Approximately a quarter of Americans have had their medical records leaked, with research finding that more than 79.6 million people have been caught up in data breaches. Around 71% of the breaches originate due to the hacking of a healthcare provider.

Research carried out by the US-based cybersecurity company Incogni, alongside data published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, detailed how since 2020, healthcare providers were reported to have experienced 1,572 breaches, accounting for 57.6% of all American healthcare profiles that have been exposed.

At the same time, the report by Incogni found the same pattern with reported ransomware attacks finding that since 2020 approximately 76.1% of attacks targeted healthcare providers. The most common cause for a breach is described by the research as hacking and IT incidents, accounting for 1,622 breaches and affecting 136.8 million healthcare profiles.

The biggest breach named in the report was the 2021 breach of the optometry company 20/20 Eye Care Network, which saw the healthcare data of approximately 3.3 million Americans breached after hostile actors were able to access the company’s cloud storage systems.

Darius Belejevas, head of data protection service Incogni, said: “The transition to electronic health systems has undoubtedly brought numerous benefits to the healthcare sector, but it has also introduced significant risks. The exposure of sensitive health information can have devastating consequences for individuals, as their data might be further used by data brokers or even criminals. Incogni advocates for more stringent privacy and security measures for entities that manage patient information.

“As breaches continue to compromise patient privacy, they also put patients’ safety at risk and erode their trust in the healthcare system. Moreover, they can lead to identity theft, medical fraud, and other forms of exploitation.”

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The healthcare-centric cybersecurity market is expected to steadily grow alongside the rise in attacks on healthcare facilities. Research by GlobalData found that the global cybersecurity market will be worth $334bn by 2030, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% between 2022 and 2030. Additionally, separate research by UK cybersecurity company Sophos, found that only 24% of healthcare organisations were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before the attackers encrypted their data – down from 34% in 2022.

The reasons for cyberattacks on healthcare facilities vary across several causes, but in the past few years cyberattacks on hospitals and healthcare facilities have been used as a tool for disruption from hostile states such as Russia.