Cofense Looks Closely at Healthcare Phishing Attacks

Cofense, the prominent supplier of human-based phishing threat management solutions, has issued new research that demonstrates the healthcare industry lags behind other industrial sectors for phishing protections and is consistently attacked by cybercriminals who often succeed in gaining access to secret patient health data.

The Division of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued a synopsis of data breaches informed by healthcare companies that have involved over 500 records. Each week, many electronic mail breaches are registered on the portal.

The Cofense report examines deeper into these attacks and demonstrates that a third of all data breaches happen at healthcare companies.

There are several instances of how simple phishing attacks have led to attackers gaining access to secret data, some of which have led to the theft of enormous volumes of data. The phishing attack on Augusta University healthcare system, informed in August 2018, led to the health data of 417,000 patients being breached.

Cofense did a cross-industry comparison of 20 verticals including healthcare, the financial facilities, technology, manufacturing, and the energy sectors to decide how vulnerability and resiliency to phishing attacks differ by industrial sectors. The report compared electronic mail reporting against phishing vulnerability and demonstrated that healthcare has a resiliency rate of only 1.34, compared to 1.79 rate for all industries, 2.52 for the financial facilities, and 4.01 for the energy sector.

One of the main causes for the low healthcare score has been past underinvestment in cybersecurity, although the industry is greatly controlled and healthcare companies are required by law to provide safety consciousness training to workers and should implement a variety of controls to safeguard patient data.

The high cost of data breaches – $408 per record for healthcare companies compared to a cross-industry average of $148 per record – has implied that healthcare companies have had to invest more in cybersecurity. Although still worse than other industries, the enhanced investment has seen improvements made even though there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Source: Cofense

By studying replies to simulated phishing electronic mails transmitted through the Cofense PhishMe phishing simulation platform, the Leesburg, VA-based firm was able to recognize the phishing electronic mails that are most usually clicked by healthcare workers. The top clicked messages were bill requests, manager assessments, package delivery electronic mails, Halloween eCard alerts, and beneficiary changes, each of which had a click rate of over 18%. Having access to this data assists healthcare companies to address the biggest dangers. The report also details how, through training and phishing simulations, vulnerability to phishing attacks can be radically decreased.

The report contains a case study that demonstrates how by using the Cofense platform, one healthcare company was able to halt a phishing attack within just 19 minutes. It is not unusual for breaches to take more than 100 days to identify.

The Cofense Healthcare Phishing Report can be downloaded here (PDF)