriminals to target individuals and businesses. Here, hijacked computers will be used to carry out attacks on systems and processes without the knowledge of their owners.

To face the situation, Australia should embrace a collective approach toward cybersecurity by building a public-private partnership and training the workforce. Hospitals should treat the recent incidences of cyberattacks as a wake-up call and strengthen their cybersecurity infrastructure.

How Do Australian Hospitals Prevent Cybercrime

The best way for Australian hospitals to address the threat emanating from cyber criminals is to follow industry protocols and standards such as HIPAA. Known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA compliance is a must for any healthcare organization involved in storing, processing, or transmitting the personal data of patients. The HITECH Act mandates creating a new secure environment for electronic health records and prescribes stiff penalties for not adhering to the same.

Australian hospitals can seek trusted cybersecurity support services, such as the one offered by Cybernetic Global Intelligence, to ensure compliance and avoid liability. For instance, the HIPAA compliance specialists of Cybernetic Global Intelligence, a global cybersecurity firm with 20 years of experience, can help Australian hospitals and healthcare centres to meet stringent security standards.
It can help de-stress such hospitals by developing a diagnostic gap analysis and assessing and validating adherence to HIPAA compliance standards. Through ongoing monitoring and risk assessment, cybersecurity companies like Cybernetic Global Intelligence can develop remediation strategies to help Australian hospitals comply with HIPAA information security standards.

Australia in general and its healthcare sector in particular are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals to steal confidential personal data. They can fulfil their mission, as organisations are yet to put in place strong and resilient cybersecurity measures. Cybersecurity companies like Cybernetic Global Intelligence can help such organisations in the healthcare sector and elsewhere adhere to stringent industry standards like HIPAA. If you happen to run a hospital or healthcare centre in Australia, New Zealand, or the Asia Pacific region, call 1300 292 376 or send an email to contact@cybernetic-gi.com.

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