Rebecca Zisser / Axios

It's been a few months since the worldwide WannaCry ransomware attacks, and a month and a half since the NotPetya attacks that hit U.S. hospitals and the drug company Merck. The cyberattacks were bad enough to get the attention of the health care industry — and the rest of us — but not bad enough to force the industry to solve the underlying problems.

The bottom line: A cyberattack that takes down multiple hospital systems is "the thing that keeps me up at night," said Richard Staynings, principal and cybersecurity healthcare leader at Cisco. "I have no way of knowing the last time a patient received their medication … It essentially renders hospitals near useless."

Here's what's changed and what still hasn't, according to cybersecurity experts.


  • Hospitals and other health care facilities have been reluctant to install security patches on devices that have to be available at all times, like CT scanners. But they're becoming more open to it "now that the risk equation has changed significantly," meaning it's clearly more dangerous to be vulnerable to an attack than to take a device offline, according to Staynings.
  • Hospital officials are generally more aware of the importance of cybersecurity. "I think they're interested — I'm not sure they understand what they should be doing," said David Damato, chief security officer at the cybersecurity startup Tanium.

Not changed:

  • Health care organizations still don't spend a lot on cybersecurity, compared to traditional priorities like doctors and researchers. "Health care is now an easy target compared to financial services," said Staynings.
  • It's an increasingly urgent issue as more and more software is added, especially at smaller facilities that don't have a lot of money to spend, said Bryan Sivak, a former chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Electronic health records are becoming a big worry. You don't want someone getting in and changing a patient's blood type, for example, or getting access to highly sensitive personal information about them.
  • Old or unpatched operating systems will always leave health care facilities vulnerable. "We've been talking about this for decades and are still running into the same problems," said Sivak.
  • Facilities have to learn to segment their networks, or divide them into subnetworks to make them more secure. (That's a tough task, though, if they don't have a lot of IT resources.)
  • Vendors have to be more willing to patch their medical devices — some don't want to change them for risk of losing their certifications from the Food and Drug Administration. And the FDA "has sat on the fence on this issue, quite frankly, for the last few years," said Staynings.

Go deeper

5 mins ago - Health

At least 48 local public health leaders have quit or been fired during pandemic

Former California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell on Feb. 27 in Sacramento, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least 48 local and state-level public health leaders have retired, resigned or been fired across 23 states since April, according to a review by the AP and Kaiser Health News.

Driving the news: California public health director Dr. Sonia Angell resigned on Sunday without explanation, a few days after the state fixed a delay in reporting coronavirus test results that had affected reopenings for schools and businesses, AP reports.

House will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the House will not hold any floor votes until Sept. 14, though members will remain on 24-hour notice to return to Washington in case a deal on coronavirus stimulus is reached.

Why it matters: Democrats and the Trump administration remain deadlocked and have not met since negotiations broke down without a deal on Friday.

Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 19,936,547 — Total deaths: 732,467 — Total recoveries — 12,144,510Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,063,770 — Total deaths: 163,156 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  4. Public health: How America can do smarter testing.
  5. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  6. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."