The pandemic today has undoubtedly propelled the world into uncharted territory. As the Asia Pacific (APAC) region moves toward creating a digital economy, the increased reliance on new technologies has heightened the risk exposure to potential cyberattacks.
Particularly alarming is the jump in the number of cyberattacks in the healthcare industry, indicating the proven vulnerabilities that exist in this sector.
Notably, the APAC region continues to be a hotspot, with more than double the rate of attacks than the global average according to a report by LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In Singapore, enterprise-centric attacks saw a sharp increase from March to April 2020; in particular, the healthcare sector that was previously spoofed by threat actors now became a target itself which disrupted medical care and put human lives at risk.
Hospitals and medical research facilities are expected to defend against the same sophisticated nation-state attacks on their own — that governments are battling with police and military cyber defence forces.
This is neither realistic nor effective as a cyber defence strategy.
While technology exists to provide the kind of cyberattack detection and defence that is needed, what is missing is the power that greater collaboration against these attacks can bring.
Companies need to unite, share information, and defend together. Cyber threats present public challenges that are far greater than what any single organisation can manage alone.
An overlooked breeding ground for attackers
As if healthcare organizations didn’t have enough to contend with, they face yet another severe, and often overlooked, risk: their supply chain. Even after building up their cybersecurity defences with technologies such as firewalls and endpoint protection, their supply chains contain a web of weak spots from hundreds of third-party entities and cloud providers, creating countless vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit.
According to a report by Accenture, indirect attacks against weak links in the supply chain account for 40% of security breaches.
In particular, the healthcare supply chain is arguably the most sensitive and vulnerable as it holds patient data and is accountable to human life.
As a collective, the supply chain ensures an adequate level of care delivery is made possible to those in need. Unfortunately, as supply chain entities are an easier target than a hospital, adversaries are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to launch an attack.
Specifically, companies that are part of a supply chain and who have little to no knowledge of emerging threats are now at risk of becoming a target.
The shift to a remote workforce and the rush to develop vaccines and tests without securing one’s network with adequate security measures has also increased the loopholes and vulnerabilities.
For example, a recent ransomware attack on a German hospital caused a system crash and the hospital had to turn away a woman in life-threatening condition, eventually leading to her death due to treatment delay.
Tragically, reports are now emerging that the attackers’ intended target was not the Dusseldorf University Clinic after all, but the Heinrich Heine University. This raises additional concerns that supply chains and individual organizations may become victims of attacks that were not even intended for them.
The possession of valuable data has made healthcare a highly lucrative sector for cybercriminals to exploit and launch sophisticated attacks, the time is now to defend together or get left behind.
Better defend against cyberattacks
The reality is, it doesn’t matter if it is a pandemic as we are experiencing now or any event that challenges and strains the “norm.” At every turn, whether it is a recession, military conflict, natural disasters or political and diplomatic changes, adversaries are ready to seize the opportunity.
To shift the balance of power from the attacker to the defender, both real-time visibility and situational awareness is required. This can only be done with an even bigger change in mindset – a paradigm shift to adopt a collective defence approach to secure nations and digital economies.
Internally, it is not just deploying security tools but exercising your team’s ability to recognise and detect vulnerabilities to better understand the supply chain and its emerging threats. The responsibility of safeguarding an organisation’s network does not fall solely on the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), but on each and every staff at all levels of an organisation.
Beyond this is the importance of knowledge sharing among different organisations and their partners within the supply chain through, the ability to see threats and understanding the attacker’s Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), and crowdsourcing and collaboration. With threat actors working together to build up highly connected networks that are only getting stronger, we too must take immediate and collective action.
Only by engaging in secure and automated community-building and rapid, operationalized intelligence sharing can organisations build up a much more defensible supply chain that relies on a sustainable model to keep the sector’s digital infrastructure healthy.
The silver lining will be stronger defence and greater resilience across the sector, no matter what event is driving the adversaries’ bold cyber offense.