Healthcare Organizations Can’t Manage Cybersecurity Alone: Why You Need Support for HIPAA Compliance and Penetration Testing

healthcare cybersecurity

In the world of cybersecurity, healthcare organizations have one of the toughest journeys. They are often the target of hackers because of the valuable data they collect and store. They also must ensure compliance with HIPAA in how they handle this data. Further, they often have talent shortages and tight budgets. As a result, most healthcare organizations can’t manage cybersecurity alone and need outside support and expertise.

Learn why the struggle is so challenging for healthcare and how to find the right support for HIPAA compliance and penetration testing.

Healthcare Is a Big Cyber Target

According to the Office of Information Security for the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), there are many concerns for the healthcare industry regarding cybersecurity. Here are some findings from their 2022 report:

  • Ransomware attacks targeting healthcare doubled from 2016 to 2021.
  • Data breaches in healthcare have been on an upward trend since 2012, doubling in the last three years.
  • Emotet, a malware variant used in the healthcare sector, spiked in the spring of 2022, dropped off, and then returned in late 2022.
  • The impact of ransomware is becoming faster, with attacks needing less than four days to encrypt systems, resulting in a 94% decrease in time to encrypt.
  • Downtime from ransomware increased to 22 days in 2021, a four-day growth from 2020.

These statistics are just a few examples of healthcare’s growing threat from cybercriminals. These hackers are continuously refining their attacks to overcome cybersecurity measures. Without a team of cyber experts that act proactively and understand the entire threat landscape, you could become part of these statistics.

Why Healthcare Organizations Need Help

Beyond all the looming and growing threats, there are more reasons that healthcare organizations seek outside support for cybersecurity:

Technology isn’t enough to combat hackers.

There are a lot of great technology tools available for companies to automate some efforts of cybersecurity around monitoring and identification of anomalies. They play a significant role in combatting hackers, but they aren’t enough. Human intelligence and analysis are still critical.

For example, you may deploy technology to catch phishing attacks automatically. They may not end up in inboxes. You’ve thwarted the attempt, but digging deeper can deliver great insights. Human experts can investigate the incident more thoroughly to find other emails and then block any malicious URLs. With this full-scale review, you can be better prepared for the next attempt.

Outsourcing can alleviate cybersecurity workforce shortages.

The need for cybersecurity professionals is greater than ever. There’s a severe cybersecurity workforce gap, and it’s only growing. It can be difficult to recruit and retain these specialists. As these roles sit empty, your organization is more at risk.

By working with a reputable, experienced firm, you can bridge these gaps for as long as you need to find full-time employees. These teams have great healthcare cybersecurity knowledge and can perform strategic and tactical tasks for your organization. You may even consider hiring a CISO-as-service for your healthcare company to ensure you have cyber leaders with the right skills to help you manage risk, threats, and compliance.

You’ll need expertise to minimize risk.

The cost to engage an outside firm to support cybersecurity initiatives is a much lower investment than what you may pay to recover from a ransomware attack. New research reported that the cost could be up to $1.82 million, which doesn’t include the ransom. Should such an incident occur, you could be on the hook for the following:

  • Fines issued by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR, which enforces HIPAA, has the power to levy fines. There are four categories of penalties with these minimum fines: Tier 1 ($100 per violation up to $50,000), Tier 2 ($1,000 per violation up to $50,000), Tier 3 ($10,000 per violation up to $50,000), and Tier 4 (minimum fine of $50,000).
  • Credit monitoring for impacted consumers. You may have to pay for credit services for individuals whose private information was stolen.
  • Downtime costs. If you’re down from a ransomware attack, you’re losing money because you can’t deliver services to customers.
  • Reputational costs. Users and customers may churn after a cyber incident, as they may longer have confidence in your ability to keep data secure.

These are the most common costs related to ransomware and data breaches. Healthcare pays the most in the U.S., with an average cost of $10.10 million. Avoiding these may not be within your wheelhouse. If so, it’s time to consider working with an outside team of experts.

You have to work within narrower budgets.

Some businesses are under a crunch of economic pressure, and that can decrease your cybersecurity budget. As a result, you may not be able to hire full-time employees. However, you may have room in your operating budget to work with consultants on an ongoing or limited basis. One of the most important ways to spend your cyber budget with a firm is having them conduct a penetration test, which we’ll discuss thoroughly ahead.

You need to assess your compliance with HIPAA and strengthen your program.

The guidelines of HIPAA and how you must handle protected health information (PHI) haven’t changed, but maintaining compliance with them is a dynamic environment. With new threats arising every day, you need to measure the effectiveness of your HIPAA compliance program and identify ways to improve it. You can learn a lot about this with risk assessment and penetration testing, which you can outsource to a trusted partner.

You need to make major changes to your cybersecurity plan.

Another reason healthcare needs cybersecurity support is when significant projects need to occur. You may need to migrate data from a legacy system or make it interoperable with newer systems. You could be moving to a hybrid cloud from a public one for greater control and security, or you may be building a tech stack. All these things create changes in your cybersecurity framework. They all impact data security and require a defined plan to get you from point A to point B. When making these transitions, you’ll receive great value from a healthcare cyber consulting firm.

There are two key things to consider when outsourcing some cybersecurity tasks. The two areas to focus on are HIPAA compliance and penetration testing.

Hiring Healthcare Cyber Firms to Support HIPAA Compliance and Penetration Testing

The two most important areas to seek help on are HIPAA compliance and penetration testing. Here’s why:

Get a HIPAA Security Risk Analysis

Compliance with HIPAA is mandatory and must always be top of mind. If you aren’t sure where you’re performing well and not so well, hire a firm to conduct a HIPAA security risk analysis.

Here’s how they work:

  • They start with a kickoff meeting of all stakeholders to define the process, expectations, roles, objectives, and timeline.
  • Next, the consultants review existing policies and procedures and compare them to HIPAA requirements.
  • Identification and documentation of all places where PHI lives within your network follow.
  • Compliance review meetings are next to identify existing controls to align with the HIPAA Security Rule regulations and evaluate the organization’s readiness for malicious threats.
  • A preliminary risk assessment and recommendations draft is then provided to your team. Feedback and discussion continue to then deliver the final report with all necessary steps you must take to remain compliant.

The assessment will uncover many things you may not be currently aware of, and you may only get this kind of insight from an outside party. Accompanying this analysis should be a pen test.

Hire a Firm for Healthcare Penetration Testing

Healthcare penetration testing is the second critical aspect of working with a partner. While HIPAA doesn’t require pen testing, it’s very valuable in compliance and threat assessment. These simulated cyberattacks pinpoint vulnerabilities to mitigate them before a hacker exploits them. Here’s how a pen test is essential for HIPAA compliance:

  • It can evaluate all risks and vulnerabilities relating to electronic PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • Pen tests can be valid documentation of compliance with HIPAA.
  • These activities identify how you create, receive, maintain, and transmit electronic PHI.
  • A pen test can also assess how third parties access PHI.
  • Such an exercise can evaluate risk in all human, natural, and environmental categories.
  • Pen tests can find irregularities in internal processes that may affect data privacy.
  • Since pen tests are simulations, you can also test your incident response in a role-play scenario to understand its effectiveness.

There are many types of pen tests available. There are differences in the access levels you provide testers, what you test, and the methodology. Discuss your objectives and needs with your pen test partner to design the best path for your organization.

Get the Healthcare Cybersecurity Support You Need with Blue Goat Cyber

Our healthcare-experienced cyber professionals are ready to help you with HIPAA compliance and penetration testing. Request a discovery meeting with us today to get started.

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