Putting HC3’s Cyber Posture Recommendations into Practice
The Rising Threat of Cybercrime in Healthcare
Of growing concern to both patients and the professionals who facilitate their care is the growing trend of healthcare organizations being preyed upon by cybercriminals. In the United States, recent political dialogue has brought special attention to patients’ privacy rights under HIPAA and the ongoing security of their records. The rich personal data contained within healthcare records is highly coveted by hackers to be used for nefarious purposes such as insurance fraud, identity theft, or more elaborate social engineering scams.
While the acceleration of healthcare’s digital transformation has undoubtedly led to long overdue improvements in care and patient outcomes, the mass digitization of healthcare data required to facilitate innovation comes with cybersecurity risks. To protect their patients’ valuable data, healthcare organizations must continually stay multiple steps ahead of highly-motivated cybercriminals.
What We Can Learn from HC3 Guidance
Fortunately, healthcare organizations are not alone in this battle against cybercrime. U.S.-based healthcare providers grappling with growing cybersecurity concerns can look to the government for support, as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) of 2015 authorized communication between federal agencies and non-government organizations regarding cybersecurity threats. The Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services was launched in the wake of CISA’s passage to provide guidance specifically for healthcare organizations.
HC3 published an insightful brief “Strengthening Cyber Posture in the Health Sector” earlier this year, and in this blog, we’re exploring how healthcare providers can put their recommendations into practice. In this blog, we’ll be:
- Defining Cyber Posture
- Proving the Value of Strong Cyber Posture
- Putting Incident Response Plans Into Practice
- Strengthening Your Cyber Posture
The phrase “cyber posture” immediately evokes imagery of standing up tall against the threat of data breaches, as opposed to merely cowering or slouching in submission.
As defined in the HC3 brief, cyber posture encapsulates organizations’ overall capabilities to prevent cyber-attacks and defend against them.
Essential steps towards improving cyber posture include implementing multi-factor authentication, disabling non-essential ports, and keeping software up to date.
Beyond these ongoing preventive measures, cyber posture includes organizations’ ability to respond in the event of a cybersecurity incident.
Strengthening your organization’s cyber posture can require spending on new technology and training as well as buy-in from leadership. Yet when a cyber attack arises, an organization with stronger cyber posture will be in a far better position to isolate the incident promptly and cost-effectively while protecting the data of their patients. Healthcare organizations ignoring the rising cybersecurity risks leave themselves defenseless during data breaches and subject to potential HIPAA violations.
Investments in cyber posture also positively impact the experience of your patients, who seek healthcare providers that are equipped to offer cutting-edge digital health services without jeopardizing their most sensitive data. Conversely, healthcare data breaches destroy the patient trust that serves as the foundation of all successful care relationships.
When assessing the current cyber posture of your organization, HC3 recommends that you evaluate the effectiveness of your incident response plan. In the context of cybersecurity, an incident response plan is an established process for identifying and addressing digital anomalies and incidents.
Supplementing your ongoing data security and cybersecurity monitoring efforts, an incident response plan should define in detail the consistent process your team will follow to contain and thwart any future breach or outage.
Team members and stakeholders must be educated about their roles and responsibilities as assigned by the plan, and a post-incident review process must be established and followed.
Remember, however, that even the best-laid incident response plan is worthless without the tools to successfully deliver incident alerts to on-call personnel.
An incident alert system is a particularly powerful tool for organizations who struggle to cut through the clutter of email and SMS to reach on-call personnel with important communications.
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