Cyber-crime poses a growing threat to healthcare providers’ communications technology

Healthcare services in the UK and across the world have faced unprecedented challenges in the last 18 months as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, healthcare providers must increasingly face up to another threat: cyber-crime.

The Irish Department of Health was forced to shut down its IT systems after the ransomware attack, focusing on data stored on its central servers, was discovered, with severe disruption to hospitals across Ireland including many cancelled appointments. Dublin’s Rotunda hospital had to fall back on paper records as electronic ones were unavailable, and a number of hospitals also took the step of deactivating their IT systems. The impact on people’s lives from a single cyber-attack can be staggering, as was also the case when the United States’ largest fuel pipeline was shut down for almost a week following an attack.

Why is healthcare a target for cyber-crime?

While the motivation for these recent cyber-crime incidents in Ireland was financial, where healthcare systems are concerned, this need not be the case. As part of a nation’s critical infrastructure, healthcare services may be targeted by both hostile state and non-state actors, from ‘hacktivists’ to cyberterrorists. Rather than stealing or denying access to data, attackers may attempt to destroy or shut-down any system which is connected to the internet, including a hospital’s communications.

While digitisation, which has increased exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic, has many advantages, it leads to organisations becoming dependent on networked technology; from a managerial level right down to collaboration between individual clinicians. Any serious disruption to a hospital or a healthcare Trust’s communications could not only cause severe delays to services and cost significant sums of money to put right; it could also put the lives of critically-ill patients at risk, and hamper the response to a major incident.

How can healthcare providers improve their resilience against cyber-crime?

Many of the clinical communications apps on the market are Cloud-only offerings, which leaves them vulnerable to being rendered inaccessible by attacks on a hospital’s network, or indeed upon Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Multitone’s apps, on the other hand, powered by Multitone i-Message, give healthcare providers the choice between Cloud, on-premises and hybrid solutions: with the ability to run all Multitone comms on a completely separate Local Area Network (LAN).

Even when connected to the internet, i-Message, when on premises, has the advantage of operating behind an organisation’s firewalls and other security measures, and for communications with apps and devices based outside of the premises’ network, additional security can be achieved via Multitone’s DMZ proxy.

The advantage of a hybrid approach, with i-Message employed both on-premises and in the Cloud, is that everyday clinical communications can be run securely via the Cloud. This reduces the load on the hospital’s own internet connection where people are communicating via cellular data or external Wi-Fi, while critical communications and other vital i-Message functions are handled on-premises for utmost security and reliability.

To learn more about how Multitone can provide the clinical communications apps befitting a cutting-edge hospital without compromising on security and survivability, get in touch with our experts here.