What Can Business Owners Learn From the Ascension Cyberattack?

Kendra Newley
4 min
June 17, 2024

Cyber Liability

The recent Ascension Healthcare cyberattack shines a bright light on the necessity of a layered approach to cybersecurity for businesses of all sizes and industries. On May 8th, 2024, the attack shut down vital systems in the multi-state healthcare provider's network—access to Electronic Health Records (EHRs), the MyChart patient platform, and various test-ordering systems.

While the investigation is ongoing, as of June 12th, Ascension has released an update on the situation. According to their press release, the breach occurred when an employee mistakenly downloaded a malicious file, allowing attackers to infiltrate the network. Some compromised files may contain Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII). However, no evidence suggests data was taken from the securely stored Electronic Health Records (EHR) system. 

In an informative interview with CBS News Detroit, our President of Brokerage, David, emphasizes several lessons from this incident that every business owner should consider to enhance their organization's cybersecurity and ensure its safety.

Here are the highlights:

Comprehensive Security Measures

First and foremost, businesses must get their arms around security across the board. Planting firm roots in cybersecurity is a multifaceted approach—employee training, vigilant monitoring for malicious actors, implementing appropriate security controls, having an incident response plan, and staying abreast of advancements in threats. Each facet is crucial to a successful and proven cybersecurity strategy.

Employee Training

Employees are a critical defense against cyber threats for any organization, so businesses should prioritize cybersecurity education. Training should include awareness of common scams like phishing and fake video/audio schemes, adapting to the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Education should teach employees to promptly and accurately identify sophisticated phishing emails and other tactics.

Proactive Online Behavior

In a vastly online society, we are overexposed and under-protected. Businesses must implement protective measures and be well-prepared with a clear action plan in the event of a cyberattack. Preparation equates to a detailed incident response plan and ensuring all employees understand their roles and responsibilities.

Staying Updated on AI Trends

AI has significantly raised the bar for cyberattacks. Gone are the days of scam emails littered with poor grammar and misspelled words. Free AI platforms like ChatGPT and Claude make it all too easy for threat actors of any skill level or language to create convincing emails. David emphasizes that every significant company will inevitably use artificial intelligence in some capacity. Therefore, businesses must understand AI, use it to their advantage, and stay updated on the latest threats, even if they do not perceive themselves as a prime target. Every business is a potential target.

The Role of Cyber Insurance

Given the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats, cyber insurance is a critical investment for all businesses to safeguard against potential financial losses and operational disruptions. Here’s why:

  • Financial Protection: From revenue loss due to downtime to costs associated with data recovery, customer notification, and legal fees, the financial implications of cyberattacks can be significant. Cyber insurance helps mitigate these costs by covering expenses such as forensic investigations, legal fees, and system repairs. 
  • Data Recovery Costs: Data breaches often lead to data loss or corruption, needing extensive recovery efforts. Cyber insurance helps cover data restoration costs, including recovery services, system restoration, and data recreation, easing the financial burden on businesses.
  • Regulatory Fines & Penalties: After a data breach, businesses may face hefty regulatory fines for non-compliance with data protection laws. Cyber insurance can help cover these fines—which can be substantial—especially under regulations like GDPR and CCPA, where fines can reach millions.
  • Business Interruption Coverage: Securing a cyber insurance policy can cover lost income during interruptions, enabling businesses to meet financial obligations, pay employees, and sustain operations until normalcy is restored.
  • Crisis Management & Public Relations: Cyber insurance often covers crisis management and PR services to manage reputational damage. This includes hiring PR firms, communication campaigns, and identity theft protection for affected individuals to maintain trust and brand reputation.
  • Cyber Extortion and Ransomware: With the rise of ransomware attacks, cyber insurance can cover ransom payments. It can also navigate extortion threats, negotiate with cybercriminals, and manage the incident to minimize damage.
  • Supplier & Vendor Risks: Numerous businesses depend on third-party vendors and suppliers, whose systems are also susceptible to cyber threats. Cyber insurance can extend coverage to include breaches through third-party systems, ensuring comprehensive protection across the supply chain.
  • Risk Management & Prevention Services: Some cyber insurance providers offer risk management and prevention services, such as cybersecurity assessments, employee training programs, and security best practices. These services can help businesses improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce the likelihood of future incidents.
  • Peace of Mind: Ultimately, cyber insurance provides peace of mind to businesses. Securing a safety net to mitigate the financial and operational impacts of cyberattacks allows organizations to focus on their core activities with confidence.

Embracing Advancements to Thrive

The Ascension cyberattack is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities all businesses experience in the digital age. By implementing comprehensive security measures, training employees, staying proactive online, embracing AI, and investing in cyber insurance, business owners can better protect their organizations and navigate the complex landscape of cyber threats. Per David's expert advice — embrace, understand, and use these tools to your benefit to stay secure in an increasingly connected world.

Watch the interview here to fully absorb the situation, its implications, and prevention strategies.
Kendra Newley
4 min
June 17, 2024

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