Cybersecurity in Health Care: Risks and Jobs That Address Them

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover the role of cybersecurity within the health care industry, including jobs that help tackle evolving cyber threats.

[Featured Image] A woman holding coffee and monitoring cybersecurity in health care environment.

In the health care system, cybersecurity is crucial for protecting the safety and privacy of patient information. Cybersecurity is comparable to a proactive shield, continually adapting to the evolving landscape of cybercrime. Its primary aim is to thwart potential breaches and infiltration that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal data or critical information within interconnected systems such as networks and devices.

Read on to look at how cybersecurity is interpreted and implemented within the health care industry while also becoming familiar with some jobs in this sector. 

Why is cybersecurity important in health care?

Health care organizations are repositories of extensive and sensitive information, such as personally identifying information (PII) and intellectual property associated with medical research and innovation. This makes health care organizations highly appealing targets for cyberattacks. Financial information, such as credit card and bank account numbers, adds another layer of risk.

Corroborating the threats, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports a notable increase in cyber incidents within the health care sector. Between 2018 and 2022, reported data breach events rose by 93 percent (from 369 to 712) [1]. The repercussions amplified risks to patient safety by causing delays in medical practices, which means you might not be able to receive treatment at a facility during one of these events.

Read more: What Is a Data Security Breach? Definition, Causes, and How to Protect Your Data

Health care cybersecurity concerns 

The advancements that aim to improve patient care and streamline health care processes, such as remote patient monitoring and real-time data sharing, also introduce vulnerabilities that bad actors can misuse. The following list summarizes the top risks affecting health care organizations worldwide:

Read more: 10 Common Types of Cyberattacks and How to Prevent Them

1. Patient data breach

External hackers, often situated remotely, tactically traverse the digital infrastructure of health care institutions, seeking unauthorized access to patient and medical databases. Exploiting your information from these databases can result in identity theft and financial fraud, such as creating counterfeit medical insurance claims under your name.

2. Malware

Malware, derived from “malicious software,” encompasses a wide range of intrusive software designed to steal information or destroy computer systems. For example, Trojan horse, a type of malware, can infiltrate a company’s computers through downloads under the guise of a legitimate program. 

Malware's overarching goals include extracting sensitive data and causing varying degrees of damage, from disrupting normal computer system operations to outright destruction. According to a 2019 Malwarebytes report, Trojans make up about 79 percent of malware attacks in health care systems [2].

Read more: What Is Malware?

3. Ransomware

Ransomware is software that encrypts files to restrict access until a ransom is paid. Typically disseminated through phishing emails, ransomware falls under the broader category of malware. 

Once hackers secure the ransom payment, usually in bitcoins, to evade detection, they will decrypt previously blocked or encrypted files. Nevertheless, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) discourages you from paying a ransom in response to malware attacks, citing cases where organizations paid but failed to receive a decryption key.

4. IoT device hacking

The Internet of Things (IoT) comprises interconnected physical and software devices ranging from security cameras to smart wearables and implantable medical devices such as pacemakers, which are all potentially vulnerable to hacking. However, weak points in your communication protocols, authentication processes, or other aspects of your IoT infrastructure can provide entry points for potential cyberattacks. 

Types of cybersecurity jobs in health care

If you find health care cybersecurity intriguing, here are some notable job roles worth considering: 

Read more: 5 Cybersecurity Career Paths (and How to Get Started)

1. Network security analyst

Average annual salary (US): $115,363 [3]

As a network security analyst, you will help devise and strategize security measures for an organization's computer systems. You will also actively monitor online activity to identify lurking threats within the company's networks and present methods for strengthening network security, analyze trends, assess risks, and apply security tools such as VPNs and firewalls

Read more: What Is a Network Security Engineer’s Salary?

2. Cybersecurity incident responder

Average annual salary (US): $64,441 [4]

As a cybersecurity incident responder, you will be vital in ensuring immediate response to security hazards to revive affected services. You'll also be responsible for minimizing losses, creating reports about incidents, and decreasing the risks of subsequent incidents. Alternative titles for this role include incident handler, incident response analyst, and intrusion analyst. 

3. Compliance consultant

Average annual salary (US): $100,987 [5]

As a health care compliance consultant, you’re expected to stay abreast of state and federal health care legislation, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), aimed at safeguarding sensitive patient health information. Your role also involves conducting internal audits to ensure hospital employees adhere to set health care laws and regulations.

4. Medical device cybersecurity specialist

Average annual salary (US): $132,962 [6]

As a specialist in medical device cybersecurity, you will work toward ensuring the security of medical devices and networks. You'll also help secure firms’ overall IoT infrastructure and systems by addressing vulnerabilities specific to IoT. 

5. Malware analyst 

Average annual salary (US): $100,149 [7]

Your predominant task as a malware analyst includes identifying and analyzing the delivery methods of malicious software such as bots, spyware, worms, and rootkits. You may perform reverse engineering to gather threat intelligence upon documenting your analysis. This will aid in formulating a strategic defense plan to tackle recurring attacks.

Read more: 15 Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Analysts

6. Penetration tester

Average annual salary (US): $112,537 [8]

As a penetration tester, you will execute authorized cyberattacks on your company's endpoint systems and networks to pinpoint hidden security flaws a cybercriminal can leverage. Doing so requires you to research evolving hacking mechanisms that challenge the resiliency of medical systems.  With research and penetration testing, you can generate security reports and recommend solutions for identified risks.

Get started with Coursera. 

Level up your cybersecurity skills with the Foundations of Cybersecurity course on Coursera. Offered by Google, this course includes interactive videos and activities to help you prepare for entry-level cybersecurity jobs. You will need approximately 21 hours to finish this course. 

You may complement the aforementioned beginner’s course with IBM’s Introduction to Cybersecurity Tools & Cyber Attacks, also available on Coursera. This course can help you comprehend the types and motives of present-day cyberattacks. It might take you approximately 21 hours to finish the course. By completing the course, you can earn a digital badge from IBM. 

Article sources


HHS. “HHS Announces Next Steps in Ongoing Work to Enhance Cybersecurity for Health Care and Public Health Sectors,” Accessed March 22, 2024.

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