Healthcare organizations are among the most frequent targets of cybercriminals’ attacks. Even as more IT departments invest in cybersecurity safeguards, malicious parties infiltrate infrastructures — often with disastrous results.
Some attacks force affected organizations to send incoming patients elsewhere because they cannot treat them while computer systems and connected devices are nonoperational. Massive data leaks also pose identity theft risks to millions of people. The situation worsens since healthcare organizations often collect a wide variety of data, from payment details to records of health conditions and medications.
However, artificial intelligence can significantly and positively impact healthcare organizations of all sizes.
Detecting Abnormalities in Incoming Messages
Cybercriminals have taken advantage of how most people use a combination of work and personal devices and messaging channels daily. A physician might primarily use a hospital email during the workday but switch over to Facebook or text message during a lunch break.
The variation and number of platforms set the stage for phishing attacks. It also doesn’t help that healthcare professionals are under high pressure and may not initially read a message carefully enough to spot telltale signs of a scam.
Fortunately, AI excels in spotting deviations from a baseline. That’s particularly helpful in cases where phishing messages aim to impersonate people the receiver knows well. Since artificial intelligence can quickly analyze massive amounts of data, trained algorithms can pick up on unusual characteristics.
That’s why AI can be useful for thwarting increasingly sophisticated attacks. People warned of potential phishing scams may be more likely to think carefully before providing personal information. That’s essential, considering how many individuals healthcare scams can affect. One attack compromised 300,000 people’s details and began when an employee clicked on a malicious link.
Most AI tools that scan messages work in the background, so they don’t impact a healthcare provider’s productivity or access to what they need. However, well-trained algorithms could find unusual messages and flag the IT team for further investigation.
Stopping Unfamiliar Ransomware Threats
Ransomware attacks involve cybercriminals locking down network assets and demanding payment. They’ve gotten more severe in recent years. They once only affected a few machines, but today’s threats often compromise entire networks. Also, having data backups is not necessarily sufficient for recovery.
Cybercriminals often threaten to leak stolen information if victims don’t pay. Some hackers even contact people whose information the original victim had, demanding money from them, too. Bad actors don’t need to create the ransomware themselves, either. They can buy ready-to-use offerings on the dark web or even find ransomware-for-hire gangs to handle the attacks for them.
A long-term study about ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations examined 374 incidents from January 2016 to December 2021. One takeaway was that the annual ransomware attacks nearly doubled during the period. Additionally, 44.4% of the attacks disrupted the healthcare delivery of the affected organizations.
The researchers also noticed a trend of ransomware affecting large healthcare organizations with multiple sites. Such attacks allow hackers to broaden their reach and increase the damage caused.
With ransomware now established as an ever-present and growing threat, IT teams overseeing healthcare organizations must remain innovative with their defense methods. AI is a great way to do that. It can even detect and stop new ransomware, keeping protection measures current.
Personalizing Cybersecurity Training
Many healthcare workers may rely heavily on their medical training and view cybersecurity as a lesser-important part of their jobs. That’s problematic, especially since many medical professionals must securely exchange patient information between multiple parties.
A 2023 study showed 57% of employees in the industry said their work had become more digitized. One positive takeaway was that 76% of those polled believed data security was their responsibility.
However, it’s worrying that 22% said their organizations do not strictly enforce cybersecurity protocols. Additionally, 31% said they don’t know what to do if data breaches occur. These knowledge gaps highlight the need for cybersecurity training improvements.
Training with AI could be more engaging for students through increased relevancy. One of the challenging things about a work environment such as a hospital is that employees’ tech-savviness will vary widely. Some people in the industry for decades likely didn’t grow up with computers and the internet in their homes. On the other hand, those who have recently graduated and entered the workforce are probably well-accustomed to using many kinds of technology.
Those differences often make it less practical to have one-size-fits-all cybersecurity training. An educational program with AI features could gauge someone’s current knowledge level and then show them the most useful and appropriate information. It might also detect patterns, determining the cybersecurity concepts that still confuse learners versus those they grasped quickly. Such insights can help trainers develop better programs.
AI Can Improve Cybersecurity in Healthcare
These are some of the many ways people can and should consider deploying AI to stop or reduce the severity of cyberattacks in the healthcare sector. This technology does not replace human professionals but can provide decision support, showing them which genuine threats need their attention first.