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New Zealand’s Healthcare Sector to Enhance Cybersecurity

Image courtesy: www.rnz.co.nz

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, Waikato’s District Health Board and the National Cyber Centre as well as an external cybersecurity company announced that they are now working together to combat recent cyber-attacks, as per news reports.

The country’s health network battles against cyber assaults every day, officials have confirmed after a major attack led surgeries to be postponed at all Waikato public hospitals. The Waikato DHB has said that the attack disrupted emails, phone lines and other services. It appeared to have entered the health provider’s network’s system through an email attachment.

Cyber-attacks have been increasingly making headlines in recent years, including the major ransomware attack on Ireland’s health network last Friday and another ransomware attack that shut down a major fuel pipeline in the United States this week.

Against the growing cyber threat, the Ministry of Health said it had advised DHBs to ask staff to be particularly vigilant when using the internet. DHBs have been asked to go through their IT systems looking for patterns of a similar event, the ministry’s spokeswoman said. They have also been asked to again check their anti-virus and other security systems are up to date and can protect their systems from a cyber-attack. Staff are also being urged to be extra careful clicking on links or attachments in emails, especially from people they do not know.

The Ministry’s Data and Digital team had also encouraged DHBs to have a plan to deal with a cyber incident, the spokeswoman said. DHBs should also have access to IT security expertise they could turn to for help, she said.

A Waikato DHB spokesperson earlier told news reports that they hoped to have everything up and running soon. The outage has impacted all hospitals under the Waikato DHB, including Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui. Outpatient clinics have been cancelled and families trying to reach their loved ones in the hospital were urged to contact them on their mobile phones where possible due to the hospitals’ phone lines also being down. A significant number of elective surgeries had been postponed and access to patient notes was also limited but was expected to improve soon enough.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, for some organisations, the shift to digital came at a cost. According to a report, hundreds of New Zealand businesses with online capabilities are now losing money to cyber-criminals. In the third quarter of last year, 281 Kiwis’ businesses reported cybersecurity breaches and many others are likely to have suffered the same fate, without reporting it. The average direct financial loss for small to medium business is still small, only a few thousand dollars, so, it often goes unreported.

Now, New Zealand businesses have increased their cybersecurity spending an additional 10-20% on last year’s originally budgeted IT spending plans to mitigate cybercrimes, according to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Despite organisations cutting spending in many areas during 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, security remains a consistent area of increased investment in the country. These findings come according to IDC’s recently released New Zealand security report, which examines the pandemic’s impact on the security needs and investments of the country’s businesses.

Market analysts say that robust cybersecurity investments are vital to business recovery from the effects of COVID-19 because security is what fully enables the ‘next to normal’ in the future of work. According to them, the shift to new models of working drives a crucial need to invest in security measures to enable these remote and hybrid working environments. IDC research also found that 98% of organisations rated workplace security as an important capability in enabling business/operational continuity through the pandemic. Also, many of these businesses intend to invest further in their cybersecurity over the next 1-2 years, with remote access needs and accelerating secure innovation the main drivers of this growth.

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