Botnets in Healthcare: Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Mitigation Strategies




Healthcare, Botnets, BioCybersecurity, CyberBiosecurity, Medical, IoT


The increasing digitization of healthcare systems has introduced new opportunities to improve efficiency and accessibility for medical professionals and patients. Examples include the simplified collection, storage, and organization of patient data using electronic health records (EHRs), the use of teleconferencing software like Zoom to allow patients to meet with their care providers remotely, and medical IoT devices like glucose monitors, pacemakers, and other remote patient monitoring devices that leverage software and the internet to provide patients and their healthcare providers with critical information. All of these use cases are examples of how technology can increase the quality of patient care. While the healthcare industry has realized many benefits from its increased investment in new technology, trends have shown that this increased utilization has also opened avenues for malicious cyber actors. One of these threats is botnets. These malicious networks of compromised computers, controlled by cybercriminals, can wreak havoc on all sectors of society, with the healthcare industry proving to be a desirable target. This research is a high-level analysis that investigates the threat botnets pose by employing an exploratory review. We identify the multifaceted nature of botnet threats in healthcare, analyzing their standard forms and the vulnerabilities inherent in healthcare infrastructures, ranging from outdated software to inadequate cybersecurity protocols to poor or total lack of security awareness training for staff. 

Moreover, the various techniques botnets use to propagate are explored to elucidate the potential points of exploitation and the damage they can cause organizations when proper controls are not implemented. These negative consequences include data breaches, service disruptions, and compromised patient confidentiality, which can endanger medical staff and patients if not addressed. This paper then discusses proven mitigation strategies such as end-user awareness, traffic monitoring, and detection response tools that organizations can employ to reduce the potential and efficacy of such threats. The threat landscape will continue to evolve; however, by staying on top of the latest trends, we can ensure the security of such critical infrastructure and save lives.

Author Biographies

Michaela Barnett, Blacks In Cybersecurity Headquarters, Inc.

Michaela Barnett is a Penetration Tester and Security Researcher. Her research surrounds Offensive interests and their implications, most recently she has published BioCybersecurity and Maritime Security related work. Michaela has a B.S. in Computer Science complemented with industry recognized certifications.

James Womack, Blacks In Cybersecurity Headquarters, Inc.

James Womack is a security engineer primarily focused on application security and security engineering in large scale web applications.

Christopher E. Brito, Blacks In Cybersecurity Headquarters, Inc.

Christopher Brito is a Security Configurations Analyst ensuring healthcare systems meet rigorous security standards. Currently he is pursuing an MBA of IT management at Western Governors University.

Khadijah Miller, Blacks In Cybersecurity Headquarters, Inc.

Khadijah Miller is a Cloud Security Engineer focused on Infrastructure security and Cloud Migration. Professional background in Healthcare, Finance and now Government. B.S in Computer Information science, Healthcare management. M.S in Data Analytics with a concentration in Cybersecurity.

Dr. Lucas Potter, BiosView

Lucas Potter is a biomedical engineer that works in the intersection of biosecurity and cybersecurity. He holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, and has contributed to around 40 conference proceedings, academic journal articles, or textbook chapters.

Dr. Xavier-Lewis Palmer, BiosView

Xavier-Lewis Palmer, PhD is a technical professional whose research interests primarily concern interdisciplinary projects that investigate technological interactions, as well as societal impacts. He holds a PhD in Engineering, an MS in Cybersecurity, an MS in Biotechnology, a BS in Biology, and a BA in Philosophy.