Blog Post May 9, 2024

Cybersecurity for Healthcare 2024: Mitigation Strategies

Industry Spotlight: Healthcare

In our quarterly industry spotlight series, we highlight the evolving threats faced by various industries and provide recommendations to enhance their security posture. Today, we shift our focus to the healthcare sector, a critical industry that faces unique challenges in safeguarding sensitive patient data and maintaining crucial healthcare operations. 

Mitigating cybersecurity risks is critical in the healthcare industry due to the highly sensitive nature of patient information stored within Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and the important role these systems play in patient care. Healthcare organizations are prime targets for cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities for financial gain or disrupt essential services.  

Recent cyberattacks on healthcare organizations, like the Change Healthcare cyberattack, have demonstrated the growing sophistication and persistence of threat actors targeting this sector. Ransomware attacks, such as those leveraging Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) and employing double extortion techniques, have caused significant disruptions and financial losses for healthcare providers. In response to these threats, organizations recognize the need to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses. 

Top Threat: Ransomware

Adlumin previously detailed significant trends and developments in the threats, vulnerabilities, and cyberattacks faced by the healthcare industry in the U.S observed from January to March 2024 by Adlumin’s Threat Research Team, in Cybersecurity for Healthcare: 2024 Threat Insights. 

Healthcare Threat Highlights: 

  • Ransomware was identified as a top threat to the healthcare industry in the U.S. in Q1 2024 
  • Surge in ransomware attacks targeting healthcare organizations 
  • Increase in double extortion tactics by ransomware gangs like AlphV/BlackCat and BlackSuit 
  • Disruption of patient care operations and regulatory risks under HIPAA regulations 
  • Growing use of Living-Off-the-Land techniques by attackers to evade detection 
  • Emphasis on heightened security measures and preparedness to mitigate ransomware threats 

Shifting from the identification of ransomware as the top threat in the healthcare industry, Adlumin’s Threat Research Team has developed crucial mitigation strategies and recommendations to help healthcare organizations better defend against these malicious attacks. Let’s explore key strategies recommended by Adlumin’s experts to enhance cybersecurity resilience in the healthcare sector. 

Mitigation Strategies & Adlumin Recommendations 

Cybercriminals are continuously evolving their strategies, highlighting the importance for entities within the healthcare sector to remain alert and proactive. Key developments in their methodologies include: 

  1. Practice Good Cyber Hygiene
    • Stay Informed of the Threat Landscape: Leverage resources from CISA, HHS 405(d), and the H-ISAC to enhance organization’s resilience against such formidable cyber threats and complex threat landscape.
    • Regular Software Updates and Patch Management: Ensure that all software, especially operating systems, and applications, are kept up to date with the latest patches to close security vulnerabilities.
    • Endpoint Protection Solutions: Deploy advanced endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) that include antivirus, antimalware, and EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response).
    • Network Segmentation: Segment networks to limit the spread of ransomware. Critical systems and sensitive data should reside in separate segments with strict access controls.
  2. Enhanced Detection and Response Capabilities
    • Security Monitoring and Anomaly Detection: Utilize security information and event management (SIEM) systems, along with AI and machine learning-based anomaly detection to identify unusual activity patterns indicative of a breach.
    • Integration of Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Systems: One of the key advantages of MDR systems is the ability to integrate and analyze security data from a wide range of sources, including endpoint systems, endpoint detection and response products, network devices, and more. This integration allows for a more comprehensive view of the security landscape, enabling the identification of complex attack patterns and subtle indicators of compromise that might be missed when these systems operate in isolation.
    • Implement a Zero Trust Architecture: Assume that threats can come from anywhere and verify every access request as if it originates from an open network. This involves strict identity verification, least privilege access, and micro-segmentation.
    • Incident Response Planning: Develop, maintain, and regularly test an incident response plan that includes procedures for ransomware attacks. This plan should outline roles, responsibilities, communication strategies, and recovery processes.
  3. Data Protection and Backup Strategies
    • Regular, Secure Backups: Maintain regular backups of critical data and systems, storing them in an isolated environment that is not accessible from the network where the primary data resides.
    • Immutable Backup Solutions: Use immutable backups where possible, ensuring that data cannot be altered or deleted after it’s written.
    • Encryption of Sensitive Data: Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit to protect it from unauthorized access and reduce the impact of data theft.
    • Immutable Log Storage: Logs should be backed up and stored in a separate immutable and guaranteed system to avoid tampering and assure integrity.
  4. User Training and Awareness
    • Security Awareness Training: Conduct regular training sessions for all staff members on cybersecurity best practices, phishing awareness, and procedures for reporting suspicious activities.
    • Simulated Phishing Exercises: Carry out simulated phishing attacks to assess staff vigilance and reinforce training on identifying and responding to phishing attempts.
  5. Regulatory Compliance and Reporting
    • HIPAA Compliance: Ensure that all cybersecurity measures comply with HIPAA regulations to protect patient health information (PHI).
    • Breach Notification Procedures: Develop clear procedures for breach notification in compliance with regulatory requirements, ensuring timely communication with affected individuals and regulatory bodies.
  6. Special Attention to Emerging Threats
    • Monitor Emerging Ransomware Tactics: Stay informed about new ransomware tactics, such as double extortion and supply chain attacks, adapting defense mechanisms accordingly.
    • valuate Security of Third-Party Vendors: Conduct thorough security assessments of third-party vendors and insist on compliance with stringent security standards to mitigate supply chain risks.
    • Pay Special Attention to Electronic Health Records (EHR) Systems: EHR’s like Epic present an enticing target to attackers while holding critically sensitive patient health data and enabling healthcare operations. Strategies should be in place for isolating EHR enabling systems from other machines and for dealing with potential lengthy EHR system outages.

Eliminate Risks from One Centralized Location 

For healthcare organizations looking to amplify their cybersecurity resilience against the pervasive threat of ransomware and other evolving cyber threats, the implementation of a comprehensive and integrated security strategy is paramount. By leveraging a centralized Security Operations Platform that incorporates all the recommended mitigation strategies and practices, organizations can streamline their cybersecurity efforts and enhance their ability to detect, respond to, and mitigate potential threats effectively.  

Additionally, partnering with Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services can provide organizations with the expertise, tools, and continuous monitoring needed to mitigate risks, optimize threat response, and ensure a proactive defense against cyber threats. By adopting this holistic approach, healthcare organizations can strengthen their cybersecurity posture, safeguard patient data, and protect critical infrastructure in the face of threats. 

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Adlumin’s Threat Research Team is the innovator behind Adlumin’s comprehensive threat hunting to improve visibility, reduce complexity, and manage risk. The team proactively searches for cyber threats lurking undetected in your network environment. They dig deep to identify non-remediated threats and other malicious activities to reinforce security defenses.