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Cyber Attack On Hospitals: The Biggest Impact Is Yet To Come?

The hospitals are moving towards digitisation of patient data but the recent global cyber-attack has exposed a potential crisis situation and now, most of the hospitals are equipping their network with stronger features to prevent hacking. But according to the experts, the biggest impact is yet to come in many countries as as countless cancelled procedures are having to be rescheduled at hospitals, which are already running close to capacity.

Doctors blocked from patient files
The Friday attack has shown that hackers can introduce malware and disrupt health services at a massive scale. In Britain, patients who had operations cancelled during the NHS cyber- attack may have to wait up to six weeks until they finally see a doctor. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has though claimed the 'vast majority of patients will have noticed no difference' following the attack, which crippled dozens of health trusts but the situation is grim. In many hospitals doctors were blocked from patient files and emergency rooms were forced to divert patients.

Hospitals equipping their network with stronger features
In India the attack has less impact on the health system but there were a few instances of cyber-attack on hospitals. Now hospitals are not taking any chances and getting equipped their network with stronger features. Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Medical Officer, Dr Anand Bansal, said they spend Rs 25-30 lakh on cyber security. "We have set up a separate department for cyber security. We are also investing on educating our staff to remain safe from any cyber frauds in this era of digitisation." Medical superintendent of PSRI Hospital, Dr (Col) R K Sharma, said they are upgrading their hospital information system.

Doctors laptops and tablets are given limited access to the hospital network
Niranjan Kumar, chief information officer, Sir Ganga Ram hospital while giving enhanced security details said "These days, most of the patient data is maintained digitally for quick access. But there is high possibility of this data being accessed by hackers. To prevent this, we have a team of cyber security experts. Also, laptops and tablets used by doctors are given limited access to the hospital network to prevent the risk of virus transfer or any malware." The national informatics centre (NIC), which is the government's web services organisation, has been entrusted with the task of ensuring cybersecurity. Dr Deepak Agrawal, IT division head, AIIMS, said, "It is a very important aspect in today's world since we are trying to integrate control of key equipment."

What security experts say
Cyber security experts have advised that hospitals should not use vendor-supplied default passwords and other security parameters for medical devices. "Websites, applications, databases, data centres and servers, networks, desktops and other endpoints need to be monitored, assessed and defended periodically," said Nitin Bhatnagar, an information security specialist.