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You may have heard of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against healthcare organizations, but do you truly understand the risks?

Keeping your medical facility’s digital systems online is essential for day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, cybercriminals may attempt to steal pertinent data or lock you out of critical networks. Protecting your practice from DDoS healthcare attacks can be challenging without the right information, whether you are a front-desk employee or a high-level administrator.

You may wonder, “What is DDoS, and how can I safeguard my patients’ medical records from cyber threats?” 

At ChartRequest, we make the record retrieval process simple with encrypted, HIPAA-compliant software. Continue reading to learn more about DDoS cyber attacks and how to defend your practice from these avoidable disasters.

Understanding DDoS Attacks: The Basics

DDoS is short for distributed denial-of-service — a malicious tactic cybercriminals use to overwhelm and disrupt networks with flooded internet traffic. Unlike simple phishing attacks, DDoS hacks are highly complex, pitting several computer systems in a network against each other to force server crashes or open security gaps.

Some attacks even leverage networked resources such as IoT devices. Hackers ultimately use this type of attack to render targeted servers or networks incapacitated, blocking authorized users from operation-essential programs.

DDoS healthcare attacks are particularly damaging, given the industry’s reliance on digital systems. A significant hack could delay release of information (ROI) requests, result in HIPAA violations, and disrupt customer management software. In recent years, escalating DDoS attacks have highlighted the importance of investing in thorough cybersecurity and hack prevention training. 

Learning how to identify and prevent DDoS attacks can help your organization:

  • Improve your confidence and workflow as an operations specialist thanks to DDoS cyber awareness
  • Decrease the likelihood of your practice experiencing a HIPPA violation with risk-reduction policies
  • Improve monitoring to discourage hackers from attempting subsequent attacks
  • Update and flexible cybersecurity policies to improve patient confidence 
  • Shield networks to minimize economic losses and mitigate losses associated with cybercriminal demands

Types of DDoS Attacks

Cybercriminals can deploy a diverse range of DDoS attacks that vary depending on their targets. Understanding the different types of attacks will help you customize your facility’s security plan without worry. Let’s start by exploring three of the most common DDoS tactics used against both small and large healthcare institutions:

Volumetric DDoS Attacks in Healthcare

Volumetric attacks are the most common and easily deployable DDoS tactics. These attacks saturate the bandwidth of a targeted network with vast amounts of fraudulent data, overloading the system and making most legitimate requests challenging to process. According to Cloudflare data, severe volumetric hacks — attacks above 100 Gbps — increased by 6% across various industries in 2023.

Cybercriminals also often utilize this method to distract IT personnel from additional attacks on the system. 

Suppose a hacker gang finds a security gap after an employee unknowingly downloads malware onto their work computer. Hackers may fire off a two- or three-hour DDoS attack before launching the primary data breach. This method pulls resources away from security-response teams and makes it difficult to regain control over the network.

Preventing a volumetric attack can be challenging but not impossible. You can narrow the surface area of your network and prevent unnecessary attacks by establishing firewalls or Access Control Lists to deny specific inbound internet traffic. This security measure reduces the likelihood of your network becoming swamped by unauthorized code.

Protocol Attacks

Using a firewall will not necessarily prevent all forms of DDoS healthcare attacks. In fact, some hackers may be able to exploit weaknesses in your firewall software or other internet communication protocols to gain access to your network. Cybersecurity experts call this tactic a protocol attack. 

Measuring the success of a protocol attack is different from other types of DDoS assaults that rely on disruption size. Instead, protocol attacks are sometimes harder to detect, deployed frequently, and persist for longer periods.

Most network operators use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) code for seamless network routing. BGP allows users to declare the configuration of their address space to other networks, initiating the route. However, a bad actor could congest the network by sending illegitimate BGP updates that appear authentic.

Does all of this seem confusing? Cybercriminals hope it does, so you keep your guard down. Unfortunately for them, you can prevent stealthy protocol attacks in a few ways.

Real-time packet analysis makes it easy to filter through requests and separate legitimate traffic from fraudulent traffic. Additionally, setting a rate limit on your network establishes a predetermined number of requests your server will accept over time. This method eliminates the possibility of sustained protocol attacks.

Application Layer Attacks

Application layer attacks target web servers or other critical applications in a network, like BGP. This type of DDoS is more complicated than the above alternatives because it generally relies on multi-vector attacks. In other words, a hacker can hide their attack even if it contains some identifiable patterns that would typically set off security alarms.

Application layer attacks mimic standard server requests, making them a significant threat to unsupported networks. Hackers often combine these tactics with other types of attacks that require different mitigation strategies to prevent them.

Protecting your practice against DDoS healthcare attacks like this requires a combined defense strategy. Using secure SaaS programs — like those offered by ChartRequest — to limit access to medical records can prevent intrusions and overloaded servers. You can also install bot-protection software to quickly identify suspicious activity and track threats. 

How Cybercriminals Implement DDoS Attacks

Cybercriminals often deploy DDoS attacks in a highly calculated manner. Understanding their methods is an excellent way to stay one step ahead. Here are a few of the ways they might deliver the attack on unsuspecting healthcare institutions:

Botnets

Botnets are networks of private or hijacked computers compromised by malware and controlled by a central entity called a “bot-herder.” Cybercriminals can direct botnets to flood a system with non-stop traffic, causing shutdowns or slow connections. Operating a botnet is highly illegal but difficult to track. 

These DDoS methods can cause detrimental harm to your practice and may subject you to financial liabilities down the line. 

For example, suppose a hacker accesses your record-retrieval system and uses stolen personal information to infiltrate additional networks. Your company may suffer from irreversible reputational damage when HIPAA requires you to disclose that your facility’s network was the source of the hack.

IP Spoofing

IP spoofing is another method employed by hackers to execute DDoS healthcare attacks. It involves disguising the IP address of the attacker’s machine with the legitimate IP address of other devices. This approach helps cybercriminals fool the system into thinking that the attack comes from multiple points, making it more challenging to spot and mitigate. 

Moreover, successful IP spoofing might encourage employees to let their guard down for additional attacks. 

For instance, a malicious party could establish IP packets with fake source addresses to disguise themselves as a trusted host. They can then exploit this method to gain access to a network and launch a DDoS attack.

Understanding these tactics can empower your healthcare organization to devise more robust and nuanced defensive strategies for modern and increasingly sophisticated IP spoofing scams.

DNS Amplification

Domain Name System (DNS) amplification significantly enhances the severity of some DDoS attacks. In an amplification attack, a hacker exploits vulnerabilities in network protocols to exponentially increase the volume of traffic directed at their target. 

Suppose a hacker sends a small request to a network protocol while spoofing the return IP address. The protocol then sends a larger response to the targeted IP, amplifying the traffic. In this case, the hacker can significantly increase the scale of the attack, leading to time-consuming service disruptions.

It’s important to prevent or quarantine DDoS attacks before hackers can amplify them. Successfully amplified hacks can spiral out of control, resulting in system-wide shutdowns.

Why Do Hackers Deploy DDoS Attacks on the Healthcare Industry?

So, why are DDoS healthcare attacks so prevalent? Motivations for attack vary from person to person and group to group. Still, causing mass confusion and disruption is the ultimate goal for most cybercriminals delivering these hacks.

Let’s cover a few reasons why a hacker may want to target your organization with DDoS:

Hacktivism and Disruption

Lone-wolf hackers may target a healthcare organization if they do not agree with the company’s core values, financial donations, or community involvement. Authorities often refer to cybercriminals that attack organizations for socio-political reasons as “hacktivists.”

Hacktivists may crash or hold a network hostage to make a statement or force the organization into negotiations. These cybercriminals may also collaborate online to create the most devastating and effective attack.

Cyber Warfare

Agents of foreign governments may utilize DDoS attacks as part of a larger cyber warfare strategy.

In 2022, hackers with ties to the Russian government — known as Killnet — launched a massive DDoS campaign against businesses in the United States and allied NATO countries. Experts speculate that these attacks were designed to destabilize the private sector and turn attention away from the invasion of Ukraine.

However, most healthcare organizations launched modern counter-security measures to resolve these attacks before they caused irreparable damage. Killnet succeeded in stealing personal data from hundreds of businesses across the country, but its capabilities began to wane as of late 2023.

Covering Data Breaches

A hacker may deploy a DDoS healthcare attack as a desperate attempt to cover up an exposed data breach. Overloading the system may hinder IT support’s response, giving cybercriminals time to destroy evidence and evade justice. DDoS attacks could also:

  • Redirect an attack somewhere else in the network
  • Confuse security personnel into making the wrong response decisions
  • Scramble data and code
  • Frame other computers or devices in the network

Industry Sabotage

In rare circumstances, bad actors from other organizations could attempt to disrupt their competitors with DDoS attacks. These methods are extremely risky and illegal and could destroy a company’s public image if discovered. 

Few healthcare institutions should worry about internal industry sabotage. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider every potential suspect when under attack.

Tips To Prevent DDoS Attacks in Healthcare Settings

In an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, your healthcare organization must take decisive, proactive steps to guard against DDoS attacks. These measures should be integral to your HIPAA-compliant digital strategy. Here are a few tips you can use to improve your defenses:

1. Stay Vigilant 

Network monitoring and threat detection tools can help you identify unusual traffic patterns or sudden spikes in network usage — often indicative of an ongoing DDoS attack. 

Similarly, investing in redundant network resources can ensure that backup systems are available in case of an attack. Regular system maintenance and updates can also prevent attackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.

2. Adapt To Confront Evolving Threats

A well-planned and regularly updated incident response strategy is one of the most effective defenses against modern DDoS attacks. A good response plan should involve a multilayered approach, with preventive measures, detection mechanisms, and emergency response strategies. 

It should also include regular training sessions for your team so they know what to do in case of an attack. The faster you and your coworkers can identify threats, the easier you can isolate them.

3. Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

Third-party DDoS protection services and ROI software can provide around-the-clock security for sensitive medical documents. For example, ChartRequest’s full-service record retrieval platform provides an encrypted SOC 2, HITRUST, and ISO 27001-certified workflow for maximum privacy.

Storing protected health information in these locations prevents significant losses in the event of a DDoS healthcare attack. This method lets you focus on other daily responsibilities, freeing up time and energy.

ChartRequest Is the #1 Provider of Simple and Secure ROI Software

ChartRequest offers a robust ROI product solution designed with security and confidentiality in mind. We built our platform to easily deter all cyberattacks — including DDoS — to safeguard critical healthcare data from potential breaches.

In the face of increasing cybersecurity threats, having a secure ROI software like ours is not just an investment, but also a necessity. Our five-star company excels in providing the tools needed to manage and transfer your digital records confidently. By integrating our solution into your daily operations, you’re not merely outsourcing record retrieval but fortifying your medical practice against devastating losses.

Don’t let DDoS healthcare attacks set your organization back. Schedule a comprehensive tech demo to explore all of your options.

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