HAP Blog

3 Ways to Improve Your Cybersecurity during 2022

Make Cybersecurity your 2022 Health Technology Priority

January 20, 2022

Hospitals and health systems aren’t just responsible to care for patients. They’re also the caretakers of sensitive personal information.

If you’ve followed recent trends in health care information technology, you know about the looming threat of cyberattacks. Electronic health records, data servers, and network-connected tablets, smartphones, and remote medical devices all have become targets for attacks that can disrupt patient care and jeopardize sensitive information.

The rise of cyberattacks in health care may make you feel uneasy, but there are steps you can take to protect your organization. Recent advisories from the Department of Health and Human Services' Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center and other federal agencies have warned of the growing cybersecurity threat to health care and what you need to do to be prepared.

In health care, our pledge to “do no harm” extends beyond scheduled procedures; it also means protecting data and patient privacy from bad actors. During 2022, your organization needs to prioritize cybersecurity.

Here are three things you can do to get started.

Make a plan

Like most things in emergency management, getting ready for the unexpected begins in the planning phase.

Your organization should have strategies that address your needs across the spectrum. Think about what you’re doing to actively thwart cyberattacks and what you would do after they occur.

Some of the key questions you should address are:

  • Cyber incident response:  What are the reporting processes for personnel in response to a cyberattack? Your teams should have internal contact lists so they know where to go after a suspected incident
  • Resilience and continuity of operations:  Can you maintain the critical functions and operations if your systems are disrupted or need to be taken offline?
  • Surge support:  Is your staffing adequate to address an unexpected attack? Malicious attacks during off-hours can pose challenges when facilities are understaffed. Identify staffing strategies to meet the need

Your Cyber Posture

The federal government’s recent cybersecurity advisories highlight the importance of improving your “cyber posture.”

Improving your cyber posture is all about following the best practices to identify threats within your organization and bolstering your overall network security. These measures aren’t a guarantee against cyberattacks, but they are a strong start.

Here are a few things to consider to improve your organization’s cyber posture:

  • “Threat hunting:”  It can be difficult to trace abnormal activity across large systems of data, but network-monitoring tools can help. Users’ internet protocol (IP) addresses can often raise suspicions if they fall outside an expected geographic location or if users attempt to login from locations that are impossibly far apart
  • Patch management:  Check that your network is up to date. Prioritizing updates to software, operating systems, applications, and firmware on network assets ensures they are less vulnerable to attacks
  • Software:  Use antivirus/antimalware programs to conduct regular scans of your network
  • Passwords:  Require multi-factor authentication which offers another layer of protection. Strong password policies ensure passwords are not used across multiple accounts or stored in insecure locations

After a breach

If you detect a threat to your organization’s network, your next steps are critical to isolate and report the problem. The recent cybersecurity advisories recommend:

  • Immediately isolating affected systems
  • Securing backups and ensuring your backup data is offline and secure. Check that your backup data is free of malware
  • Collecting and reviewing relevant logs, data, and artifacts
  • Soliciting support from a third-party organization specializing in cybersecurity to resolve issues and ensure the threat has been resolved
  • Reporting the incident

The field of cybersecurity can be intimidating, particularly in a sprawling setting such as a hospital or health system that has so many potential access points for someone looking to cause harm. Acknowledging the challenge at hand is an important starting point to protect your facility, your staff, and your patients.

If your team is interested in learning more about the latest trends in cybersecurity and best practices, contact HAP’s emergency management team for more information. In addition, you can follow coverage from John Riggi, the American Hospital Association’s senior advisor for cybersecurity and risk, for recent developments in cybersecurity and health care.

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