Strategic Approaches for Safeguarding Sensitive Patient Information in the Age of Cyber Vulnerabilities

The healthcare industry has become a prime target for cyberattacks, with recent breaches highlighting the vulnerabilities and potential consequences. Have you ever considered the implications of a cyberattack on your organization? Do you feel prepared to handle the breach of sensitive patient data, the financial repercussions and the potential loss of trust from your clients and partners? These questions are not just hypothetical scenarios; they are honest and pressing concerns in today’s digital age, especially with recent alarming incidents in the healthcare sector.

Henry Schein Data Breach: A Case Study in the Severity of Cyberattacks

Henry Schein, a major medical device manufacturer and distributor, fell victim to a cyberattack by the ransomware gang BlackCat/ALPHV. The attackers claimed to have encrypted the company’s systems and stolen 35 terabytes of sensitive data, allegedly causing $150 million in losses​​.

Customers and suppliers were warned of the potential exposure of sensitive information, including bank account and credit card numbers, a situation that demanded immediate and comprehensive response measures​​.

The breach had far-reaching consequences for Henry Schein. Not only did the company have to work diligently to create a clean network and restore business-critical systems, but its financial forecasts also took a hit. The company expected a 1% to 3% drop in full-year sales compared to the previously forecasted increase and had to adjust its earnings per share guidance due to the cybersecurity incident​​.

The ScreenConnect Incident: Exploiting Remote Access Tools

Another significant breach involved the abuse of ScreenConnect, a remote access tool, to target healthcare organizations. Hackers leveraged local ScreenConnect instances that Transaction Data Systems (TDS) used, affecting multiple healthcare entities. The tactics included downloading payloads and installing remote access tools like AnyDesk for persistent access​​​​​​​​.

The intrusions, observed between Oct. 28 – Nov. 8, 2023, showcased sophisticated methods. The attackers utilized an unmanaged, outdated ScreenConnect instance to gain access, highlighting the importance of maintaining updated systems and adhering to best practices in cybersecurity​​.

Why the Healthcare Industry is a Prime Target for Cyberattacks

  • Valuable Data: Healthcare organizations possess a treasure trove of sensitive data, including patient records, medical histories and insurance details. This information is highly lucrative for cybercriminals who engage in identity theft, financial fraud or selling data on the dark web.
  • Inadequate Cybersecurity Measures: Often, healthcare facilities may lack robust cybersecurity defenses due to limited budgets, outdated technology or insufficient cybersecurity expertise. This makes them more susceptible to cyberattacks.
  • Critical Infrastructure: Healthcare systems are integral to patient care and record management. Disruptions of these systems can have dire consequences for patient safety, making them attractive targets for attackers seeking financial gain or chaos.
  • Legacy Systems: Many healthcare organizations rely on older systems and equipment that don’t receive regular updates, leaving them vulnerable to attacks exploiting outdated security flaws.
  • Human Factor: The healthcare sector is not immune to human errors. Phishing attacks, for example, can trick staff into divulging sensitive information or downloading malicious software.
  • Monetary Motivation: The potential for significant financial gains from ransomware attacks or selling stolen data makes healthcare an appealing target for cybercriminals.

Strategies to Combat Cybersecurity Threats in Healthcare

  • Implement Robust Cybersecurity Policies: Develop comprehensive policies covering access controls and data protection. Regularly update and review these policies to keep pace with evolving cyber threats.
  • Employee Training & Awareness: Provide ongoing cybersecurity training to all staff. Educate them about threats like phishing and instill best practices for digital security. Emphasize the importance of safeguarding sensitive information and reporting suspicious activities.
  • Regular Security Audits & Assessments: Conduct thorough audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and address network and system weaknesses. Stay informed about new threats and continuously update security protocols.
  • Update & Patch Systems: Ensure all software, operating systems and medical devices are up-to-date with security patches. Regular updates are crucial for addressing known vulnerabilities.
  • Backup & Recovery: Implement regular data backups and a reliable, tested data recovery plan. This approach is critical in minimizing the impact of ransomware attacks and other data breaches.
  • Collaborate with Cybersecurity Experts: Engage with specialists in healthcare cybersecurity for the latest threat intelligence and best practices. Such collaboration provides insights into emerging risks and effective mitigation strategies.


By prioritizing cybersecurity, you can protect your business interests and the trust and well-being of your patients. Want to find out how secure your practice is? Contact an Adams Brown technology advisor to learn more about cybersecurity services.