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Why the Healthcare Industry is A Growing Target for Cybercriminals

BY eSentire

January 6, 2022 | 3 MINS READ



Threat Intelligence

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In the end of October 2021, the Newfoundland and Labrador healthcare system was hit by the worst cyberattack in Canadian history. It was suspected that Conti, a ransomware attack gang, stole the personal information of their patients and healthcare employees, causing medical service disruptions and delays for weeks. The same gang of cybercriminals have targeted approximately 290 healthcare organizations in the U.S since mid-May 2021.

These incidents demonstrate that no healthcare provider is too small or too big to be targeted by a cyberattack. However, threat actors are targeting certain types of healthcare providers over others with health or medical clinics and healthcare industry services being impacted significantly more than hospitals, pharmaceutical, and hospice or elderly care institutions.

Cybercriminals target healthcare providers because it’s lucrative. In fact, as of May 25, 2021, the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) tracked 82 ransomware incidents targeting the healthcare sector globally, 48 of these ransomware attack incidents were reported in the United States alone.

What makes healthcare organizations an attractive target for cyberattacks?

For cybercriminals, stealing patient data is the big win–one record can fetch up to $250 on the Dark Web, approximately 50x more than the next best stolen data, credit and debit card numbers. The ransom demand is also higher at $4.5M on average because the cyberattackers know that patient lives are at stake.

In addition to the lure of money, we’ve identified four major vulnerabilities that attract cybercriminals:

These factors, paired with outdated systems, applications, and technologies, make for a very difficult cybersecurity challenge that your security team must be well-equipped to solve.

Ransomware attack groups like Conti and Avaddon frequently launch cyberattacks on healthcare organizations with little regard for the impact cyberattacks can have on patient lives. In fact, these cyber threat actors are adept at bypassing traditional defenses like firewalls and antivirus systems, often remaining undetected within the environment for days or weeks before ‘detonating’ a ransomware attack or disabling services.

Additionally, in recent years, healthcare organizations have even fallen prey to a new trend of double-extortion and triple-extortion ransomware attacks. In a double-extortion, the cyberattackers exfiltrate data and threaten to sell it unless they’re paid a higher ransom. In a triple-extortion, the cyberattackers threaten to launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that could further disrupt healthcare services.

Shielding your healthcare practice from cyberattacks

The first step in managing cyber risk in today’s threat environment is to adopt the mindset that cybersecurity isn’t an IT problem to solve—it’s a business (and patient outcome) risk to manage.

It’s important to recognize the growing risk of data breaches and cyberattacks to take the necessary precautions to avoid them. Adopting a risk-based approach to cybersecurity includes:

Download our healthcare threat intelligence report to learn more about the cyber threats impacting healthcare organizations today and how you can protect your patients & critical healthcare operations against today’s ever-evolving cyber threats.  

To learn more about how eSentire can protect your healthcare organization against today’s most sophisticated, targeted cyberattacks, book a meeting with our security specialist today.


eSentire, Inc., the Authority in Managed Detection and Response (MDR), protects the critical data and applications of 2000+ organizations in 80+ countries, across 35 industries from known and unknown cyber threats by providing Exposure Management, Managed Detection and Response and Incident Response services designed to build an organization’s cyber resilience & prevent business disruption. Founded in 2001, eSentire protects the world’s most targeted organizations with 65% of its global base recognized as critical infrastructure, vital to economic health and stability. By combining open XDR platform technology, 24/7 threat hunting, and proven security operations leadership, eSentire's award-winning MDR services and team of experts help organizations anticipate, withstand and recover from cyberattacks. For more information, visit: www.esentire.com and follow @eSentire.

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