Cloud medical imaging refers to the use of cloud-based storage and computing solutions to manage and access medical images and other healthcare data. While the use of the cloud can offer numerous benefits in terms of accessibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, it also raises important security concerns. The security of medical imaging data is of critical importance, as it involves the handling of sensitive patient information and images. Ensuring the security of this data is essential to protect the privacy of patients and the reputation of healthcare organizations. In this article, we will explore some of the key security considerations in cloud medical imaging, including the importance of complying with relevant laws and regulations, the use of secure data storage and transmission methods, and the role of security protocols and policies in protecting sensitive data in the cloud.
Attacks on medical imaging files
Medical imaging such as CTs, X-rays, and ultrasounds play a crucial role in diagnosing a wide range of diseases. Fast-paced improvements have been made digitally regarding sharing and transferring massive amounts of medical information & imaging. Alongside, security-related measures have been developed to protect medical imaging data & patients from malicious attacks.
When transmitting medical images, privacy & integrity are important concerns. If the image is captured and modified by an attacker to harm the physical integrity of specific targets, this could lead to a false diagnosis. Therefore, transmitting medical images securely is a challenge that has to be addressed.
Hackers are targeting medical imaging because they want access to hospital information systems & profit from the amount of data that can be collected from a single breach. This gives them the opportunity to disrupt services by blocking access to files, removing, altering, or modifying imaging data, and affecting the daily running of healthcare environments. This could put patients' lives at risk.
Past attacks on the possessors of patient data (such as clinics, hospitals, insurance companies, etc) have shown that hackers are willing to demand large sums of money in return for releasing hacked information. As it happened at MediBank in 2022, when a group of hackers claimed the cyber-attack and demanded 10 billion dollars for releasing the electronic health records. (MediBank cyber attack). Hackers can earn by selling the data on black markets, as it happened in early 2021, when a group hacked two U.S hospital chains and posted a list that contained over 100 patient details on the Dark Web (DarkWeb EHR Breach). Not just are IT systems vulnerable, but medical devices can also be hacked and used to harm patients by displaying errored & altered data.
How is cloud-computing addressing this problem?
Continuity refers to the ability of a system to work uninterrupted in case of an emergency or an unanticipated situation (cyberattacks, data breaches, power outages, etc.)
When the patient's health is at risk, the need for a healthcare system to work continuously is crucial, therefore it is necessary for all the assets that contribute to the process of treating the patient to be available & work uninterrupted.
By using a cloud-based imaging server, you can prevent ransomware attacks from disrupting your medical imaging data (altered, blocked, frozen, or deleted). The instant access to the medical imaging & data provided by cloud-based architecture can allow for work to continue uninterrupted.
Cloud-based systems are efficient in managing workflows under cyberattacks. The security measures of cloud systems that prevent data from being permanently lost or inaccessible are helping physicians to maintain the usual workflow in case of cyberattacks.
HIPAA & GDPR Compliance
HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a US law that ensures that healthcare organizations maintain the security and confidentiality of Protected Health Information (or PHI).
HIPAA is a healthcare law that includes important data protection elements. By contrast, GDPR is a data protection law that covers all sectors – including insurance and healthcare. Therefore, meeting the two standards enable organizations to ensure that data management is done in a secure and private manner.
GDPR is a law that protects the privacy of all individuals by requiring companies to have robust processes in place for handling and storing personal information. This helps to ensure that users are not contacted without their express permission and that personal data is kept safe.
Cloud-based storage is now used by many hospitals to meet their expanding storage requirements for backups, and disaster recovery. Moreover, many of the well-known cloud services (such as AWS or Google Cloud) invested in high-security standards in order to meet HIPAA & GDPR compliance requirements for data encryption and security.
Considering that servers for cloud services are generally spread across various geographical areas, the supplier ensures backups. One of the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare is recoverability. Even in the event of natural disasters or other comparable situations, it saves data. It creates a backup of the files that can be instantly retrieved and accessed by accredited users.
It's crucial to back up the imaging data. Backups should be performed on a regular basis, depending on the amount of data being kept, to protect against such attacks. A cloud-based solution offers automatically conducted backup in an efficient manner (programmed in a certain timespan), therefore it lowers the chances of human error. The backup is usually done by copying and storing your server's files to a server in a different physical location.
Furthermore, IoT-enabled medical devices may be vulnerable to hacker attacks. The cloud is more secure than on-premises systems. Cloud servers are outfitted with various security measures such as IDS/IPS, firewalls, end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and single-use authentication keys. Implementing the above-mentioned measures will protect healthcare data & will lower the risk of cyberattacks.
Is cloud secure? The security of digital health records (EHR) - is only now being addressed, but there are many electronic health records that are at risk. For example, legacy systems (that are on-premises) that were not properly secured in the past, and did not receive any security or firmware update, could be an easy target.
Extending the life of a legacy system and not investing in a cloud-native infrastructure is putting data safety at risk due to out-date security measures. This is leaving them more vulnerable to data breaches & cyber-attacks. This could ultimately have a negative impact on patient records and care.
Medicai offers a safe & secure medical imaging cloud-based infrastructure. The cloud-native systems powered by AWS are ensuring network & infrastructure security, data protection & encryption, vulnerability analysis, governance, risk & compliance, host & endpoint security, and more!
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Chouffani, R. (2021, October 12). How hospitals are using the cloud for medical image storage. Health IT. https://www.techtarget.com/searchhealthit/tip/How-hospitals-are-using-the-cloud-for-medical-image-storage
Muzyka, B. (2022, December 9). Cloud Computing in Healthcare: How Technology is Improving the Industry. Blog | TechMagic. https://www.techmagic.co/blog/cloud-computing-in-healthcare/