Emerging cybersecurity threats in radiation oncology

In this brief article published in the journal Advances in Radiation Oncology, Joyce et al. state the case for the journal’s move to develop a special manuscript category dedicated to cybersecurity issues as they relate to the field of radiation oncology. They review numerous cybersecurity incidents that occurred in 2021, which disrupted healthcare efforts, sometimes severely. In one case, the authors find the effects of a ransomware attack on a cancer treatment center in New Zealand to be worse than those effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the authors address the problems that come with not being able to rapidly access patient medical records, “causing delayed treatment for thousands of patients” in some cases. The discussion of these and other similar incidents leads to a non-exhaustive list of what oncology departments can do to improve preparedness for cybersecurity incidents, including maintaining offline, encrypted back-ups and implementing a user awareness training program.

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