Is Ransomware Distracting Healthcare from Other Threats?

HIT Index: Lost and Stolen Media Still Lead Breaches


Ransomware has seized the attention of Clinical Healthcare professionals, and for good reason. But the sector should not lose sight of their less-glamorous leader in information breaches; lost or stolen media and devices.

Threat Profile

The thought of healthcare providers losing access to critical systems and data though ransomware is frightening and attention-grabbing. But careful review of the HALOCK’s Foreseeable Threat Index (FTI) shows that information security breaches in Clinical Healthcare have been caused most often by the loss or theft of media and devices … even while Ransomware catches up.

Since 2010, approximately 16.6% of all reported security incidents in Healthcare involved the loss or theft of portable media or devices. The threat breakdown includes the mishandling or mis-tracking of sensitive media and devices, loss from theft, loss within vehicles operated by the organization or its business partners, and use of media and devices in public locations.

The commonality of media-loss breaches is decreasing by both count and percentage of all causes, and the threat of ransomware continues to grow. This is a sign of progress. But if attention veers from less-glamorous causes for loss, avoidable breaches will persist.

Figure 1: Physical Asset Loss vs Ransomware in Clinical Healthcare

Theft and loss of media and devices containing sensitive information has been the leading cause of data security breaches in Clinical Healthcare both in aggregate (since 2010) and more recently in 2017. But the attention-grabbing Ransomware is gaining ground.

According to the Foreseeable Threat Index (FTI), technicians and end-users continue to store unencrypted information on media and devices which are susceptible to loss or theft. While information must be at some point unencrypted to be useful, especially in Clinical Healthcare, security controls that prevent mishandling are still presenting a major challenge.

Headlines about Ransomware appropriately grab our attention, but if Clinical Healthcare security focus is dedicated to Ransomware in spite of the continuing threats from non-secure media, breaches will continue to plague this sensitive but vital service.