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Cybersecurity Survey Reveals Health Care Enterprises Are Not Maturing Fast Enough

As the health care industry has been deluged with new applications, challenging systems, new devices, and innovative approaches to handling and sharing data, more than 90% of health care organizations have experienced a data breach since the third quarter of 2016, and nearly 50% have had more than five data breaches during the same timeframe. As the number of attacks has increased, more than 180 million records have been stolen since 2015, affecting about one in every 12 health care consumers.

The dramatic rise in successful attacks by both criminal and nation-state–backed hackers illustrates how susceptible these health care enterprises are to exploitation. Despite these wake-up calls, the provider sector remains exceedingly vulnerable to ongoing breaches.

Black Book Market Research surveyed more than 2,450 security professionals from 680 provider organizations to identify gaps, vulnerabilities, and deficiencies that persist in making hospitals and physicians proverbial sitting ducks for data breaches and cyberattacks. Ninety-six percent of IT professionals agree with the sentiments that data attackers are outpacing their medical enterprises, holding providers at a disadvantage in responding to vulnerabilities.

A fragmented mix of 410 vendors offering data security services, core products and solutions, software, consulting, and outsourcing, including large IT companies, midsized and small security vendors, and start-ups, received user feedback in the polling period from the third quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2018.

Despite the lack of earmarked funds by US buyers, Black Book projects the global health care cybersecurity spend to exceed $65 billion cumulatively over the next five years. Budget constraints, however, have encumbered the practice of replacing legacy software and devices, leaving enterprises more susceptible to an attack. According to 88% of hospital representatives surveyed, IT security budgets have remained level since 2016. As a percentage of IT organizational budgets, cybersecurity has decreased to about 3% of the total annual IT spend.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for hospitals to find the dollars to invest in an area that does not produce revenue,” says Doug Brown, founder of Black Book.

One-third of hospital executives who purchased cybersecurity solutions between 2016 and 2018 report that 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-level and failed to include any users or affected department managers in the cybersecurity purchasing decision. Only 4% 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,” Brown says. “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.”

Last year’s Black Book cybersecurity survey revealed that 84% of hospitals were operating without a dedicated security executive. As a solution to unsuccessfully recruiting a qualified health care chief information security officer, 21% of organizations opted for security outsourcing to partners and consultants or selected security-as-a-service options as a stopgap measure. That shortage of health care cybersecurity professionals is forcing a rush to acquire services and outsourcing at a pace five times greater than cybersecurity products and software solutions. Cybersecurity companies are responding to the labor crunch by offering health care providers and hospitals a growing portfolio of services.

“The key place to start when choosing a cybersecurity vendor is to understand your threat landscape, understand the type of services vendors offer, and compare that with your organization’s risk framework to select your best-suited vendor,” Brown says. “Health care organizations are also more prone to attacks than other industries because they persist at managing through breaches reactively.”

Fifty-seven percent of IT management respondents report that their operations are not aware of the full variety of cybersecurity solution sets that exist, particularly mobile security environments, intrusion detection, attack prevention, forensics, and testing. Fifty-eight percent of hospitals did not select their current security vendor in advance of a cybersecurity incident. Thirty-two percent of health care organizations did not scan for vulnerabilities before an attack.

“Providers are at a severe disadvantage when they are forced to hastily retain a cybersecurity firm in the midst of an ongoing incident, as the ability to conduct the necessary due diligence is especially limited,” Brown says.

Sixteen percent of health care organizations report that they felt intimidated by a vendor to retain services when the vendor identified a vulnerability or security flaw. “While the intrinsic nature of cybersecurity radiates pressures and urgency, hospitals shouldn’t let this dictate the vendor selection process,” Brown says.

Sixty percent of health care enterprises have not formally identified specific security objectives and requirements in a strategic and tactical plan. Without a clear set of security goals, providers are operating in the dark, and it’s impossible to measure results. Eighty-three percent of health care organizations have not had a cybersecurity drill with an incident response process, despite the skyrocketing cases of data breaches in the health care industry. Only 12% of hospitals and 9% of physician organizations believe that an assessment of their cybersecurity in the second quarter of 2019 will show improvement. Twenty-three percent of provider organizations believe their cybersecurity position will worsen, as compared with 3% in other industries.

In 2018, 24% of providers still do not carry out measurable assessments of their cybersecurity status. Of those that did, 7% used an objective third-party service to benchmark their cybersecurity status, 6% used an objective software solution to benchmark their cybersecurity status, and 78% self-assessed according to their own criteria. Twenty-nine percent of respondents report they currently do not have an adequate solution to instantly detect and respond to an organizational attack.

Seventy-four percent of surveyed CIOs did not evaluate the total cost of ownership before making a commitment to sign their current cybersecurity solution or service contract. Eighty-nine percent reported that they bought their cybersecurity solution to be compliant, not necessarily to reduce risk. Health care organizations are hyperfocused on patient care and reimbursement.

“Cybersecurity risks are not on the forefront of executives’ minds,” Brown says. “Medical and financial leaders also wield more influence over organizational budgets, making it difficult for IT management to implement needed cybersecurity practices despite the existing environment.”

— Source: Black Book Market Research