Sunday, April 14, 2024

Cybersecurity Challenges in the Health Insurance Industry and What Can Be Done to Address Them

Though many people attribute security breaches and other forms of cybercrime to financial data, a lot of these illicit activities involve healthcare data as well. To the chagrin of patients with health insurance, as well as their providers, there’s a risk of malicious agents using their personal health data for a number of criminal purposes on platforms like the dark web.

Health data stolen from insurance databases can be used to purchase prescription medicines in a dishonest manner, to allow someone to skip the line for a medical treatment, or even to make false medical claims. In addition, hackers who successfully breach insurers’ databases can uncover patients’ private information—like their national ID numbers, addresses, and contact details—on top of their healthcare data.

Today, there’s an upward trend in the number of security breaches occurring in systems that house protected health information, especially in light of healthcare crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing that, it’s important to be aware of the exact risks that your insurance company faces, which aspects of your insurance process are prone to compromise, and how can you administer an insurance management system that sufficiently protects your customers’ health insurance data from cybersecurity threats.

Below is an overview of cybersecurity challenges you may face in the imminent future, plus what you can do to fortify your insurance system’s security.

What Types of Cybersecurity Attacks Are Insurers at Risk of?

Insurance management infrastructure has swiftly evolved over the past decade, and it is now capable of processing huge volumes of patient healthcare data with added ease. But with every new development that serves patient outcomes, there are new threats to consider from cybercriminals whose methods are also evolving at an unprecedented rate.

Three types of risks that you should be aware of as an insurer are the following:

Unpatched Insurance Software

Much of your company’s vulnerability to cybersecurity attacks may be traced to unpatched software, or software whose code contains one or more known security weaknesses. If you allow your current software to remain unpatched, either because it seems too expensive or too much of a hassle to upgrade, hackers can definitely end up taking advantage of that.

Ransomware Attacks

Your system may also be susceptible to ransomware attacks, or attacks from malware that will steal your insurance data while infecting every computer involved in your network. As a consequence of a ransomware attack, you may be locked out of your system and be denied access to your insurance files for an indefinite period. A hacker may also use ransomware to make exorbitant demands of your company, thus putting you in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of situation.

Risks from Unprotected and Unstructured Data

Lastly, without knowing it, your insurance staff may be handling unstructured insurance data without the proper safeguards. Unstructured data, or data that comes from various sources like emails, text files, transcripts, and the like, can be easily exfiltrated by outsiders compared to structured data. If you don’t take the initiative to protect the unstructured data that you use for your insurance processes, you may end up paying the price.

Takeaway

Cybersecurity attacks present significant risks to insurers in terms of business interruption and permanent loss of trust from policyholders. While it’s not impossible to bounce back from the aftermath of a cybersecurity attack, being proactive about your insurance organization’s security will always be the better approach.

How Can You Protect Your Insurance Company Against Cybersecurity Challenges?

Taking the abovementioned risks into consideration, below are some concrete steps that you can take for your insurance company’s cybersecurity:

Modernize Your Insurance Management System

First, consider weaning your organization off of its outdated legacy system and moving your insurance data and processes to the cloud. This will allow you to rely on your cloud provider’s security features, the best of which are both high-tech and effective in nature.

Implement the Principle of Least Privilege

Next, be sure to follow the principle of least privilege and restrict the baseline amount of power that users in your insurance platform have to the bare minimum. By implementing the principle of least privilege, you’ll prevent accidental harm on a large scale as well as abuse of power from malicious actors that may be either inside or outside of the organization.

Reduce the Attack Surface That’s Available to Hackers and Malicious Agents

Third, limit the number of entry points that an attacker can exploit if they ever get access to your system. You can do this by minimizing the number of services running on the platform at any given time, avoiding the installation of software that doesn’t natively run on your insurance platform, and applying firewalls on all your insurance management system’s boundaries.

Be Conscientious about Monitoring and Updating Your Insurance System

Finally, invest both time and effort into patching up your system’s security software and monitoring its security performance. Observe a schedule for updates and maintenance, and don’t delay crucial improvements until the very last minute.

Ultimately, insurance providers must commit to making key improvements to both their technology and policy if they want to tighten their cybersecurity. As part of your modernization plan for the coming years, make it your priority to bake good cybersecurity practices into every aspect of the insurance process. Additionally, make it a point to run these processes from a digital insurance platform that can guarantee you and your policyholders a maximum level of protection.

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