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Cyber Attacks Increase as IT Security Budgeting Remains Static, Report Finds

May 14, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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More than 90 percent of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach since the third quarter of 2016, and nearly 50 percent have had more than five data breaches during the same timeframe, according to a recent report from Black Book Research.

And not only has the number of attacks increased, but more than 180 million records have also been stolen since 2015, affecting about one in every 12 healthcare consumers.

Black Book surveyed more than 2,400 security professionals from 680 provider organizations to identify gaps, vulnerabilities and deficiencies that persist in keeping hospitals and physicians proverbial sitting ducks for data breaches and cyber attacks.  The research revealed that 96 percent of IT professionals agreed with the sentiments that data attackers are outpacing their medical enterprises, holding providers at a disadvantage in responding to vulnerabilities.

According to the researchers, budget constraints have encumbered the practice of replacing legacy software and devices, leaving enterprises more susceptible to an attack. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for hospitals to find the dollars to invest in an area that does not produce revenue," said Doug Brown, founder of Black Book. According to 88 percent of hospital representatives surveyed, IT security budgets have remained level since 2016. As a percentage of IT organizational budgets, cybersecurity has decreased to about three percent of the total annual IT spend.

Despite the lack of earmarked funds by U.S. buyers, Black Book projects the global healthcare cybersecurity spend to exceed $65 billion cumulatively over the next five years.

The report found that about one-third of hospital executives that purchased cybersecurity solutions between 2016 and 2018 said they did so blindly without much vision or discernment.  Ninety-two percent of the data security product or service decisions since 2016 were made at the C-suite level and failed to include any users or affected department managers in the cybersecurity purchasing decision. Only four percent of organizations had a steering committee to evaluate the impact of the cybersecurity investment.

"The dilemma with cybersecurity budgeting and forecasting is the lack of reliable historical data," said Brown. "Cybersecurity is a newer line item for hospitals and physician enterprises and budgets have not evolved to cover the true scope of human capital and technology requirements yet."

What’s more, last year's Black Book cybersecurity survey revealed 84 percent of hospitals were operating without a dedicated security executive. As a solution to unsuccessfully recruiting a qualified healthcare chief information security officer (CISO), 21 percent of organizations opted for security outsourcing to partners and consultants or selected security-as-a-service options as a stop-gap measure.

Indeed, Black Book researchers attest that the shortage of healthcare cybersecurity professionals is forcing a rush to acquire services and outsourcing at a pace five times more than cybersecurity products and software solutions. And cybersecurity companies are responding to the labor crunch by offering healthcare providers and hospitals with a growing portfolio of services.

"The key place to start when choosing a cybersecurity vendor is to understand your threat landscape, understanding the type of services vendors offer and comparing that to your organization's risk framework to select your best-suited vendor," said Brown. "Healthcare organizations are also more prone to attacks than other industries because they persist at managing through breaches reactively."

Nonetheless, 60 percent of healthcare enterprises have not formally identified specific security objectives and requirements in a strategic and tactical plan. Meanwhile, 83 percent of healthcare organizations have not had a cybersecurity drill with an incident response process, despite the skyrocketing cases of data breaches in the healthcare industry.

And, just 12 percent of hospitals and 9 percent of physician organizations believe that a Q2 2019 assessment of their cybersecurity will show improvement. Twenty-three percent of provider organizations believe their cybersecurity position will worsen, as compared to three percent in other industries, according to the research.

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