Today's healthcare organizations are at greater risk of a cyber attack than ever, in part because electronic health information is more widely available today than in the nearly 20 years since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996, according to a report from IDC Health Insights.

The study, “Business Strategy: Thwarting Cyber Threats and Attacks against Healthcare Organizations,” says cyber criminals view healthcare organizations as a soft target compared with financial services and retailers because historically healthcare organizations have invested less in IT—including security technologies and services—than other industries. That makes them more vulnerable to successful cyber attacks.

The value of health information, which can be used to commit medical fraud, is surpassing the value of social security and credit card numbers on the black market, IDC says, thus increasing the attractiveness of stealing health information.

The report includes findings from the 2014 IDC Insights Cross Industry Cyber Threat Survey, designed to gauge how financial services, healthcare provider organizations and retailers are responding to increasing cyber security threats and the impact of successful attacks on business operations.

All respondents of the survey reported that they had experienced a cyber attack in the past 12 months; 39.4% reported that they were attacked more than 10 times and 27.1% of the attacks were described as "successful attacks."

"For healthcare organizations, it's not a matter of if they are going to be attacked but when,” Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president, IDC Health Insights, said in a statement. “Healthcare cyber security strategies need to take a comprehensive approach and include not only react and defend capabilities, but also predict and prevent capabilities to effectively thwart cybercriminals.”

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