CYBERSECURITY AND THE UKRAINE CONFLICT: WHAT’S THE LINK?

Hint: It’s hard to hit a moving target.

First, some good news:

Last month, our friends at Healthcare Info Security published an article about the latest breaches reported on the Department of Health and Human Services’ HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool website.

Valuable data takes cover

While the overall trend rate continues to rise sharply, in an all-too-rare positive development, only five data breaches have been attributed to unencrypted data so far this year —a figure much lower than has been seen in recent years.

Conclusion: it appears that the constant flow of urgent messaging from security pros is having the desired effect: organizations are increasingly doing the responsible thing and moving their sensitive data to fully encrypted servers.

So, what does this have to do with Ukraine?

In short, everything.

As the “Special Operation” grinds on long past its original two-week timetable, cyber-warfare has consistently been a major element in Russia’s strategy.

This concerns us all, because disruption of the critical infrastructure of Zelenskyy’s Western allies has been part of the playbook from the start.

Unfortunately, healthcare continues to be a large, sensitive, and vulnerable target, and similar to the conventional military campaign, cyberattacks on this sector have been massive, relentless, and increasingly focused on destruction.

In a protracted conflict, the tactics get nastier

The Healthcare Infosec article warns: “…the use of ‘wipers,’ or ‘killware‘ will become more prevalent, and organizations will be intentionally crippled … The point is to ramp up the pain as a retaliation for support for Ukraine.”

tw-Security Principal Consultant Keith Fricke agrees. “If tensions between Russia and the United States/NATO escalate, organizations should expect to see more cyberattacks,” he says.

Preparation, concealment, defense

Like our healthcare security pros, Ukraine’s intelligence community has been warning the policymakers in Kiev about the evolving threat.

The difference? Early on, those leaders acted on their experts’ advic, and moved quickly and decisively to harden and safeguard vital cyber resources.

As a result, even in a war zone, Ukraine’s internet, media, and utilities are still functioning.

Think about that! It’s astonishing.

Russia, by contrast, has seemingly entered the conflict without a coordinated data security and communications infrastructure plan, and as a result has paid a heavy price.

The choice is yours

Healthcare organizations in the US and abroad: which approach are you taking? Are you being as proactive as Ukraine, or bumbling ahead without a coherent strategy, like Russia?

A powerful ally

Ukraine’s resistance has been made possible by significant support from its security partners. Similarly, U.S. healthcare entities aren’t battling these cyberattack trends alone. We can call on our federal government to share threat and event information and provide vital resources.

Act now!

It’s not too late to begin reducing your risk. Maybe someday all health organizations will be secure, but until that happens, you can ensure that your organization is among the least attractive targets.

Keith Fricke recommends that organizations rapidly deploy these five simple, proven solutions:

  • Apply critical security updates and patches
  • Move forward with assessments and monitoring
  • Train staff to recognize and counter “social engineering” and “phishing” attacks
  • Make sure vendors understand that regularly-scheduled risk assessments are key to earning and keeping their business relationships with covered entities.

You’ll be amazed how quickly you can move your organization from “vulnerable” to “protected!”

We’re ready to help. For more information on this and other current healthcare security issues, check our blog regularly.

Contact us to request a FREE assessment, or to discuss our services.

This article was brought to you by tw-Security, LLC., a practice dedicated to helping healthcare organizations protect their information resources by creating and managing information security programs.