Health sector will continue to face cyber threats in 2021 amid service digitalization

January 5, 2021 - 8:32 PM
Photo provided by Kaspersky

Cyber threats to the healthcare field will remain a worldwide trend in 2021, a cybersecurity firm said.

Experts from cybersecurity firm Kaspersky projected that the trend in attacks on medical equipment, particularly in Southeast Asian countries where digital transformation have just started, will push through in 2021.

“In 2020, interest in medical research surged among cybercriminals specializing in targeted attacks, spurred by the development of the much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine and its potential significance for the global community,” the firm said.

Kaspersky said that this year, there might be more attack attempts due to the new regulatory restrictions, new treatments and an increase in the number of potential victims continue to attract attention.

Its report cited an incident in Indonesia where a government database with personal data of 230,000 COVD-19 test takers were breached in May last year.

Months later, in September, a hospital in Thailand confirmed that four years’ worth of patient records were also affected by an attack.

The cybersecurity noted that these showed how cyber criminals “capitalized” the public’s fear of the deadly virus which causes COVID-19.

“2020 however has seen an unparalleled adoption of technology, and an increase in attack surface that is ripe for potentially more successful breaches. Those who have been quick to come on board this transformation must also be just as vigilant to protect themselves,” Muhammad Umair, Security Researcher for Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) Asia Pacific at Kaspersky said.

“As always, social engineering remains to be one of the most effective attack vectors and just as much as technology, a strong focus on education and awareness is needed more than ever,” he added.

Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky, said that companies need to start to adapt and create a security strategy.

“We do not see anything changing so soon. People in our region will remain social and will always look for ways to be productive using technology,” Tiong said.

“In the business world, we see that remote work will be practiced in most sectors even after the pandemic subsides. Now is the time to reflect on the lessons of 2020 and we recommend companies start creating a security strategy if there’s none, or revising the existing one to effectively adapt to the changing environment and protect the workforce,” he added.

Other predictions

Here are other key areas to watch out for in 2021, according to Kaspersky:

  1. Digitalization – Schools and small-to-medium businesses have switched to digital platforms in 2020 and are expected to remain there in 2021.
  2. Elections – Some countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam will be conducting their general elections this year while the Philippines is set to hold national elections in 2022. Such events are ripe for potential disinformation campaigns.
  3. 5G Rollout – Telecom operators in SEA region have also started ramping up to provide 5G networks to their clients and help support solutions such as telemedicine.
  4. Ransomware – Ransomware threats have become more “sophisticated, dangerous, and targeted.”
  5. Cloud Security – The convenience and scalability of clouds in business models made it more popular. However, it also opens up a new attack surfaces as more businesses adopt this technology.
  6. Industrial Control Systems – The Philippines has adopted a strategy through a partnership with the private sector for a more effective cyber defense.