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August 24, 2023

4 Min Read

PRESS RELEASE

SEATTLE (BUSINESS WIRE)  Critical Insight, the Cybersecurity-as-a-Service provider specializing in helping critical organizations Prepare, Detect, and Respond in today’s threat environment, today announced the launch of its H1 2023 Healthcare Data Cyber Breach Report. In this report, Critical Insight builds on its biannual analysis of data breaches reported by healthcare organizations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Critical Insight unveils the state of cybersecurity in the healthcare industry and its complex dynamics through a comprehensive analysis of current cyber threats. Notably, the report revealed a decrease in total breaches but an increase in the number of individuals affected; the focus of attacks on the supply chain and third-party associates; and, particularly noteworthy, the shift in some attackers' strategies from encryption to extortion.

"The results of this analysis support the hypothesis that cybercriminals are continually evolving their tactics to minimize risk and maximize the return on effort," said Mike Hamilton, Founder and CISO at Critical Insight. "Focusing on business associates that perform a service for covered entities should give all these providers pause. Fines, additional regulatory scrutiny, class actions, and enforcement of the false claims act will affect these organizations for years."

While the first six months of the year saw an encouraging decrease in the overall number of data breaches impacting healthcare organizations, it was overshadowed by large-scale breaches resulting in a significant increase in the number of individuals affected, which reached record levels. The report found that 2023 is on pace to break the record for individuals affected by breaches. 

Critical Insight's analysis of breach data supplied to HHS reveals the following key findings.

  • Breach Numbers Decrease: Total breaches dropped 15% in the first six months of 2023 compared to the second half of 2022, which is a positive trend considering the steady increase in attacks over the past few years. The reduced number of breaches in the first half of this year suggests that the overall number may be lower for the entire year. This year is on track to record the fewest breaches since 2019 and experience fewer provider breaches compared to the previous three years.

  • Exposed Records Increase: Individual records compromised in data breaches surged by 31% in 1H 2023 compared to 2H 2022. Despite declining over the latest reporting period, the number of individuals affected increased from 31M in 2H 2022 to 40M in 1H 2023. With the first half of this year at 40 million, the number in just a six-month reporting period is already 74% of the total number of individuals affected in 2022, representing the highest number on record for six months. 

  • Data Breach Causes: Hacking/IT incidents were the primary cause, accounting for 73% of breaches in 1H 2023. Compared to the first-most affected breach type in the previous reporting period, unauthorized access/disclosure was the second-most prevalent type in 1H 2023. Theft, losing records, and improper disposal were relatively insignificant contributors to data breaches.

  • Hacker Entry Points: The focus on network server vulnerabilities and the adaptation of defense against email-related hacks point to a continual evolution in the cyber landscape. Hackers have shifted their tactics towards targeting network vulnerabilities. Network server breaches are responsible for a staggering 97% of individual records affected, while only 2% can be attributed to email breaches.

  • Evolved Attacker Tactics: Hackers have intensified their attacks on third-party business associates as breaches associated with business associates have steadily risen and were significantly higher than individuals affected in healthcare provider and health plan-related breaches. Of the 40 million exposed records, 48% were linked to business associates, while 43% were associated with healthcare providers. In the first half of 2023, 50% of individuals impacted by a breach had a business associate present. 

"Our report found that hackers are increasingly targeting the weakest links and vulnerable points in the supply chain, specifically business associates or third-party companies, that offer services to healthcare organizations emphasizing the importance of effective incident response planning and proactive defense strategies," said John Delano, Healthcare Cybersecurity Strategist at Critical Insight and Vice President at CHRISTUS Health. "Now more than ever, healthcare organizations must remain vigilant of their security and exposures within their supply chain as attackers constantly adapt new strategies."

To adequately prepare, organizations should: start with an incident response plan and a NIST-CSF-based risk assessment to build a multi-year strategy; track the cyber hygiene of its critical partners essential to maintaining a more secure environment; place robust focus on safeguarding third-party vendors, business associates, and suppliers from vulnerabilities; ensure support from the board, emphasizing the most critical impact for the investment. 

To download the report, please visit https://cybersecurity.criticalinsight.com/healthcare-breach-report-h1-2023.

About Critical Insight

Critical Insight is the only cybersecurity-as-a-service provider that prepares, monitors and responds to cyber threats, going beyond SOC-as-a-service offerings typical of Managed Detection and Response (MDR) offerings. With a focus on organizations that deliver critical services – hospitals, local governments, utilities, school systems, and more – we provide end-to-end support to those with limited security teams or budgets to handle threats proactively and as they occur. Based in Bremerton and Seattle, Washington, Critical Insight is a venture-backed company founded by former CISOs in the public sector. We are committed to training new analysts and providing the most up-to-date cybersecurity protection. Find out more at https://criticalinsight.com.

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