Why is Cybersecurity Critical for Education & Healthcare Sectors?

Author: Vinisha Joshi
While technological disruptions and digitisation are a boon to society, the scale and sophistication of cyberattacks is rising and will only continue to surge over the coming years. Moreover, the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the escalating cases of cyberattacks across different sectors, given that many small to medium to large scale businesses have adopted digital platforms.

According to a 2021 report rolled out by McAfee Enterprise and FireEye, since the COVID-19 outbreak, nearly 81% of the surveyed organisations experienced increased cyber threats, with about 79% of firms witnessing downtime due to incidents during peak season. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022’ released data that the pandemic led to a record number of cybercrimes with ransomware attacks elevating to 151% in 2021. It was claimed that the cost of each cyber breach was about USD 3.6 million to an affected company.

As per Global Market Insights Inc., the overall cyber security market size is projected to be worth USD 400 billion by the end of 2027, driven by organisations looking to mitigate the consistent surge in threats.

How were different sectors responding to growing cyberattacks during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sectors like healthcare, government, banking, and IT are now seeking new-age technologies linked with cybersecurity that ensure secure and proper business operations. Discussed below is a brief outlook on how different sectors have been answering to the infamous cyber threats during the coronavirus pandemic:

1. Healthcare sector- 69% rise in ransomware attack volumes in 2021 to prompt the deployment of cybersecurity policies and initiatives in the healthcare space. Cyber-attacks across various healthcare organisations worldwide continue to increase at an unprecedented pace. The numbers had nearly doubled during the coronavirus period.

‘As per a report by Sophos, more than 1 in 3 healthcare organisations, globally, reported being affected by ransomware in 2020.’ Since healthcare organisations include various types of specialised hospital information systems like e-prescribing, EHR systems, clinical decision support systems, and patient data, it becomes critically important for these institutions to deploy new-age cybersecurity technologies and solutions.

Why is cybersecurity important in healthcare?
Cybersecurity in the healthcare sector is required to protect valuable insights, patients’ personal information, and other crucial healthcare data. On these grounds, different governments and companies are now implementing key solutions in the healthcare space to ensure effective security in medical facilities.

As an example, lawmakers in the United States in 2022 proposed a new bill that intends to improve the cybersecurity of the country’s healthcare and public health sphere. The bill was brought to action at the time when the nation was receiving an increased risk of cyber threats stemming from Russia.

According to Global Market Insights Inc., the healthcare cybersecurity market valuation is projected to surge beyond $35.3 billion by 2027.

2. Education sector- Rising ‘e-virus’ cases in the e-learning space demand the rollout of cyber security training programmes.
Since 2020, the education sector has been one of the highly vulnerable verticals across the world when it comes to the growing cases of cyber threats. This can be credited to the shift from on-premises education to cloud or online education, or e-learning.

‘A recent report by Check Point Software Technologies marks that the education and research verticals were the top targets for cyber attackers in 2021. They accounted for an average of 1,605 attacks per organisation every week, depicting a 75% rise in cyber threats from 2020.’

Why is the education sector attracting cyber racketeers?
One of the prime reasons why the education organisations are enticing for the attackers is the tremendous amount of personal student data they get hold of, to apply for open bank and credit card accounts, loans, or government benefits.

It led to the rise in demand for cybersecurity programmes and cybersecurity training sessions in educational institutions that train the students and faculties on combating the chances of cyber-attacks in the future. For instance, in 2021, Whatcom Community College announced designating the new NSF Advanced Technological Education National Cybersecurity Center to offer cybersecurity training and education to faculty.

Developing nations are also becoming promising targets for cyber attackers. It would be imperative to state that the Indian education sector has witnessed overwhelming incidences of cyber-attacks in 2021. Attesting the aforesaid, the country observed about 5,196 attacks per week on average in July 2021. These statistics not only open new opportunities for cybersecurity market leaders in the country but also across the Asia Pacific continent, including Australia.

Analysing the future of cybersecurity in the education & healthcare sectors
With cyber-crimes registering nearly 600% hike since the COVID-19 pandemic, the push for cyber security is real. Education and healthcare sectors have become two of the most exposed industries to cybercrimes during the pandemic, opening new future prospects for solution providers.

However, it would be pivotal to understand how geared these sectors are to combat the occurrences of malware and ransomware attacks over the coming years. For the education sector, analysts opine that the institutions should potentially incorporate a robust cybersecurity culture and hone the practice of implementing Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO) technologies.

Meanwhile, the idea of integrating AI into hospitals is gaining momentum and experts believe that the technology could limit the number of errors at the facilities and assist earlier detection of cyber threats. With that being said, advancements in technologies, as well as proper awareness regarding the varied threat types and solutions, could help key sectors fight the surge in cybercrime rates worldwide.

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