Hospitals at Risk: Cyber Hacking a Growing Concern in Germany

The German cyber security chief fears hospitals are the next big target for cybercrime.

Hospitals at Risk: Cyber Hacking a Growing Concern in Germany

Hackers and ransomware attacks aren’t just American problems. European countries, and particularly their healthcare facilities, have also been the victims of cybercrime. Now German officials are sounding the alarm.

A series of cyber attacks at German health clinics over the past five years, as well as two recent high-profile attacks this month on the Irish health service and a U.S. fuel pipeline has raised serious concerns in Germany over security breaches in the future.

Of particular risk are hospitals, says president of Germany’s cyber defense body BSI Arne Schoenbohm in a May 22 news report by Reuters.  He told Zeit Online newspaper that he saw “a greater danger at hospitals.”

The effects of a breach can be crippling to a health care system, as demonstrated during a ransomware attack at Ireland’s health services. The event, which was reported by Reuters on May 14, was initiated by a cybercrime game and investigators described as “very sophisticated” and “the most significant cybercrime attempt against the state.” All IT systems were shut down temporarily as a result, crippling diagnostic services, disrupting COVID-19 testing and forcing hospitals to cancel appointments.

The breaches can be fatal. Last September, a woman in Germany died because the Duesseldorf University Hospital that suffered a ransomware attack couldn’t accept her as an emergency patient, so she was sent to another facility 20 miles away.

Another example of the significant impact of a cyber attack was the shut-down of the 5,500-mile U.S. Colonial Pipeline, preventing millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to travel to the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico.

German hospitals aren’t immune to the risk, and the frequency could increase due to hackers streamlining their operations during a time when many people were working from home due to COVID-19.

“Many companies had to enable home offices within a short time,” said Schoenbohm. As a result, many of their IT systems were more vulnerable to an attack.

The solution is the implementation of tighter cyber security measures and protocols, and closing any gaps that may exist as quickly as possible. By being proactive in their tactics, hospitals and other businesses can thwart attacks, protecting critical financial and personal data, as well as the well-being of patients.

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