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4 ways to strengthen healthcare cybersecurity posture
Proactive Cybersecurity

4 Ways to Strengthen Cybersecurity Posture in the Healthcare Industry in 2024

Healthcare is like no other “business.” When you buy shoes online, your shoe size is the most sensitive data a shop collects. And though it may collect information like your delivery address, that’s usually processed by an external vendor. The shop itself has very little knowledge about your private data. So, if a cybercriminal breaches your favorite brand, your shoe size is a marginal gain for them since it’s hard to monetize. 

The healthcare industry, on the other hand,  is the one that needs to collect the most sensitive data about its patients. Your complete identity, ID card, email, phone number, names of relatives, social security number, full address, potentially a password, relatives' addresses, phone numbers, your health stats, and so on and so forth, live inside healthcare databases. 

This information can be used to perform identity fraud, create accounts, contract loans, wire money, and so much more. And, if the most cynical yet skillful cybercriminals have it their way, they can block the entire hospital, locking them out of several life-saving operations and requesting a ransom, placing clinics or hospitals among the most targeted institutions for cyberattacks.

In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken a critical step by requesting proposals for a new project. This initiative aims to leverage proven national security technologies to protect the healthcare industry from the rising tide of cyberattacks. 

As the healthcare sector grapples with these challenges, a shift toward efficient cybersecurity investments is emerging as a top priority to improve cybersecurity posture.

Here are four areas in which the healthcare industry can prioritize cybersecurity investment to best protect its assets. 

  • Investing in hiring trained cybersecurity staff and the continuous education for those cybersecurity team members.
  • Using automation for threat detection and remediation.
  • Forming a collaborative framework to share data between healthcare institutions. 
  • Investing in comprehensive and open source solutions that can minimize costs while offering robust security measures. Implementing these solutions to improve healthcare cybersecurity will significantly enhance the industry's overall cybersecurity posture.

Let’s dive in and explore these topics a bit further.

Prioritizing the investment in cybersecurity personnel 

Enhancing the security posture of healthcare institutions has to start at the personnel level. No one can expect healthcare professionals to be experts in cybersecurity. 

Continuous investment in trained cybersecurity personnel and ongoing education within healthcare institutions is imperative to safeguard sensitive data and navigate the dynamic cyber threat landscape. This investment involves recruiting skilled professionals with expertise in healthcare IT, data security, compliance, risk management, and incident response.

 Continuous education initiatives are crucial as well, ensuring skill enhancement while adapting to emerging technologies and implementing retention strategies to help retain proficient cybersecurity personnel. Ultimately, this fortifies healthcare infrastructure and ensures adherence to compliance standards essential for safeguarding sensitive healthcare information.

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Fortifying healthcare institutions by automating threat detection, sharing and remediation

We know why cybercriminals are targeting healthcare. We also know they are vertically specialized, so to speak, and what they’re after. And, don’t forget, they are not inclined to show up physically to hospitals and health centers as much as possible. 

So, they will act from a distance, on the digital layer, and not only on the directly exposed resources but also on the digital supply chain and the IoT front. They massively target the whole healthcare industry, not just one hospital or clinic.

And what I can guarantee you is that cybercriminal acts, like all criminal acts, always leave trails — scouting, scanning, exploiting, brute-forcing, DDoSing, etc, in several locations.

While physical defenses and individual digital defenses are limited digital strategies offer hope.

Implementing automation for threat detection and remediation in healthcare brings numerous benefits amidst the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape. These systems enable real-time monitoring of networks, employing algorithms and machine learning to swiftly identify potential threats and trigger rapid responses, minimizing attack impact. 

Detecting anomalies through behavioral analysis streamlines incident investigations by efficiently processing security data and orchestrating responses like isolating compromised systems or applying patches, reducing vulnerability exposure.

The integration of automation tools with existing security operations centers enhances overall security capabilities. Yet, please let’s not forget that the need for human validation remains vital for maintaining ethical standards and ensuring a comprehensive defense strategy in cybersecurity, especially in such a highly human-centric industry that is healthcare.

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Understanding the importance of collaboration across the healthcare sector

Establishing a collaborative framework for cybersecurity data sharing among healthcare institutions is pivotal in fortifying the sector's defenses against evolving cyber threats. 

Recognizing that cybercriminals are opportunistic and target the entire healthcare sector, not isolated entities, collaboration becomes imperative. Through shared insights and collective vigilance, a collaborative security network acts as a beacon, alerting members to potential threats and anomalies.

The network effect, a principle often observed in technology ecosystems, is a force multiplier for healthcare cybersecurity. By uniting healthcare entities under a collaborative framework, the efficiency of threat detection and response grows exponentially. Leveraging the collective knowledge of industry professionals, a collaborative defense effectively protects individual institutions while increasing the overall resilience of the sector.

And it goes without saying, that creating this collaborative ecosystem necessitates a dedicated commitment from all involved parties as well as striking a delicate equilibrium between sharing crucial cybersecurity insights and upholding the sanctity of patient privacy within this collaborative paradigm. 

Minimizing costs by utilizing comprehensive and open source solutions

One of the biggest pain points of the healthcare industry is budget limitations. The healthcare industry (especially public healthcare) is notoriously underfunded and understaffed in most countries around the globe. When you consider the enormous expenses a healthcare institute has to tackle, it is easy to understand that between covering critical operational costs and investing a significant amount of budget in cybersecurity, there is little of an option.  

Long story short, hospitals are housing more than the average amount of sensitive information but are — again, on average — underfunded compared to other industries. Leveraging open source security solutions to minimize cybersecurity budgets can be a real lifesaver, offering tailored solutions to improve healthcare cybersecurity. 

These solutions are freely available and supported by a global community, minimizing upfront expenses and ongoing licensing fees. Their adaptability allows for customization to meet healthcare-specific needs, cutting long-term operational costs while ensuring comprehensive security coverage across network protection, encryption, threat intelligence, and vulnerability scanning. 

Not to mention that the collective support and resources available within the open source community further drive down costs by providing guidance, troubleshooting assistance, and quick adaptations to emerging threats, solidifying cybersecurity defenses without hefty financial investments. 

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Bringing it all together

The need for collaboration, proactive security, automation, and the importance of open source has been prominent in a number of governmental initiatives around the world — the new European regulation on Network and Information Security (NIS2) and the US President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity are just a couple of examples. 

Harnessing the power of the network effect in cybersecurity is key to building a resilient and proactive cybersecurity strategy for the healthcare sector.

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