Ransomware Attacks on Healthcare Organizations Have Devastating Results for Providers & Patients

August 25, 2022

The healthcare sector has been under siege by cybercriminals looking for a quick payday. Bad actors know that hospitals and clinics can’t afford any downtime, especially with the pandemic lingering and new challenges emerging. New information about the impact of cyber attacks on healthcare has just been released in the Cynerio and Ponemon Institute report The Insecurity of Connected Devices in HealthCare 2022. Unfortunately, none of the findings in that research hold good news for healthcare organizations or the patients that depend on them every day 

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Over half of healthcare providers have been hit by a cyberattack in the last 24 months 

A cyberattack isn’t always a one-and-done affair. A shocking 56% of healthcare organizations have been walloped by a cyberattack in the last 24 months and falling victim just once can set them on a path to further security problems. A successful intrusion can damage an organization’s future security by allowing attackers to perform long-term operations that reveal or create gateways to future attacks. An estimated 82% of healthcare organizations that were hit by one cyberattack were hit by another one in short order, and that chain of events often resulted in a data breach. A little over one-third of healthcare organizations experienced an average of 4 or more attacks and just over one-fifth experienced 15 or more attacks that resulted in a data breach in a two-year period. 

Number of Data Breaches Experienced  

Source: Cynerio and Ponemon Institute

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Cyberattacks linger, causing more expensive damage for healthcare organizations 

The longer it takes for an attack to be detected and contained, the more damage the bad guys can do and the harsher the lasting effects will be. This year’s IBM Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report definitively shows that no industry takes longer to detect and contain an attack than the healthcare sector. It takes healthcare organizations an average of 232 days to detect and an additional 85 days to contain a breach. That’s a complication that makes a breach worse at every turn. The early stages of an attack’s lifecycle alone can take well over 10 months to detect and remediate, which translates into more damage and higher breach costs for healthcare providers than any other sector. If an organization has neglected incident response planning, this cycle can be even more drawn out and damaging.

source: IBM

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Ransomware attacks have hit three-quarters of healthcare organizations 

Ransomware can cripple a hospital, trauma center or clinic completely, and downtime has far-reaching negative consequences for patients and providers. That’s one reason why healthcare organizations are favored targets for ransomware operations.  An estimated 43% of organizations in this study said that they had experienced a ransomware attack in the past 24 months. Digging deeper, researchers determined that more than three-quarters of the healthcare organizations in this study had experienced three or more ransomware attacks within the last 24 months.    

Number of Ransomware Attacks Experienced   

Source: Cynerio and Ponemon Institute

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Cyberattacks on Healthcare Providers Negatively Impact Patient Care 

The impact of a successful cyberattack on healthcare organizations has a serious impact on those organizations’ ability to provide patient care, especially when it’s a ransomware attack. When a ransomware attack knocks hospital systems offline, lifesaving technology is unavailable, and essential treatments can be delayed. Simply put, cyberattacks on hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers can kill people. A shocking 54% of healthcare providers that reported data breaches said that those incidents resulted in an increased mortality rate at their facilities due to an inability to provide needed care.  

Adverse Impacts of a Successful Cyber Attack on Patient Care  

Source: Cynerio and Ponemon Institute

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Healthcare is the king of data breach costs 

The industry with the highest data breach cost is healthcare, and that cost has been steadily climbing. The average cost of a healthcare data breach jumped almost $1 million in 2022 to a record high of $10.1 million, which is 9.4% more than in 2021 and 41.6% more than in 2020. The cost of a data breach at a healthcare organization was almost twice the cost of the number two sector, finance. Pharmaceuticals, a healthcare-related sector, came in third on the list of highest data breach costs. However, organizations in the pharmaceutical sector aren’t paying as much for a data breach in 2022 as they did in 2021. The average total cost of a data breach for pharma companies actually decreased slightly from $5.97 billion in 2021 to $5.72 billion in 2022.    

Source: IBM

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The long tail on healthcare attacks stings 

Long tail costs of a breach in an industry as vital and closely regulated as healthcare reverberate, impacting the healthcare provider and its partners, vendors, patients and staff. In the healthcare sector, in addition to the negative impact on patient care, downtime also equals massive financial losses. Downtime of an Electronic Health Records (EHR) platform, internal systems or a data center can be as costly as $7,900 per minute. Bringing it all together, IBM reports that a mid-size hospital will incur at least $45,700 in losses per hour in case of disruption, even when it is proactive. T 

In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, those losses are linked with what happens with the organization’s data. IBM researchers determined that about 47% of the breaches that they analyzed exposed customer personal data, such as name, contact details, SSN, date of birth, passwords, or healthcare data – representing the most common type of breached record in the report. That kind of data disaster ends up costing a pretty penny before it’s all said and done. Researchers determined that the unit cost in this circumstance was $172-185 per record. Multiply this number by the number of lost records, and this one factor alone can amount to millions of dollars before any other costs have been added. Regulatory costs compound the damage. In the U.S., HIPAA penalties can range from $100 to $50,000 per individual violation, with a max penalty of $1.5 million per calendar year. 

Source: IBM

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