The Healthcare Cybersecurity Ecosystem: Why Your Systems Need a Checkup

healthcare cybersecurity

The healthcare industry is one of the most vulnerable to cyberattacks. It’s appealing to cybercriminals because of the valuable data, and, in general, the sector has lagged in technology and cybersecurity adoption. Additionally, more challenges persist, including using legacy systems, resource bandwidth, interoperability, and compliance. Security must be top of mind if you operate in any aspect of the healthcare ecosystem. So, how can you be confident in your healthcare cybersecurity efforts? Let’s review the state of the industry, expanding intelligence around healthcare cyber incidents, and critical components for a system checkup.

The Healthcare Cybersecurity Landscape: Risk and Threats Soar

Healthcare has a massive target on its back. Since 2020, the average cost of a breach has increased by 42%, the highest of any industry. Moreover, the attacks levied at healthcare organizations are often highly sophisticated and well-funded. They are so because there’s a big opportunity to attack healthcare. PHI (protected health information) has great value, fetching around $1,000 per record on the dark web. In addition to financial motivation, others may be the victim in some form of hacktivism.

As a result, the impact of cyberattacks on healthcare has been considerable, ranging from substantial monetary losses to data held for ransom and sometimes never recovered. It’s putting significant strain on IT departments, which are often understaffed and underfunded. This may all sound too familiar to you. Further, you and your peers are trying to accelerate digital transformation to meet goals for a more secure, streamlined, and holistic digital footprint. In pursuit of digital transformation, cyber risk often elevates when structural and operational gaps exist.

Another concern of the healthcare cybersecurity ecosystem is that it’s not solely an IT issue. It’s part of every part of your organization, especially in terms of digital transformation initiatives. A security culture is imperative for any healthcare organization to survive and thrive.

The Evolution of Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Cybersecurity’s role and importance have shifted in the last few years. More organizations realize how it connects to all areas, not just IT or compliance. There is also a greater openness to sharing cyber incidents. Protections for doing this are part of the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022. It should help illuminate the forensics behind the hacks, so all stakeholders can get insights on how to solidify defenses.

The challenge before this legislation was the trepidation in sharing information due to compliance requirements and the threat of penalties. Any type of threat information can be anonymized and shareable. As more information becomes available, all healthcare entities should be able to benefit from it. It also provides real-time threat landscape visibility, which could lead to more thwarted attacks than successful ones. In the end, it impacts the most important aspect of healthcare—protecting patients.

More data doesn’t solve every cybersecurity problem. Your organization needs several essential things to fortify its defenses in the 21st century. Next, we’ll review those checkup components for a healthy cyber program.

The Key Signs You Need a Healthcare System Checkup

Getting a checkup of your systems can involve several specific exercises and everyday best practices. They all revolve around security and compliance. The two must intertwine to be as healthy as possible.

Compliance: When Was Your Last HIPAA Security Risk Analysis?

A HIPAA security risk analysis is an essential component of the health of your system. The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities and business partners to perform risk analysis initiatives related to using and protecting ePHI (electronic PHI). If you want to be HIPAA-compliant, this is a necessity.

If you haven’t ever conducted one or it’s been some time, this is the first step in protecting your network. You’ll need to develop a scope of your analysis. Most often, this involves identifying any risks or vulnerabilities that would affect the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of ePHI. The firm providing the examination will take these steps:

  • Collect data: First, the analyst will classify the location of all ePHI within your organization. This exercise could include reviewing projects, systems, applications, documentation, and processes. The evaluator may also interview employees.
  • Identify and document potential threats and vulnerabilities: The firm will then determine any threats to ePHI that you could reasonably anticipate. Then do the same for vulnerabilities, which, if exploited, could magnify the risk of a breach.
  • Evaluate current security measures: The analysts will characterize the state of security of your organization. Such an assessment would include processes for safeguarding ePHI, adherence to provisions in the Security Rule, and if you configure and use protocols properly.
  • Establish the likelihood of a threat occurrence: Post-current-state evaluation, auditors will rate the possibility of risk to ePHI. These results and threats previously identified will determine what you can distinguish as “reasonably anticipated.”
  • Assess the potential impact of a threat occurrence: Next, the analyst will determine the impact of a security incident and its effects. Typically, threats are on a scale from most severe to least.
  • Assign the level of risk: At the end of these steps, the firm will rate your level of risk, considering threat likelihoods and effects. Risk is at its highest when a threat is very likely to occur and would be catastrophic. You’ll receive a lower score if the risk of these things is less likely.

HIPAA security risk analysis can be even more revealing when you engage the firm to perform a HIPAA penetration test.

How Secure Is Your Network? A HIPAA Penetration Test Will Provide Insights

In addition to a HIPAA security risk analysis, you should request that your healthcare security consultants conduct a penetration test. This practice of ethical hacking simulates cyberattacks. As a result, you’ll have clarity around vulnerabilities before actual cybercriminals do.

HIPAA pen tests can evaluate your networks, applications, and additional security components. There are many approaches, types, and methods for pen tests. Work with your expert consultants to define these to deliver the best cyber intelligence. You’ll also want to set goals and document the rules of the engagement. You’ll receive a report detailing remediation at the end of the pen test. You can then work with your security firm to implement and fix these changes quickly. You should also arrange for your next pen test, which should happen annually.

The next part of the checkup is the state of your processes, policies, and protocols.

How Accurate Are Your Processes, Policies, and Protocols?

Healthcare cybersecurity processes, policies, and protocols need constant updating. A HIPAA security risk analysis and pen test will give you plenty of tasks in updating documentation.

Additionally, you’ll need to include any changes to your network, such as the use of clouds, adding new applications, or any other significant updates. Keeping your incident management and business continuity plans reliably accurate is critical. You should be testing these as part of your pen test or independently. They are your guide of what to do when, not if, a security breach occurs. Practicing the steps and finding gaps will help you strengthen your cyber posture.

Assessing Your Structure and Operations: What’s Causing the Most Risks?

A healthcare cybersecurity checkup would be incomplete without looking at your organization’s digital environment holistically. You could have fundamental weaknesses in your structure and operations. The most common causes for this include:

Migration Challenges

Migrating data or applications is a long process steeped in regulations and protocols. You may be migrating to the cloud from on-premises or from one cloud to another. Other migrations may relate to specific platforms when decommissioning an old system but still need the data. There are opportunities for exploitation. To avoid this, work with experts to diagram how you’ll migrate in the most secure manner, requiring the least downtime.

Legacy Systems Are Dangerous

Is your organization holding on to a system the developer no longer maintains or updates? Such a system elevates the risk level of breaches. There needs to be a thorough discussion about why you can’t eliminate the technology. If it must stay, look at ways to extract data and feed it into other systems to prevent it from being an entryway for cybercriminals.

Is Your Network on Solid Ground?

Finally, it would be best if you always considered how you’re building your network. How you started may look very different from your current process. As you’ve evolved your cyber program, your network must keep up, so monitoring technology and what it could reveal is crucial. Your network is likely more extensive now, too. That’s especially true if you have remote workers accessing your network. You’ll need to ensure your protocols account for this.

Get a Cybersecurity Checkup for Your Healthcare Organization

Security and compliance can never be far from the minds of healthcare organizations. If you want to be more confident in your cyber policies and network, you can find a strong partner in Blue Goat Cyber. We specialize in helping healthcare companies be as secure and compliant as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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