51% Growth in Healthcare Industry Web Application Attacks During December

According to new research published by cybersecurity firm Imperva, there has been a major rise in healthcare sector industry web application attacks.

The group recorded a 51% increase in web application attacks between November 2020 and December 2020, which happened in tandem with the beginning start of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

The study showed that healthcare web application attack grew by up 10% year-over-year. On average there were 187 million web application attacks on healthcare groups  each month in 2020, every organization monitored by Imperva suffered an average of 498 attack a month. The top targets were based in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Canada.

In December, Imperva Research Labs recorded major rises in four types of attacks. The largest growth was seen in protocol manipulation campaigns, which increased 76% from the previous month and were the third most common attack type. There was a 68% rise i relation to remote code execution / remote file inclusion attacks, although they only accounted for a relatively small amount of attacks.

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks were the most common attack campaign, with attack volume growing 43% from the previous month. SQL injection attacks were the second most common attack type, with these attacks jumping by 44% since November.

While the number of web application attacks grew, reports of actual data breaches decreased worldwide.

Imperva SVP Terry Ray said: “My hypothesis is that many organizations likely don’t know the extent or impact of these attacks yet. The reason being: for most of the year, healthcare was focused on trying to enable remote work while managing the frontline logistics of a global pandemic. Thus, less time was spent on threat research, incident response and incident analysis.”

Healthcare groups will likely only become truly aware of the impact those attacks in the coming months. It should be a source of concern that Imperva tracked a 43% increase in healthcare data leakage in the first three days of 2021. This is the unauthorized sharing of data from within an organization to an external recipient, which is often due to a security breach.

2020 has certainly been a difficult year, and that has seen IT transformation significantly accelerated. Ray said: “Many healthcare organizations rely on third-party applications anytime they can, instead of writing their own, for the convenience it offers, to reduce IT development risks and costs and to facilitate greater collaboration.”

He added: “While there are sometimes business advantages to third-party applications, the risks include: patching only on the vendor’s timeline, known exploits that are widely publicized and constant zero-day research on widely used third-party tools and APIs.”


About Thomas Brown
Thomas Brown worked as a reporter for several years on ComplianceHome. Thomas a seasoned journalist with several years experience in the healthcare sector and has contributed to healthcare and information technology news publishers. Thomas has a particular interest in the application of healthcare information technology to better serve the interest of patients, including areas should has data protection and innovations such as telehealth.