Improving efficiency and streamlining administration, the healthcare sector, as with all industries, is heavily reliant on technology and digital solutions. From storing patients records to the functioning of critical medical devices, technology is integral to modern healthcare operations. However, this increased reliance on digital solutions has made the industry a prime target for cyber criminals, where the stakes are high and sensitive personal information is at risk. A breach in cybersecurity can lead to devastating consequences, from financial losses to compromised patient safety.

The recent ransomware attack on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) pathology partner Synnovis, highlighted the extent of the vulnerabilities that exist; where not just patient information could be compromised, but patient care and safety itself. The disruption to Synnovis’ IT systems has already had significant human costs, with cancelled appointments and delayed diagnoses posing serious risks to patient health.

It’s no surprise that cyber-attacks on healthcare services like the NHS could have profound implications. The security of patient data is a huge concern and breaches bring the trustworthiness and reliability of partners such as Synnovis under the spotlight causing extensive reputational damage. Financially, there is a huge risk too. Using our risk exposure framework calculation, we estimate the cost of the initial breach remediation in the Synnovis case to be between £10-£15 million, with long-term impacts possibly exceeding £30 million due to reputational damage and loss of trust.

So, what can be done to protect healthcare providers against future attacks? First and foremost, leaders must prioritise robust cybersecurity measures in their operational strategies. This involves not only preventing and detecting attacks but also ensuring strong recovery and resilience strategies. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest risks posed to healthcare organisations yet many don’t even include it in their risk management processes. This needs to change and organisations must invest time and resources in comprehensive risk management programs aligned to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework 2.0.

Cyber security should be treated with the same seriousness as financial risks, and governance must by applied to monitoring and managing cyber threats. By doing so, organisations can better protect themselves against future cyber-attacks and ensure the safety and well-being of patients.

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