Biggest Healthcare Breach of the Year:
Lesson for All

The Biggest Healthcare Breach of 2022 Shows that Cybersecurity in Healthcare Matters

In what cybersecurity experts are describing as the largest healthcare data breach of 2022 so far, the Shields Health Care Group’s recent attack incident reported that patient data of more than 2 million patients was compromised.

Shields Health Care Group reported a breach that exposed Protected Health Information (PHI) of approximately two million patients from nearly 60 healthcare providers. Shields Health provides PET/CT, MRI, and other outpatient surgical services for various healthcare providers.

The breach tally (2 million) makes it the largest and nastiest health care data breach of the year so far. The Massachusetts-based healthcare company, a leading provider of MRIs and related medical imaging services to various sports team including the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, and the New England Patriots reported the incident involving one of their network sever to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Shields initiated necessary corrective measures and cyber forensics to contain the incident soon after discovering the suspicious activity. An investigation was launched with the help of third-party forensic experts.

The investigation found that attackers had gained unauthorized access to Shields’ systems for three weeks, allowing them to access and exploit data containing the following information of more than 2 million patients:

  • Social Security number

  • Name and contact details

  • Addresses

  • Date of birth

  • Patient ID

  • Diagnosis information

  • Billing information

  • Medical records

  • Insurance information

  • Other treatment or medical information

Shields took steps to secure its systems including reinstating certain systems followed by launching a thorough investigation to ascertain the nature and scope of the attack. This data is extremely sensitive and can be used for phishing, scamming, social engineering and even extortion.

The company has notified federal law enforcement and the relevant state regulators. Shields rolled out an official advisory/notice stating, “Once we complete the thorough review of the affected data, we will notify the affected individuals/entities to help them take further measures to protect their data.”

The advisory includes a list of all the affected medical centers and providers. If you believe your data was compromised, it is advisable to monitor your accounts and keep an eye out for any phishing attempt or better consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your file, the advisory reads.

Lesson for all

A recent Wall Street Journal report found some chilling details of the aftereffects and cost that these attacks unleash on healthcare providers around the world. Many times, healthcare organizations had to resort to paper documentation and turn away patients until they fully restore and/or rebuild the infected systems. In extreme cases, organizations may simply shut for good.

In another study conducted by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, healthcare industry was found to be the most affected of all enduring from some of the most brutal and expensive breaches in recent times irrespective of the size of the provider.

IBM, Ponemon, RSM US LLP
                                Source: IBM, Ponemon, RSM US LLP


Healthcare organizations need help with cybersecurity – and it’s time they start asking for it

Its time hospitals and healthcare organizations see cybersecurity as a top-priority and employ the right set of security skills and resources to keep attackers and hackers at bay. Cyber criminals use coming-of-age attack tactics and vulnerabilities to gain access to critical networks, systems and sensitive patient data/records. All it takes is a loosely secured access or vulnerable point for the attacker to sneak in.

Unfortunately, most healthcare companies devalue the importance of security risk assessment. Further, the task is often handed over to the person responsible for IT. It is advisable to have an external security professional when it comes to performing security assessments. A “second set of eyes” will closely identify blind spots that are often snubbed by the hospital’s IT crew.

Vulnerability points hackers target in hospitals cyber attacks
                                Source: IBM, Ponemon, RSM US LLP


1. Unpatched systems

Unpatched systems continue to be the most common entry or access points leaving healthcare organizations vulnerable to breaches and attacks.

2. Unprotected email and websites

Phishing is the topmost cause of most Ransomware attacks. You need a combination of advanced email security technology coupled with user awareness to prevent this type of cyber menace.

3. Insider threats and unprotected mobile devices

Did you know? Most healthcare employees are given mobile access to sensitive data or files on the first day of work. Insider threat detection is the need of the hour.

4. Connected IoT based medical devices

Most connected medical devices lack robust endpoint security features. For instance, badge readers and cameras too are at risk. Without strong endpoint protection, these and many other connected devices can be hacked endangering patient data and lives.

5. Lack of firewall and strong network protection

Attackers can shut down an organization’s entire network if it lacks powerful network and firewall protection. Further, lack of a proactive security approach invites compliant (HIPPA) related threats.

6. Using end-of-life or outdated OS/devices

Using outdated systems, OS or devices puts a healthcare organization at a greater risk for exploitation and breach by hackers leading to costly data loss and recovery.

7. Stolen or lost devices

Stolen or lost devices too pose a great deal of threats to healthcare companies. Once in wrong hands, the attacker can easily access critical systems and networks using stored or old login data.

8. Unrestricted access to critical health systems

Lack of powerful identity and access management policies and system can make connected devices and systems easy targets for unauthorized users and threat actors.

9. Unsecured partner network

Healthcare companies work with multiple partners and/or vendors including insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc. Often, they neglect the importance of assessing the partner network for any underlying risks and security vulnerabilities.

10. Lack of a backup and disaster recovery plan

The quickest and most efficient way to recover from a breach or attack is to rebuild/reinstate all the infected systems and networks. Backup and disaster recovery plan can help.

Read also: The Ultimate Cybersecurity Checklist for Healthcare Organizations – A Futurism Advisory


Attackers are well aware that most healthcare facilities and organizations run on obsolete technology and lack the necessary security skills/resources and tools to prevent these breaches and attacks.

Getting help from a trusted managed security service provider is a great step in countering these attacks. Futurism can help healthcare providers strengthen their security posture by providing them with the most apt layers of resources and protection across the entire threat landscape. Futurism Managed Security Acceleration Services Suite for healthcare providers is designed to help healthcare companies and providers leverage the power of industry-leading security tech (IBM Threat Intelligence) using a Zero Trust Security Framework to offer protection against coming-of-age and novel cyber threats.

Disclaimer: All the information, views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and their respective web sources and in no way reflect the views, principles, or objectives of Futurism Technologies.

About Futurism Technologies

Futurism Technologies is a trusted Digital Transformation (DX) advisor and consulting partner helping businesses around the world to unlock the true value of digital for the last two decades. One of the fastest-growing global digital transformation companies with offices across continents including North America, Europe, the Gulf, Asia, and Australia, Futurism delivers 360-degree Digital Transformation solutions to enterprises of all sizes and verticals. We have been helping enterprises leverage advanced technologies with our tested DX solutions. Futurism takes great pride in helping businesses realize the true potential of digital by helping them leverage the most from coming-of-age technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), 5G, IoT, Data Science/Big Data, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Mobility, Product Engineering, Cloud, and more.

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