Attacks on Healthcare Industry Web Application Increased by 51% in the Last Two Months

Cybersecurity company Imperva published a new report that revealed a considerable increase of attacks on healthcare industry web apps. Imperva Research Labs recorded a 51% increase in web app attacks from November 2020 to December 2020, the same time when COVID-19 vaccines rolled out.

Imperva SVP Terry Ray stated that 2020’s cyber activity was unmatched with healthcare web app attacks increased by 10% year-over-year. Each month in 2020, there was an average of 187 million web app attacks on healthcare targets. Each company monitored by Imperva encountered 498 attacks on average per month. The leading targets were based in the United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, and Canada.

In December, Imperva Research Labs saw four types of attacks that considerably increased. The biggest increase was observed in protocol manipulation attacks. There was a 76% increase from last month and this type of attack was the third most popular attack type. Remote code execution / remote file inclusion attacks increased by 68%, though this type of attack only accounted for a comparatively small number of attacks.

The most common attack type, which was cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, increased by 43% from last month. SQL injection attacks, the second most common attack type increased by 44% starting November.

Although the number of web app attacks increased, there was a decrease in the reported actual data breaches globally. According to Ray, a lot of organizations probably do not know the magnitude or effect of these attacks yet. Since for the majority of the year, healthcare was centered on making remote work possible while taking care of the frontline logistics of a worldwide pandemic. Therefore, researchers spent less time on threat exploration, incident response and analysis.

Healthcare companies will probably only find out the effect those attacks after the first couple of weeks of 2021. Imperva noticed that healthcare data leakage increased by 43% in the first three days of 2021. The leakage involved unauthorized data transmission from within a company to an external recipient. This is typically the consequence of a security breach.

2020 has definitely been a difficult year with significant acceleration of IT transformation. Ray mentioned that in healthcare the pace of transformation was outstanding. IT projects that generally take 10 years were completed in just three, while a number of digital projects had a time frame of just weeks or months.

Although the acceleration is remarkable, it has brought in risks. A lot of healthcare companies depended on third-party apps, instead of creating their own, because of convenience, minimized IT development risks and costs and greater collaboration. Although third-party applications offer certain business advantages, the risks consist of: patching merely on the vendor’s timeline, identified exploits that are commonly publicized and continual zero-day research on extensively used third-party apps and APIs.

The greater dependence on JavaScript APIs and third-party programs had created a threat landscape of complicated, programmed, and opportunistic cybersecurity problems, which are hard for companies to identify and stop.

The increase in attacks is definitely not so good news, however healthcare companies can take steps to minimize risk. Systems must be upgraded. Money spent on application and data security must be increased. Instead of utilizing point solutions to deal with every unique risk, an integrated system must be applied that can improve web performance at the same safeguard against all the major web app threats.

Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth Hernandez is the editor of HIPAA News section of HIPAA Coach and an experienced journalist in the healthcare sector. She specializes in healthcare and HIPAA compliance, making her a go-to source for information on healthcare regulations. Her work focuses on the importance of patient privacy and secure information handling. Elizabeth also has a postgraduate degree in journalism. Follow on Twitter: You can follow Elizabeth on twitter at