Every innovation comes with its own merits and demerits. And the same can be held true for AI. While it promises immense benefits for businesses, it also presents significant risks related to cybersecurity. In the 4th edition of Voice of SecOps report 2023, researchers found 46% of people feel that generative AI will make organizations more vulnerable to attacks. Backing this claim, is the fact that security operations professionals have reported an increase in cyber attacks over the past year, and 85% of them believe that these attacks were powered by generative AI. 

The threat landscape has been evolving rapidly and AI Technology has been repurposed into tools like WormGPT to launch phishing and business email compromise attacks. As more and more cybercriminals harness these tools, it’s becoming clear that the only way to fight AI is through stringent protocols for cybersecurity in healthcare and the SMB landscape. 

The struggle to maintain a robust security posture in the face of advanced threats is even aggravated by the need to tackle long-standing issues including ransomware and managing alert fatigue caused by an avalanche of false positives. And in these tough times, we need cybersecurity tools that are not just focused on remediation but prevention.

The Growing Threat Landscape

  • 2023 witnessed a 27% increase in cyberattacks compared to the previous year, according to a report by Check Point Research [Source: Check Point Research 2023 Global Threat Index].
  • Healthcare institutions were the most targeted sector in 2023, experiencing a 79% increase in attacks [Source: Check Point Research 2023 Global Threat Index].
  • Ransomware attacks, which involve encrypting data and demanding a ransom for its return, have become increasingly prevalent. In 2023, the average ransom payment surged to $2.6 million [Source: Coveware Ransomware Stats 2023].

AI in the Hands of Cybercriminals

  • Researchers at Volexity identified active exploitation of two zero-day vulnerabilities (CVE-2023-46805 and CVE-2024-21887) in Ivanti Connect Secure & Ivanti Policy Secure gateways. These vulnerabilities that allow remote authentication bypass and code execution, have been used since at least December by a threat group UTA0178 that’s believed to be associated with China. Despite patches made available on the 8th and 14th of February, security experts cautioned they didn’t fully mitigate ongoing compromises initiated by the attackers.
  • Microsoft’s January 2024 Patch Tuesday included fixes for 49 vulnerabilities, out of which two (CVE-2024-20674 and CVE-2024-20700) are rated critical and high in severity. The patch release included additional four high severity Google Chrome vulnerabilities that could allow remote attackers to potentially exploit heap corruption via a crafted HTML page.
  • SAP shared ten new security alerts in their Security Patch Day, including four critical escalation of privileges vulnerabilities. These are SAP BTP Security Services Integration Library vulnerabilities that can allow escalation of privileges.
  • GitLab has released fixes for a critical-severity vulnerability (CVE-2023-7028) in several versions of its GitLab Community Edition (CE) and Enterprise Edition (EE). If successfully exploited, the flaw could allow attackers to take control of accounts without user interaction.

The Unique Challenges for Small Businesses

While larger organizations often have dedicated security teams and significant budgets for cybersecurity, small businesses like healthcare and dental practices face distinct challenges in protecting themselves from cyberattacks. These challenges can make them more vulnerable and attractive targets for malicious actors. Let’s delve deeper into the specific problems small businesses encounter:

Limited IT staff and budget

Small businesses operate with tighter budgets, making it difficult to invest in top-tier cybersecurity solutions or hire dedicated IT security professionals. Often, they rely on staff with limited cybersecurity knowledge to handle IT responsibilities alongside their regular duties. This lack of expertise makes it harder to identify and address vulnerabilities effectively.

Legacy systems

Many small practices still utilize older, less secure computer systems and software. These legacy systems may lack critical security patches and upgrades, making them more susceptible to known vulnerabilities. At the same time, integrating newer, more secure solutions with existing legacy systems for cybersecurity in healthcare and SMBs can be complex and expensive, which further exacerbates the challenges.

Handling sensitive data

Healthcare and Dental practices hold highly sensitive patient data, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and medical records. This data can be incredibly valuable to cybercriminals for various malicious purposes, such as identity theft, medical fraud, and selling information on the dark web. 

These practices are also subject to strict regulations regarding data privacy and security, such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). A data breach can result in hefty fines, legal repercussions, and reputational damage, even if unintentional.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

While the ever-evolving threat landscape, particularly with the rise of AI-powered attacks, might seem daunting, proactive measures can significantly enhance your business’s security posture. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the steps and cybersecurity strategies you can follow to stay ahead of the curve:

Implement a layered security approach

Implement a combination of security tools and techniques to create an extensive defense system for cybersecurity in healthcare and SMB domain. This might include Firewalls, Antivirus and Anti-malware Software, Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS), and Data Encryption.

While the specific software you choose will depend on your needs and budget, some widely recognized and reliable options include Avast, Norton, McAfee, and Windows Defender, all offering varying degrees of protection against cyber threats. Remember, regularly updating them is crucial to ensure they have the latest defenses against evolving threats.

Educate employees

Train your employees on cybersecurity best practices regularly. This can significantly improve the overall security posture of your business.

It is important to focus on key areas and equip them with the knowledge to recognize and avoid phishing attempts. Phishing emails often try to trick recipients into revealing personal information or clicking malicious links. Training can help employees identify the red flags and avoid falling victim.

Secondly, educate them on how to create and manage strong passwords. Using complex passwords and changing them regularly is essential to prevent unauthorized access. Finally, also ask them to report any suspicious activity. These can be unusual emails, abrupt system behavior, or unauthorized access attempts, etc.

Regularly update software and firmware

This helps to patch vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit. Regularly updating your operating systems, applications, and firmware is crucial to patch these vulnerabilities and minimize the attack surface for malicious actors.

Develop a comprehensive incident response plan

Develop a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps you will take in the event of a cyberattack. Having a plan in place can minimize damage and expedite recovery.

This plan should include:

  • Identification: Identifying the attack and its scope.
  • Containment: Taking steps to stop the attack from spreading further.
  • Eradication: Removing the attacker’s presence from your systems.
  • Recovery: Restoring your systems and data to a functional state.
  • Reporting and learning: Reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities and learning from the experience to improve your security posture.

Consider utilizing AI-powered security solutions

While AI can be used by attackers, it can also be a powerful tool for defense. Consider exploring AI-powered cybersecurity in healthcare that can analyze vast amounts of data to identify suspicious behavior and potential threats. These solutions should be able to automate repetitive tasks like threat detection and response, freeing up your IT team to focus on more complex issues.

Wrapping Up

The use of AI in cyberattacks is a growing concern, but it doesn’t have to be a reason for despair. By understanding the threat and taking proactive measures, healthcare and dental practices can better protect themselves and their patients from the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Remember, vigilance and preparation are key to staying ahead of the curve.

As a cybersecurity solutions provider in Idaho and Pocatello, MOATiT understands the unique challenges faced by healthcare and dental practices in the region. We offer comprehensive data security services that can help your practice mitigate the risk of cyberattacks and protect your valuable data. 

Contact MOATiT today to learn more about how we can help you stay secure in the digital age.

About the Author:

Ali Khan is a seasoned HIPAA compliance expert and cybersecurity specialist with over fifteen years of experience in risk management. Holding certifications in HIPAA Professional, Security Compliance, and Privacy and Security, he creates secure healthcare IT infrastructures and cloud-based solutions. With a background in robotics and electrical engineering, Ali’s passion for healthcare innovation is driven by personal and family connections, inspiring his vision for secure, and efficient healthcare delivery.