Cybersecurity News that Matters

Cybersecurity News that Matters

[Perspective] When our cyber defenses bleed and supply chains fail

Sylvie Truong, The Readable

by Sylvie Truong

Jun. 17, 2024
8:00 PM GMT+9

I remember the blood drives organized at our school. As students, many of us were excited to donate blood for the free sugary snacks we would receive afterward—and, of course, missing 3rd period history class. Back then, our biggest technological concerns were whether our flip phones had enough battery to last the day and if we had enough minutes left to call our friends.

Fast forward to today, and the contrast is stark and alarming. Hospitals in London are now urgently appealing for blood donations following a critical cyberattack. One hospital even circulated an internal memo asking staff with type O blood to donate. London, one of the most advanced cities in the world, is now appealing to its own hospital staff for blood donations due to the severity of a cyberattack. This underscores the heightened dependence on technology defining modern life.

The stark shift from past school days to the present highlights how our vulnerabilities have evolved with technology. Now, I didn’t intend for this to be such a grim observation, but it is just a simple fact: when our cyber defenses fail, we all suffer. This could be a hit to our wallets, a threat to the security of our identity, or, in the case of healthcare, a battle for life against death.

Despite the clear and present danger, there remains a lack of data documenting the fatalities resulting from cyberattacks. Understanding the full extent of the impact of such breaches on patient outcomes is becoming increasingly crucial as cyber threats evolve, with the latest attacks being more damaging. Collecting and analyzing data on fatalities linked to cyber incidents could provide invaluable insights into the extent of the dangers cyberthreats pose, driving home the reality of these threats.

Reflecting on recent cyberattacks targeting healthcare in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries, critical flaws in cybersecurity practices become evident. Many of these devastating incidents could have been mitigated or resolved more swiftly with the implementation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) alongside robust redundancy measures. MFA enhances security by requiring multiple forms of verification before granting access, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized breaches. For example, a hacker would need both a password and a code sent to a user’s phone, making unauthorized access much more difficult.

Additionally, robust redundancy measures ensure that backups are in place to maintain operational continuity and data integrity, even if one system or component fails. This can involve having secondary servers or duplicate systems that can quickly take over if the primary ones are compromised. Implementing basic cybersecurity hygiene, such as regular system updates and patches, is equally critical to safeguarding against potential threats.

In the recent ransomware attack in London, the cyberattack targeting a pathology service provider continues to have devastating consequences for major hospitals and emergency services across the city. This incident underscores the vulnerabilities posed by third-party services and highlights the urgent need for comprehensive cybersecurity measures across the entire healthcare supply chain, and not just hospitals and healthcare facilities. Strengthening cybersecurity protocols for hospitals, healthcare facilities, and third-party service providers is crucial to safeguarding our healthcare industries.

In a digital era where cyber threats continue to evolve, proactive cybersecurity strategies are indispensable. Just as blood sustains life in the human body, robust cybersecurity measures are vital to the health and integrity of our healthcare systems. Governments, healthcare providers, and stakeholders must collaborate to establish a resilient cybersecurity framework that adapts to emerging threats and protects the integrity of healthcare data. By strengthening our defenses with comprehensive policies, we can staunch the bleeding caused by cyber vulnerabilities and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of critical healthcare services. This effort is essential not only for improving current defenses but also for safeguarding lives and maintaining public trust in healthcare systems.

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Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable


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  • Sylvie Truong

    Sylvie Truong is a regular contributor to The Readable. Her interest in cybersecurity began in 2015, while working as a biomedical research assistant at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center. Sh...

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