5min. read

Over the last decade, healthcare has offered new lines of services such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring, expanded accessibility and ease for both patients and healthcare professionals, and supported innovations that measurably improve patient outcomes. It’s a profound digital transformation. Today’s digital healthcare organizations rely on data and IT in ways they never have before. Healthcare delivery has expanded beyond the four walls of a traditional acute care setting to ambulatory to the nascent hospital-at-home settings. IT continues to play a pivotal role in this ever-expanding healthcare delivery model and is tasked to not only drive successful business outcomes but also do so in a secure manner whereby patient privacy and data security are not compromised.

The pandemic further reinforced and accelerated the digitization of healthcare services. When COVID hit, within a matter of days, healthcare organizations had to pivot and create an environment whereby not only their employees could work remotely but also find ways to still deliver healthcare services in a virtual setting. They created new environments for operation and care—but also significantly expanded the surface that needed to be secured

The Top Challenges of Securing Healthcare Now

Healthcare’s digital transformation has created so many new opportunities—not only for patients and care providers but also for bad actors. Today, healthcare leaders need to think about:

Ransomware. As healthcare operations have become digitized, attackers have taken notice. The healthcare industry is now a top target for ransomware attacks. When successful, those attacks can impact operations in ways that are life-threatening, beyond simply harming the business. In 2021, hackers published extensive patient information from US hospital chains in Florida and Texas. Confidential patient data was posted to the dark web, including files with personally identifiable information as well as tens of thousands of scanned diagnostic results and letters to insurers.

IoT/IoMT. Another challenge the industry faces is the abundance of devices within healthcare settings that are connected to the organization’s network. The majority of these connected medical devices, such as patient monitors and infusion pumps, have been around for a long time. In fact, there can be multiple generations of devices present across healthcare environments including hospitals, acute care and outpatient facilities.

This abundance of older devices creates visibility challenges as organizations attempt to identify all their connected devices. Security challenges are then multiplied by the need to update devices for potential security vulnerabilities, even when many devices have minimal security capabilities. These vulnerabilities make medical IoT devices perfect entry points for malware or ransomware attacks. The real risk is that when an attacker breaks into one of these devices, they can move laterally within a healthcare organization’s network, which can have catastrophic impacts. The FBI issued its own alert that unpatched medical devices were a growing target for cyberattacks, adversely impacting healthcare operational functions, patient safety, data confidentiality, and data integrity.

Hybrid environments. With many healthcare staff now having the ability to work both on-site as well as remotely, there are new security challenges that need to be solved. Whether working from home or anywhere else, healthcare employees need to have the same level of security as they do within the four walls of a medical facility. They also need the same level of bandwidth and low latency for accessing patient records in order to provide an appropriate level of care.

The New Fundamentals for Securing Healthcare

With all the security challenges that healthcare organizations face, what has become abundantly clear is that there is a need to have a proactive programmatic approach to delivering comprehensive security throughout the continuum of care. What that really means is making sure that organizations have the right infrastructure and that the applications that are running in healthcare environments have the necessary security capabilities. It’s also about making sure that the users who are accessing information while providing care are protected and secured.

  • See and secure IoMT. Healthcare organizations need to proactively manage their devices. Your biomedical and clinical engineering teams know and feel the pain of managing these devices. You want to empower them to make smarter capital planning decisions while ensuring that the operational burden of maintenance and repair is reduced.
  • Enable secure hybrid work.Enabling healthcare professionals with connectivity to securely provide services from anywhere is a top priority.
  • Protect your cloud environments. The use of the cloud is growing across healthcare. As organizations move to the cloud, having the right security controls and visibility in place to enable workloads is a must-have requirement.
  • Ensure compliance. Regulatory compliance is an area of healthcare that will never go away. It is incumbent on healthcare organizations to have the right investments to enable ongoing compliance with regulations such as HIPAA.
  • Leverage cyber automation. Healthcare is under tremendous staffing and resource constraints. By integrating automation to help secure operations, endpoint devices, cloud or hybrid workplaces, as well as security operations centers, healthcare resources can be optimized.

Security should never be an afterthought. As we continue to come out of the pandemic, moving into whatever the new norm is for us, security should not be viewed as a cost center but more of a critical business partner within the healthcare organization. To learn more about Palo Alto Networks healthcare solutions, please visit our site.