Search

Contact Us

Log in

Go back to blog

Protecting the Heart of Healthcare: Cybersecurity Strategies and Solution

Tiago Mendo
Tiago Mendo

June 24, 2024 · 12 min read

Healthcare organizations and technology developers are at the forefront of a relentless battle against cyber threats. Healthcare-focused attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, successfully targeting even enormous healthcare organizations. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reported an increase of 239% in 2023 in hacking-related data breaches in healthcare. This sector finds itself on the cybercriminal hitlist because of the valuable personal health information it holds and its critical role in public health and safety. They know attacks will likely yield valuable data, and large ransoms will likely get paid.

For providers, the impact of a security breach is devastating. A single breach can expose sensitive patient data, disrupt medical services, and lead to substantial financial losses, all of which will cost the provider. The average cost of a healthcare data breach is $10.93 Million, which is significantly higher than in other industries.

However, the damage does not stop at the immediate financial impact; breaches can erode patient trust—a crucial component of healthcare—taking years to restore.

This article will explore healthcare organizations’ challenges in balancing providing cutting-edge technology for optimum patient care with securing it to ensure patient privacy.

Healthcare Security Challenges

Any healthcare technology faces various complex security challenges because of the high sensitivity of personal health information. Patient data includes a wide range of information, from medical histories to payment details, which is valuable to attackers. Organizations handling this data are challenged with balancing access for providers who need it to do their jobs and securing it to prevent unauthorized access and breaches, as well as meeting regulatory standards.

This becomes even more complex as healthcare technology advances, as does the complexity and number of potential vulnerabilities. New technologies like electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine platforms, and connected medical devices introduce innovative ways to deliver care and create new avenues for cyber threats. Each technological advancement brings unique challenges, as these systems often integrate with various networks and devices, widening the potential attack surface.

Compliance Challenges

In healthcare, juggling compliance challenges goes alongside operational and security tasks. Regulations like HIPAA in the U.S. and GDPR in Europe are ever-present, presenting strict mandates to protect patient privacy and ensure data security. Failures in compliance quickly become costly. They result in high-profile legal actions, severe fines, and reputational damage. Compliance failures also come with additional scrutiny from regulators, further complicating operations in the future.

Effective management of these compliance challenges cannot be solved with a single product or approach. It takes a comprehensive compliance strategy to meet the compliance needs and work with technological advancements. Doing this involves integrating robust software security measures as a core component of their compliance strategies. Robust software security helps ensure that all data—whether stored, processed, or in transit—remains protected against breaches and unauthorized access, aligning with legal requirements and safeguarding sensitive information.

Delivering Security

Ensuring the security of healthcare applications and systems is crucial and challenging, particularly in an industry that must balance rapid technological innovation with the absolute integrity of patient data. Integrating security measures early into the development lifecycle of healthcare technologies is essential to meeting this goal. This approach, often referred to as “shifting left,” ensures that security considerations are embedded from the start and evolve alongside the development of new technologies and applications.

Robust security testing methods are critical for identifying and effectively mitigating vulnerabilities in healthcare applications and APIs. Regular and comprehensive security testing allows for the early detection of potential security flaws, ensuring they are addressed before they can be exploited. This includes dynamic testing of applications in operation and static analysis during development, as well as rigorous API testing to secure the interfaces through which different healthcare systems communicate.

Broad Technologies to Protect

The modern healthcare infrastructure is built upon technology to rapidly provide patient care. This technology may be hosted in the cloud or on-premise and integrate with a wide range of solutions, including cloud computing platforms and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, significantly enhancing the complexity of the security landscapes that must be managed. Each of these technologies brings unique benefits and capabilities and introduces specific vulnerabilities and security challenges that must be addressed.

As healthcare systems integrate more of these technologies, from server-based data centers to wearable health devices, the need for a unified security strategy that is consistent and effective becomes more important. Developing this strategy is complicated as it must be adaptable enough to cover the vast differences in technology architectures and capable of managing the interconnected risks. For instance, securing cloud storage must ensure data integrity and protection against unauthorized access, while IoT devices require robust encryption and continuous firmware updates to shield against potential cyber-attacks.

Cloud

Cloud technology is one of the new technologies that has become integral to healthcare. It is widely used for storing patient data and hosting critical applications. However, organizations have challenges securing and managing cloud environments due to their complex nature and a shortage of skilled staff, placing sensitive data at risk. It can lead to cloud storage and data sharing vulnerabilities, exposing patient information to unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

To safeguard against these risks, healthcare providers must leverage cloud-specific security tools and protocols. This includes using encryption to protect data both in transit and at rest, employing robust access control mechanisms to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive information, and utilizing advanced threat detection systems to monitor and promptly respond to potential security incidents.

Devices

The integration of connected medical devices into healthcare networks presents another security challenge. Devices ranging from wearable health monitors to advanced diagnostic equipment are increasingly interconnected, exposing them to cyber threats. While they provide valuable medical data in real-time, their interconnectivity escalates the risk of a compromise, leading to severe privacy breaches or patient harm.

Securing these devices involves implementing rigorous cybersecurity measures during the manufacturing and development phases. This includes embedding robust security features from the outset and conducting thorough testing to ensure the devices resist hacking.

For healthcare organizations that deploy these devices, continuous security testing is vital. This testing provides visibility into potential risks and vulnerabilities, allowing for the development of targeted mitigation plans. By actively managing and upgrading security protocols, healthcare providers can safeguard these critical devices from emerging threats and ensure they remain secure.

Applications

Healthcare applications, from patient management systems to telemedicine platforms, form crucial components of the health technology infrastructure but also represent vulnerable points susceptible to cyber threats. Implementing rigorous testing and security measures to safeguard these vital resources is imperative. These measures are designed to protect against data breaches and cyber-attacks, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive health information.

Continuously monitoring and updating these applications is equally important. This ongoing vigilance helps address emerging security threats and adapt to new vulnerabilities. Organizations can ensure their applications remain secure and compliant by maintaining up-to-date security protocols and adapting to the latest healthcare standards. Adopting proactive security approaches is crucial in preventing breaches and overcoming compliance challenges. By anticipating potential security issues and addressing them before they manifest, healthcare providers can protect their systems and data.

Building Healthy Infrastructure

Building a robust and secure healthcare infrastructure goes beyond mere technical necessity—it’s a cornerstone of patient safety and trust. Integrating advanced cybersecurity measures at the foundational stages of health tech infrastructure development is critical. This includes incorporating secure design principles and security assessments early in the project lifecycle, ensuring the technology can defend against cyber threats while supporting essential healthcare functions. Simultaneously, there’s a need to balance the drive for cutting-edge innovation with the imperatives of security and reliability. Ensuring this balance is crucial in maintaining the trust of patients and stakeholders while fostering an environment conducive to medical advancements.

Building Security Into SDLC

In health tech, embedding security practices directly into the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is vital for mitigating risks from the outset. Adopting ‘shift-left’ security practices ensures that security considerations are a priority from the inception of development projects, not just an afterthought. This approach involves integrating continuous security testing and updates throughout the development process, which helps identify and address vulnerabilities early on. Regular updates and testing of security protocols are essential to adapt to new threats and maintain compliance with stringent healthcare regulations.

Tool Quality Matters

The quality of the security tools used in healthcare is as crucial as the security strategies. Selecting security tools that provide comprehensive coverage, especially in application and API security testing, is fundamental. Tools with low false favorable rates are valuable, reducing the time spent chasing non-existent problems and allowing security teams to focus on genuine threats. To be most effective, these tools must integrate seamlessly into existing Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, enhancing operational efficiency without compromising security. This integration ensures that security checks are automated and continuous, aligning with the dynamic nature of healthcare technologies.

Securing Healthcare With Probely

Probely provides a comprehensive suite of security testing tools designed to tackle healthcare challenges. These tools are engineered for seamless integration into various development environments, enhancing the continuous integration process and fostering a proactive “Shift Left” approach to security. This approach emphasizes early and constant security assessments throughout the software development lifecycle.

With Probely, organizations gain access to automated security scanning capabilities, simplifying and streamlining the process for developers to detect and address vulnerabilities from the initial stages of development to deployment. This automation extends to a wide range of testing services, from static and dynamic analysis to specialized assessments tailored for complex API environments.

Moreover, Probely’s tools are user-friendly and have features that provide detailed insights and analytics. This functionality allows teams to quickly comprehend and respond to security threats, strengthening the overall security posture of their applications. The tools also ensure that development practices comply with stringent regulatory standards, such as GDPR and HIPAA, helping organizations maintain rigorous compliance and data protection standards.

Cybersecurity
Go back to blog