By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Oct. 14, 2022 7:43PM KST
Hello, this is Kuksung Nam in South Korea. During the past week of state audits, Korean government agencies faced severe criticism from the Congress over cybersecurity. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and ICT were no exception. Among the various revelations from the audit, The Readable has picked one notable news story regarding healthcare security. We have added another news story about international cooperation on combating cybercrime, which is called the Budapest Convention. Have a great weekend!
1. Healthcare SOC of Korea loses supports from private hospitals
More than 8 out of 10 private healthcare institutions do not support the government’s security operation center, or SOC, raising concerns over the cyber defense capabilities of South Korean hospitals.
Jun Hye-sook, a member of the South Korean National Assembly, disclosed on Tuesday in a press release that only 8% of general hospitals, which provide 100 beds or more, joined the government’s Healthcare Information Sharing & Analysis Center, or Healthcare ISAC, in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Moreover, less than 50% of superior general hospitals have joined the Healthcare ISAC in 2020 and 2021 individually. The figures were submitted by the Korea Social Security Information Service, or SSiS, which operates the Healthcare ISAC.
The Healthcare ISAC was formed in 2018 to effectively respond to cyber threats targeting medical institutions. South Korean medical institutions have experienced an increase in cyberattacks in recent years. The press release stated that, from January to August 2022, 17 cases of cyberattacks against private hospitals have been reported. 13 cases were reported in 2020.
According to a press release last year by National Assembly member Kim Sang-hee, seven ransomware attacks and one distributed-denial-of-service attack targeting general hospitals and superior hospitals were reported to the Ministry of Health and Welfare from March 2020 to October 2011. Cyberattacks against medical institutions could lead to devastating outcomes as it could delay surgeries, putting the lives of patients at risk.
However, there have even been voices among the member institutions wishing to withdraw from the Healthcare ISAC. SSiS confirmed to The Readable that there were hospitals who expressed intentions to withdraw during the first half of the year, including several who later retracted their decisions. Budget concerns were the main reason for the health institutions to consider dropping out. According to an official from the SSiS, healthcare institutions that want to join the Healthcare ISAC must pay an annual fee ranging from 3 million won ($2,100) to 5 million won ($3,500) for general hospitals and 12 million won ($8,400) to 18 million won ($12,600) for superior general hospitals.
In addition, hospitals must pay additional fees to integrate security systems when they join the Healthcare ISAC. The price could range from 10 million won ($7,000) up to 50 million won ($35,000) at the highest in accordance with the size of the hospital. “Hospitals have expressed that the annual fees are quite a burden,” the official told The Readable. “However, the price is much more reasonable compared to what is offered by private security firms.” The lawmaker argued in the press release that the private healthcare institutions are practically defenseless against cyber threats. She said that “the government must raise the level of support” to draw more attention from the private health institutions to join the Healthcare ISAC.
2. South Korea seeks to join international treaty on cybercrime
The South Korean foreign ministry announced on Tuesday that they took the first step to joining the international treaty on cybercrime. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that they have sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, requesting an accession to the Convention on Cybercrime. The Convention on Cybercrime, which is also called as the Budapest Convention, covers not only a series of powers and procedures to investigate crimes committed in cyberspace, but also serves as a legal framework for international cooperation between member states.
There have been leading voices in the country urging officials to join the Budapest Convention after a criminal was arrested and sentenced to more than 40 years in prison on charges of blackmailing young women into making sexually explicit videos and selling them to others through social media platforms. Early this year, the South Korean National Assembly approved a resolution which urged the government to promptly join the Convention on Cybercrime to provide efficient international cooperation in dealing with crimes committed in cyberspace.
The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.
Kuksung Nam is a cybersecurity journalist for The Readable. She covers cybersecurity issues in South Korea, including the public and private sectors. Prior to joining The Readable, she worked as a political reporter for one of the top-five local newspapers in South Korea, The Kyeongin Ilbo, where she reported several exclusive stories regarding the misconduct of local government officials. She is currently focused on issues related to anti-fraud, as well as threats and crimes in cyberspace. She is a Korean native who is fluent in English and French, and she is interested in delivering the news to a global audience.