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Digitisation in healthcare has revolutionised healthcare service delivery by improving healthcare outcomes. It has reformed how patients and medical personnel communicate and share information. It has also transformed how healthcare professionals treat medical conditions by advancing diagnosis accuracy. Digitisation of healthcare has reduced medical errors, significantly improving patient safety. Unfortunately, digitising healthcare comes with healthcare cybersecurity threats that can undermine healthcare data management systems. This can end up putting patient data at risk.

The major cybersecurity incidences affecting the healthcare industry in Australia and New Zealand include ransomware attacks, phishing, hacking, malware attacks, and brute-force attacks. Cybercrime has evolved. For instance, the Australian Cyber Security Center received over 67,500 cybercrime cases in the 2020-2021 financial year, a 13% increase from the previous year. According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the healthcare sector is the worst hit by data breaches at 79%, followed by the finance sector at 52%. Ransomware is the most common healthcare cybersecurity threat in ANZ. The information at risk during data breaches includes:

Contact and identity information.
Financial details.
Patient medical history.
Tax file numbers.
Other crucial information that hackers can use to their advantage.

In this regard, healthcare facilities in both countries should apply hands-on strategies to protect their digital systems from cybercrime to avoid the losses that come with it.

Applying practical steps to combat healthcare cybersecurity threats helps improve patient data security. Healthcare facilities in ANZ have adopted various strategies to protect themselves against cybersecurity threats. Some effective practical strategies healthcare leaders apply to protect their information and communication technology systems include multi-factor authentication, biometric security and secure access service edge solutions, and medical devices security and regulations. In addition, healthcare leaders should consider robotic process automation to enjoy the benefits of improved efficiency and security.

What common cyber security challenges do healthcare providers face?

Despite the numerous benefits of digitalising healthcare services, healthcare providers face several cybersecurity challenges that threaten to disrupt healthcare services and risk patient data. Some of the notable cybersecurity challenges the region’s healthcare providers are facing include:

Ransomware attacks

This is the greatest cybersecurity risk healthcare providers face across ANZ. It entails the introduction of malware into a network that encrypts sensitive data; then, hackers demand healthcare providers pay a ransom for them to decrypt the information. Ransomware attacks make patient data inaccessible, disrupting healthcare service delivery. Ransomware attackers introduce malware through phishing. Hackers mainly attack healthcare facilities for ransom as they know how sensitive patient data is. Additionally, most healthcare providers fear litigation associated with manipulating patient data. They may choose to pay the ransom to avoid losses.

Data breaches

Data breaches are another cybersecurity challenge healthcare providers are facing. Data breaches entail the unlawful interception of personal data for malicious activities. Hackers can destroy, alter and disclose confidential information, especially patient data. The major cause of data breaches in healthcare facilities are human errors, poor data security systems, and malware. Data breaches are detrimental, as hackers use the victim's information, such as tax file numbers, financial details, and identities, to engage in online crime, especially fraud.


Phishing attacks in the healthcare sector have intensified in quantity and magnitude, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be attributed to the wide digitalisation of healthcare services in most health facilities. Phishing entails a hacker sending an enticing communication, usually an email disguised to be from a trusted sender, which prompts a user to click a link which allows the hacker to steal confidential information.

Phishing has been prevalent in the healthcare sector as selling and distributing patients' medical records is highly profitable in the black market. Patients' medical histories give hackers a clear path to defraud insurance organisations and medical device companies. Some hackers use patient health information to get prescriptions for their use or resale. This makes the healthcare data a goldmine for cybercriminals, explaining why the healthcare industry is the worst hit by cyber insecurity in ANZ.

Top 3 cyber security trends that are improving patient data security

Trend 1: Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Using usernames and passwords is an outdated approach to protecting information systems against unauthorised access. Applying multi-factor authentication makes it harder for hackers and unauthorised users to access sensitive information on smartphones and computer devices, as they must input all login credentials. MFA adds another layer of security by requiring users to include something they know (like a password) with something they have (like an approved device). It demands that you enter a code sent to your device via SMS or email to access an account.

Healthcare providers can apply different MFA methods to advance their healthcare cybersecurity. The three most common authentication factors are knowledge, possession, and inherence. The knowledge factor requires the user to answer a personal security question that mainly involves entering a four-digit PIN and a one-time password sent to a phone or email. The possession factor demands a user to have a specific hardware item, such as a badge, key fob, or SIM card, to log into an account. It can also involve a security token application that generates a single-use login PIN. An inherence factor entails using a biological trait as a login tool. It is mainly used in biometric verification methods such as iris and fingerprint scans, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, and facial recognition.

MFA has benefits and drawbacks in healthcare cybersecurity. The major benefits of MFA include advanced login security and ease of use. The technique alerts users of a login attempt, as they will likely receive an authentication code via email or SMS. The strategy have several disadvantages and risks that hinder its efficiency. SMS messages and emails can be intercepted, making the technique inefficient in dealing with advanced hackers. Healthcare providers must pay SMS sending fees, making it highly costly to deal with many accounts.

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Trend 2: Biometric security and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions

Biometric security is a cybersecurity strategy that uses biometric data such as fingerprints, facial, voice, iris, and palm to authenticate a user. It greatly limits unauthorised access to sensitive data. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Solutions is an evolving network architecture that integrates comprehensive WAN capabilities with cloud-native network security functions to develop robust, secure access needed in healthcare facilities. A SASE vendor provides cloud-native functions making it hard for hackers to infiltrate a healthcare facility's information and communication system.

Biometric security and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions have advanced patient data security considerably. Healthcare providers using biometric security to safeguard their customers' data significantly reduce the number of people accessing patient data minimising the chances of data breaches and leaks. On the other hand, SASE solutions facilitate federated identification, ensuring that employees are only authorised to access data they have access to. This healthcare cybersecurity strategy has secured patient data from hackers externally and unscrupulous employees internally.

Biometric security and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions have notable benefits to healthcare cybersecurity. One of the major benefits of the cybersecurity trends is limiting unauthorised access to patients' data. Additionally, it is challenging to infiltrate a network secured with biometric security and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions. SASE gives healthcare providers the agility and flexibility to adjust to the changing digital infrastructure needs. SASE centralised management improves network and security staff effectiveness. Unfortunately, the cyber security solutions have some drawbacks. Biometrics have reduced privacy, are vulnerable to cloning, and are prone to human errors. The major drawback of SASE is limited SASE vendors limiting accessibility to the service.

Trend 3: Medical device security and regulations

Applying the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) in medical devices secures patient data from interception and allows physicians to track a patient's progress and advise them accordingly. The Australian and New Zealand governments have both set up stringent measures on the use of medical devices to promote patient data security and privacy. This ensures all the medical devices meet all the certifications and secure patients from cyber security threats.

Medical device manufacturers must address all the devices' cyber security concerns in their design and development process. The Australian government has established policies that medical device manufacturers must consider in the medical devices' development process to protect patient data. It has standardised protocols and operating environments to make it easy for healthcare providers and patients to operate medical devices securely.

This trend has several benefits and drawbacks. Securing medical devices during their manufacturing process boosts patient confidence as the devices have reduced the risk of infiltration. Stringent government policies ensure manufacturers and healthcare providers do not compromise on quality, risking patient data. The major drawback associated with medical devices is that they become obsolete fast, considering the cybersecurity space evolves fast, creating new challenges.

Investing in cyber security is a commitment that pays off in the long run

Healthcare providers should stay up-to-date with the latest cyber security trends to ensure their healthcare data management systems are safe and at negligible risk of compromise. Applying multifactor authentication, biometrics and SASE solutions, managed SIEM services, and IoMTs on medical devices and regulations will help healthcare providers in ANZ protect themselves against cybersecurity threats. Essentially, they should hire a cybersecurity consultant to conduct a cybersecurity threat assessment to know the best mitigation strategies to advance patient data security and privacy.

Are you looking to advance your patient data security? Then Look no further than Canon Business Services ANZ. We have been the market leader in providing safely managed cybersecurity services, infrastructure, and cloud technologies for over 20 years.

Speak with an expert today for more information on how to improve patient data security.

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