A new report has revealed that more than half (56%) of UK healthcare businesses are seeing an increase in cyber threats – and artificial intelligence (AI) could be the solution. 

The State of cyber security in the UK 2023 report, from iomart and Oxford Economics has painted a picture of businesses in the healthcare sector struggling to balance their security budgets, as cyber incidents increase.

Over two-thirds (69%) of businesses questioned for the report revealed they spent more than £25,000 a year on cyber protection, such as vulnerability assessments, penetration testing and red team engagements. Despite this 31% of healthcare executives say their security budgets are inadequate to fully protect them.

The report surveyed 45 healthcare executives. A quarter of those agreed that budget constraints remain one of the biggest barriers for improving cyber security.

Notably, 64% reported a rise in cyber insurance premiums over the last two years – adding up to one of the biggest financial outlays for many healthcare firms when it comes to cyber protection.

It’s far from all doom and gloom though, with the healthcare sector as a whole feeling optimistic about the role of technology such as machine learning and AI in tackling cyber crime. Over a quarter of respondents (29%) believe the use of these emerging technologies will prove to be a major trend in cyber security over the next two years – particularly in relation to support email screening (67%) and contextual analysis (60%).

Lucy Dimes, CEO of iomart said: “The abundance of personal data the healthcare sector holds, as well as the large number of devices, which can often be outdated, deployed across medical facilities, make it a prime target for cybercriminals. And while it is clear that the threat of cybercrime is rising, there’s a lack of confidence in organisations’ abilities to protect themselves against it.

“There are many factors at play that are influencing this, from rising energy costs and increased insurance premiums to skills shortages and staff burnout, which are causing huge challenges for businesses.

“While this may be the case, there are ways to relieve these pressures, with effective strategies being developed and new technologies such as AI being embraced.”

There has been a recent spate of cyber security breaches within healthcare organisations. With the NHS remaining a key target for malicious activity, many organisations are shoring up their defences. Just a week ago Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust signed a three-year cyber security deal with Cylera.