Inadequate Security Common Among Healthcare Cloud Services

Healthcare is moving increasingly to the cloud, but that doesn’t mean the deployments are always safe. In fact, 9 in 10 cloud services used in healthcare environments should be considered moderately or severely vulnerable.

The Increasing Migration to Cloud in Healthcare

A systematic review of more than four dozen data protection features, including encryption and multi-factor authentication (MFA), revealed startling vulnerabilities:

    • 77% of services are moderately vulnerable.

    • 13% are severely vulnerable.

Customers often rely on cloud providers to encrypt sensitive information and enable MFA. However, these mechanisms are not always mandated, leading to potential security oversights.

Much of the risk of cloud is associated with individual users. Cloud providers are typically expected to encrypt sensitive information and allow users access to 2FA, but they typically don’t demand that customers use all available safety mechanisms.

2FA is an extra security feature that many consumers and business users often avoid for the sake of efficiency. However, failing to protect each account with all mechanisms currently available can lead to disaster.

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. You just need to make sure that your users are educated, and PHI is properly protected within a HIPAA-compliant, healthcare-specific cloud.

The Rising Value of Healthcare Data

Beyond compliance, why do healthcare companies need to be aware of the risks of inadequately secure data? Well, unfortunately for those in healthcare IT, there is a target on the industry these days. Polls conducted by the Ponemon Institute each year revealed that the number of healthcare firms that said they were hacked at least once during the year rose from 1 out of 5 in 2009 to 2 out of 5 in 2013.

The rise was obviously dramatic between 2009 and 2013, but attacks continued to escalate last year. According to the research institute’s founder, Larry Ponemon, 2014 was a year of all-time highs both for breaches and for the total quantity of compromised patient files.

The hackers are going for the most valuable data. Amazingly, healthcare data now sells (exchanged on the black market) for 10 times the rate of credit card numbers.

A quick look at the numbers tells a story of the many cloud cybersecurity issues plaguing the healthcare industry.

  • Many services and tools are used to get jobs done: On average, healthcare organizations deploy 944 cloud services for various functions like data storage and specialized applications, plus 118 collaborative tools to ensure seamless communication for quality patient care.
  • This variety of services and tools creates exponentially more vulnerabilities: About 13.5% of services assessed are severely vulnerable, and 77% are moderately vulnerable. Only 9% of cloud services meet enterprise standards directly, necessitating thorough vetting and potential security enhancements for selection.
  • Multiple work devices add complexity: With over half of the healthcare workforce using more than two work devices, effective mobile device management (MDM) solutions are crucial for securing all endpoints.
  • Breaches and cyberattacks aren’t slowing down: Data breaches are a significant concern, with an average of 63 quarterly incidents per sector involving mass data removal, emphasizing the need for strict data protection protocols. Moreover, around 12.4 GB of data is sent to highly vulnerable apps every quarter, highlighting the urgency for continuous monitoring and data safeguarding within healthcare organizations. Cyber threats are constant, with 73% of hacking attempts occurring at night, indicating the importance of active cybersecurity measures for real-time threat detection and prevention.

Based on those rising numbers, here are three broad elements of healthcare securityall of which can be confidently addressed with the right cloud partner:

  • The offensive maneuvering of criminals is outpacing the defensive tactics of many healthcare companies. Part of the reason is because those wanting to infiltrate must only find one weakness, and tech professionals are required to safeguard the complete enterprise.
  • “Cyber experts as a resource are in high demand ‒ and dwindling supply,” wrote Dan Munro in ForbesBrandVoice. “This doesn’t bode well for healthcare generally ‒ which has tended to downplay the importance of IT infrastructure and typically under-funds security specifically.”
  • What became particularly evident last year was the incredibly organized nature of attacks. Our image of hacking is of a single person, typically wearing a ski mask or constricted hoodie, doing damage with their PC (as indicated by “hacker” images on search engines and stock photo sites). But more and more, that’s not an accurate portrayal. Rather than being a single person, similar to a burglar, hackers are now considered “advanced persistent threats” by the security community, ranging from international cybercrime rings to state-sponsored cybersoldiers (North Korea, China, Russia, etc.).

Understanding Healthcare Cloud Security Risks and Best Practices

  • Conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to secure access to cloud services.
  • Encrypt data both in transit and at rest to protect it from unauthorized access.
  • Establish strict access controls to limit who can access sensitive information.
  • Regularly update and patch systems to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Engage in continuous monitoring and logging of cloud activities to detect and respond to threats promptly.

People Also Ask: 

What are Healthcare Cloud Security Services?

Healthcare cloud security services are specialized solutions designed to protect the sensitive data and digital infrastructure of healthcare organizations utilizing cloud technologies. These services ensure that patient information, operational data, and other critical assets are securely stored, managed, and transmitted over cloud platforms.

How do Healthcare Cloud Security Services Ensure HIPAA Compliance?

Healthcare cloud security services play a crucial role in ensuring that healthcare organizations remain compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  • Data Encryption: Encrypting protected health information (PHI) both in transit and at rest to safeguard against unauthorized access.
  • Access Control: Implementing strict user authentication and authorization protocols to ensure that only authorized personnel can access PHI.
  • Audit Controls: Maintaining detailed logs and records of access and operations involving PHI. This enables healthcare providers to conduct audits and monitor compliance with HIPAA regulations.
  • Risk Analysis and Management: Conducting regular risk assessments to identify potential threats to PHI and implementing measures to mitigate those risks.
  • Incident Response Plans: Establishing and testing procedures for responding to data breaches or other security incidents, including notification protocols as required by HIPAA.
  • Employee Training: Providing ongoing education and training to staff on HIPAA requirements and best practices for maintaining data security and privacy.

What are the Top Challenges in Healthcare Cloud Security?

Despite the benefits of cloud adoption, healthcare organizations face several significant challenges in securing their cloud environments:

  • Evolving Threat Landscape: Cyber threats are continuously evolving, with increasingly sophisticated tactics used by attackers. This makes it challenging to stay ahead of potential breaches, particularly with advanced persistent threats (APTs).
  • Regulatory Compliance: Adhering to complex regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, demands a meticulous approach to data protection and documentation, which can be resource-intensive.
  • Resource Constraints: Many healthcare organizations struggle with limited IT budgets and a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, making it difficult to implement and maintain robust security measures.
  • Data Breaches: The healthcare industry is a prime target for cybercriminals due to the high value of medical records. Ensuring that patient data is protected from breaches is a constant challenge.
  • Third-Party Risks: Relying on third-party vendors for cloud services introduces additional risks. It is essential to ensure that these vendors comply with security standards and do not introduce vulnerabilities.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Integrating cloud security solutions with existing on-premise systems and ensuring compatibility across various platforms and devices can be complex and time-consuming.

What specific steps can healthcare organizations take to ensure their cloud services are properly protected?

Healthcare organizations need to conduct routine risk assessments to pinpoint vulnerabilities and introduce multi-factor authentication for secure access. Employ encryption for data in transit and at rest. Establish stringent access controls, keep systems updated, and patch them regularly. Continuous monitoring and logging of cloud activities are vital for prompt threat detection and response. Collaborating with healthcare security-focused cloud service providers ensures compliance with regulations like HIPAA.

How can healthcare organizations effectively educate their staff on cloud security best practices?

Healthcare organizations can establish a robust training program by incorporating regular, mandatory sessions on cloud security best practices. These sessions should emphasize the significance of strong passwords, detecting phishing attempts, and handling sensitive data correctly. Using real-life examples and case studies can enhance the training’s relevance. Furthermore, fostering a culture of security awareness through consistent communications like newsletters and reminders can strengthen the importance of security practices. Implementing simulated phishing attacks to assess and enhance staff responses to potential threats is also valuable.

What are the costs associated with implementing comprehensive cloud security measures in the healthcare industry?

Implementing robust cloud security measures can vary in cost based on the organization’s size and cloud infrastructure complexity. Expenses typically encompass security software, IT staff training or hiring, and possibly consulting services. Additional costs may arise from compliance audits, ongoing monitoring, and incident response planning. Though these investments can be significant, they are vital for safeguarding sensitive healthcare data and mitigating the risk of data breaches and non-compliance fines.

Defending Against The Advanced Persistent Threat

When advanced persistent threats infiltrate a healthcare provider, “attackers access unprotected systems and capture information over an extended period,” Symantec described. “They may also install malware to secretly acquire data or disrupt operations.”

In these scenarios, the cost is astronomical both in financial terms, and for patient safety.

The solution to the advanced persistent threat is choosing a partner with industry-leading healthcare-optimized security and compliance: ClearDATA.

Healthcare Cloud Security, Compliance & Operations

It’s what we do at ClearDATA – so you don’t have to.

Healthcare Cloud Security, Compliance & Operations  It’s what we do at ClearDATA – so you don’t have to. 

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