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News Article

Cyberattacks Are Driving Up Mortality Rates

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Fri, 09/24/2021 - 16:32

Earlier this year it became known that cyber attackers were increasingly targeting global healthcare systems due to their propensity to meet ransom demands—a fact that is still being currently exploited. However, before now the extent of their impact in the context of a global pandemic had not been known. Findings from the Ponemon Institute independent research center indicate that these ransomware attacks have fatal consequences, driving up mortality rates in nearly one in four healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs).

These attacks came to compound serious challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic including remote work, new and unfamiliar systems to support it, staffing challenges and elevated patient care requirements. Since the findings of the study confirm what intuitively many health professionals already knew, the main focus of the study is to help Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and healthcare risk executives understand to what extend HDOs are being targeted and how and their impact.

“Our findings correlated increasing cyberattacks, especially ransomware, with negative effects on patient care, exacerbated by the impact of COVID on healthcare providers,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, Chairman and Founder of the Ponemon Institute. “We also analyzed steps that HDOs are taking to protect patient safety, data and care operations to determine what is working since so many respondents have been victims of more than one ransomware attack.

Overall, some of the most concerning impacts from cyberattacks highlighted in the study are:

  • Elevated Mortality Rates
  • Complications from Medical Procedures
  • Delayed Procedures and Tests, Often Resulting in Poor Outcomes
  • Increased Rate of Patient Transfer or Diversion to Other Facilities
  • Longer Patient Stays

“The combination of data breaches, ransomware attacks and COVID-19 has created the perfect cybersecurity storm and worst two years on record for IT and security leaders in healthcare,” stated Ed Gaudet, CEO and Founder of Censinet. “The Ponemon Research results are an urgent wake-up call for the healthcare industry to transform its cybersecurity and third-party risk programs or jeopardize patient lives.”

Mexico who had only recently restructured its public health system is particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks, observing a 25 percent increase in malware attacks in 2020 according to survey conducted by independent research house Vanson Bourne.

Access the full report, The Impact of Ransomware on Healthcare During COVID-19 and Beyond, or to learn more about the impact of ransomware on patient care, please visit Censinet.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Ponemon Institute, Censinet, Vanson Bourne, Sophos
Photo by:   Irwan iwe
Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst