Collaboration can beat the cyber-baddies

NZHIT CEO Scott Arrol

A global pandemic such as Covid-19 creates opportunities for cyber-baddies to take advantage of the situation by exploiting high levels of fear that can lead to irrational decisions being made.

Kiwi health organisations would benefit from a collaborative response in order to keep everyone safe.

Since the arrival of Covid-19, there has been a significant increase in cyber-attacks, such as phishing emails which try to trick people into clicking links or send malware as attachments. 

Some have even created apps which are similar to official apps or platforms, for example a replica website was made of the dashboard from John Hopkins University that shows the number of COVID cases around the world, with malware planted in it for unsuspecting visitors. 

The pandemic has created vulnerabilities and opportunities to use the internet to prey on the unsuspecting or under-prepared. There is evidence that these cyber-criminals are well organised, collaborating and sharing information.  

Zero-trust to gain trust

Not only is cybersecurity a key enabler of healthcare services, it also underpins the levels of trust that patients, clinicians, managers and the general public have when it comes to the security and privacy of data stored and used in the system. 

Almost perversely, in order for high levels of trust to exist, the principles of a zero-trust security model needs to be taken such as those adopted by Microsoft. As stated in the Microsoft blog series, the core principle of zero trust includes maintaining strict access control, strong user identity, verification, validation and privileged access. 

Building a high trust security environment also requires New Zealand’s health systems to collaborate in their response to cyber-attacks.  

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, publicly available threat feeds and advisories are registering hundreds and thousands of new Covid-19 related cyber-threats such as malware, malicious websites and phishing attacks, every day. 

Working together

Fortunately, New Zealand has many experienced and capable companies and IT experts who provide high quality security solutions. They are committed to working with healthcare providers to support their security strategies and operations.   

They are also enthusiastic about working together wherever possible.  One example is the Health Threat Intelligence Sharing Platform developed by Medical IT Advisors to help health providers share information in response to threats, already in use by NZHIT members. 

The platform manages and shares cyberthreat indicators (IPs, links, domains) related to attacks on NZ health organisations, it consumes feeds automatically and shares these with the community. Medical IT Advisors CEO, Faustin Roman says “it can be a win-win situation for everyone to be able to share cybersecurity threats”.  

He is looking for collaborators to join him in making the platform sustainable in the long term. The likes of working from home, use of remote systems, provision of telehealth services, and contact tracing apps have brought new vulnerabilities associated with a wider range of devices connected to the internet and more intensive use of websites.   

Hence, the platform seeks to fill the gap through greater levels of collaboration in order to be more organised across the health sector, to be more proactive in raising the profile of security as an investment, not a cost, and raising early warning signals when required. 

Meeting the challenge

Cyber-attacks are not a problem that will ever go away. Just as the baddies get more organised and sophisticated (i.e. with the use of artificial intelligence as an attack weapon) then also we as individuals and the health sector must increase our cybersecurity maturity in order to meet this challenge head on. 

Faustin recently spoke about this topic on the podcast channel Digital Health Insights with Scott Arrol.  Make sure to listen in as he expands on these points along with dispelling two of the more commonly held myths when it comes to the cyber-baddies. 

Scott Arrol is the CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT).



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Anna Arrol

Administration Assistant

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