Enhancing Patient Outcomes Through Secure, High-Performance Networks: Insights from Healthcare Experts

Stephen Nardone
Jennifer Johnson

A new Ponemon report showed the average total cost for the most expensive healthcare cyberattack experienced was $4.4 million, including $1.1 million in lost productivity. As healthcare executives look to protect their organizations from malicious attacks, right-fit solutions are the key to success.

Join Connection’s Healthcare Practice, Professional Services experts, and Barracuda as they discuss imminent threats, cybersecurity program strategies, and technology that will shed light on today’s challenges and the direction healthcare customers should be prepared to take.

Host: James Hilliard


Selby Philipose – Senior Solutions Architect, Barracuda

Jenna Renauld – Director, National Accounts, Barracuda

Jennifer Johnson – Director of Healthcare Strategy and Business Development, Connection

Stephen Nardone – Senior Director, Security and Network Solutions Center, Connection

To listen to the recording, register here.

The Changing Landscape of Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations have become more frequent and sophisticated. Ransomware attacks, in particular, have become more targeted and damaging, with cybercriminals realizing the potential for substantial ransom payouts and the disruption of patient care. 

In the face of the rising and ever-evolving threats, along with the increasing dependence on digital technologies, healthcare institutions find themselves confronted with a multitude of cybersecurity challenges. The positive news is that there are emerging solutions available to counter the cybersecurity threats that have impacted the healthcare industry. 

It is imperative for these institutions to take proactive measures in embracing these solutions. The protection of sensitive patient data and the assurance of uninterrupted patient care have become not merely challenges but absolute priorities.

Threats to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Over the past decade, the healthcare industry has undergone significant transformations, with the nature of threats and attack vectors evolving continuously. Today’s healthcare providers grapple with a diverse array of cybersecurity challenges, which include:

1. The Complexity of Healthcare: The healthcare ecosystem is complex and interconnected, involving a wide range of stakeholders, such as patients, providers, insurers, and government agencies. This complexity creates a web of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.

Additionally, the prevalence of legacy systems and outdated technologies in healthcare, along with the human element, presents challenges in maintaining robust cybersecurity. The healthcare sector also deals with highly sensitive and valuable data, making it an enticing prospect for cybercriminals seeking financial gain or identity theft. The result is a perfect storm for cyberattacks.

2. Identity Abuse in Healthcare: Identity abuse has significantly exacerbated cybersecurity threats in the healthcare sector. Malicious actors exploit stolen identities to engage in extortion, coercion, unauthorized access to patient records, and privacy breaches. This not only erodes patient trust but also exposes sensitive data to potential misuse. 

3. Budget Constraints: Budget constraints in the healthcare sector often result in underinvestment in cybersecurity, leading to outdated technology, understaffed teams, and limited security training. Healthcare organizations may compromise on security solutions due to budget limitations, leaving them more vulnerable to evolving cyber threats. Additionally, budget constraints can hinder compliance with regulatory requirements, exposing healthcare institutions to potential penalties.

Organizations must strike a balance between financial considerations and robust security measures. Investing in the latest cybersecurity technologies, adequate staffing, and ongoing training is crucial to safeguard patient data and ensure the integrity of healthcare services.

4. Cybersecurity Skills Gap: The demand for cybersecurity professionals has surged in recent years, leaving the healthcare industry with a substantial shortage of skilled experts. In fact, the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals has reached 3.12 million, and the healthcare sector was identified as one of the industries most affected by this shortage.

Recent graduates of cybersecurity programs often lack practical experience in securing healthcare environments, highlighting the pressing need for programs to bridge this skills gap. Organizations like Barracuda can step in to offer security solutions that assist overburdened, understaffed, and underfunded healthcare institutions.

5. Supply Chain Issues: The healthcare supply chain plays a pivotal role in ensuring the delivery of vital services. Disruptions in the supply chain can have dire consequences for patient care. Healthcare organizations must remain vigilant in safeguarding their supply chains from cyberattacks and consider it an integral part of their broader attack surface. Utilizing security policies and technologies such as zero trust and extended detection and response (XDR) can help to secure third-party providers and ensure the safety of healthcare systems.

6. Regulations and Compliance: The healthcare industry has seen increased regulatory scrutiny and legal consequences for data breaches. Regulatory bodies are taking a more assertive stance in enforcing data security standards, and healthcare organizations are facing larger fines and legal actions for non-compliance. 

These changes have amplified the need for robust cybersecurity practices and a proactive approach to mitigating risks in the healthcare sector. As a result, healthcare organizations are investing more in cybersecurity solutions, workforce training, and partnerships with cybersecurity experts to adapt to these evolving challenges.

Healthcare organizations often rely on industry experts and consortiums to stay informed about changes in regulations. Collaborating with trusted partners like Barracuda helps healthcare institutions align with regulatory requirements and ensure the protection of patient data.

Strategies for Tackling Healthcare Cybersecurity Threats

To combat the cybersecurity challenges common in the healthcare industry today, consider the following strategies:

1. Shifting Security Mindset: Healthcare organizations must shift from a reactive to a proactive security mindset. This means focusing on threat prevention and early detection, rather than simply responding to incidents after they occur. It also requires viewing cybersecurity as a core aspect of patient care, rather than an IT concern.

2. Tools and Services for Network Security: Healthcare organizations must invest in the latest cybersecurity solutions and services to protect their networks, systems, and data. This includes implementing intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, access control systems, encryption, and vulnerability scanning solutions.

Additionally, network security services offer intrusion response capabilities, threat intelligence access, and the ability to monitor user and entity behavior. This allows healthcare organizations to stay ahead of evolving threats and respond swiftly to incidents. 

3. Early Detection and Rapid Response to Combat Ransomware: Early detection and rapid response are crucial elements in the battle against healthcare cybersecurity threats, particularly ransomware. Detecting these threats at an early stage is essential because it ensures that institutions can respond quickly and effectively to cyberattacks. These plans should include steps for identifying, containing, eradicating, and recovering from cyber incidents.

Early responses help to minimize downtime, ensuring that patient care services continue without significant interruptions. It speeds up the recovery process, enabling the restoration of data from backups, malware removal, and system security enhancements. Rapid response strategies also work to prevent ransom payments, as they focus on regaining control without capitulating to cybercriminal extortion.

4. AI for Protecting Personal Information: AI can help to safeguard personal information by employing behavior analysis to monitor network and user activities. That way it can quickly detect anomalies and potential threats, providing a proactive defense mechanism. It also excels in early threat detection by recognizing unusual patterns and activities that may indicate a security breach, enabling prompt response to mitigate potential damage.

Furthermore, AI contributes to data protection through encryption and decryption processes, securing sensitive patient information during storage and transmission. It enhances user authentication with multi-factor and biometric verification, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. AI is also adept at identifying phishing and social engineering attempts, bolstering the ability of healthcare employees to recognize and thwart potential threats. 

5. Cybersecurity Awareness and Training: Healthcare staff must be educated and trained on cybersecurity best practices, such as phishing awareness, password hygiene, and social engineering. Regular training keeps staff up to date with evolving threats and security measures, enabling them to adapt to new challenges. Training can also extend to third-party vendors and partners to mitigate external risks, ensuring a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity that safeguards sensitive patient data.

Cybersecurity training also ensures compliance with data protection regulations and cultivates a cybersecurity culture within the organization, making security a collective responsibility. By minimizing human errors and raising awareness about the risks of insider threats, training programs help prevent data breaches and unauthorized access from within the organization.

Securing the Health Sector: Adapting to Evolving Cyber Threats

Healthcare cybersecurity presents complex and dynamic challenges that demand proactive measures. Shifting the mindset around security, utilizing tools and services to combat ransomware, implementing AI for protecting personal information, and conducting robust cybersecurity awareness training are key components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By collaborating with experts and leveraging advanced technologies, healthcare organizations can enhance their cybersecurity defenses and, in doing so, provide better and safer patient care. If your healthcare institution is interested in learning more about security solutions, visit www.connection.com/cybersecurity for additional resources to help you get started.

Stephen Nardone, CISSP, is Director of Security Practice at Connection with over 38 years of experience in both the government side and the commercial side of the security business.