Here’s how lawmakers are tackling rising cyber threats in the health sector

Congress is increasingly sounding the alarm about cyber threats targeting the healthcare industry.

Some congressional lawmakers stepped up efforts to protect the industry by introducing policies and recommendations aimed at addressing and mitigating such threats amid the rise in cyberattacks.

“Over the past decade, the American public has witnessed increasingly brazen and devastating attacks on the healthcare industry that compromise sensitive personal information, delay treatment and ultimately lead to increased pain and death,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Va) said. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a report released this week, before outlining recommendations on ways the federal government can improve security standards in the industry to combat these attacks.

Divided into three parts, the report recommends that the federal government improve the country’s cybersecurity risk stance in the health sector, help the private sector mitigate cyber threats, and help healthcare providers respond to and recover from cyberattacks.

“The Senator’s report addresses vulnerabilities that hospitals have worked tirelessly to mitigate for a long time,” said Christopher Plummer, a senior cybersecurity architect at Dartmouth Health.

“It gives a lot of hope to see a confirmation of this just in writing and from this level of government,” Plummer added.

Plummer said the growing challenges of cybersecurity insurance and the workforce shortage of cyberworkers in industries are among several issues in the report that resonate with him.

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He added that the resources needed by hospitals to combat threats will vary greatly depending on the size of the company and its cyber capabilities.

“What we’re going to do as a nation with this report is the next critical move,” Plummer said. Said.

“Points of discussion are on the table – now is the time to address these challenges concretely,” he added.

The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks as it stores sensitive data and manages the safety and health of patients.

Experts said the industry is a prime target for cybercriminals, as some hospitals are willing to pay ransoms to save lives and recover stolen data. In some cases it can be a matter of life and death, they said.

They also said that hackers are after sensitive information about medical research and technology.

An August report from Kroll, an investigation and risk advisory firm, found that the number of attacks on healthcare facilities in the second quarter of this year increased by 90 percent compared to the first quarter.

The report also found that ransomware is the most common type of cyberattack used against the healthcare industry, followed closely by email security.

Warner also noted in the report that cyberattacks targeting healthcare providers reached an all-time high in 2021, noting a study that found that more than 45 million people were affected by such attacks.

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Warner, the last of a series of MPss who raised the alarm and took steps to fix the problem in recent months.

Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) also expressed their concerns.

In August, lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to better protect healthcare and the public health sector from the growing number of cyber threats targeting the industry.

“As cyber threats grow exponentially, we must prioritize addressing issues. [health care and public health] “King and Gallagher, who are co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission,” wrote.

Ransomware attacks [health care and public health] “The industry has skyrocketed in the past two years as opportunistic criminals recognize that hospitals can pay quickly to solve problems and protect patient safety.”

In the letter, lawmakers requested an emergency meeting with health officials under the Biden administration for an update on their current cyber stance. They also said they were concerned about HHS’s lack of timely sharing of information about ongoing threats with industry partners.

Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) is another lawmaker pushing the federal government to do more to protect critical infrastructure, including the healthcare industry, from cyberattacks.

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In March, he and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a bipartisan bill that would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to collaborate with HHS to improve cybersecurity standards in the healthcare and public health sector.

The legislation will also require both institutions to share information with the private sector to increase cyber resilience.

While lawmakers are taking these measures, federal agencies are monitoring the industry and alerting the public to the current cyber threats facing the industry.

Over the summer, US federal agencies issued a warning that a ransomware known as “Maui” was targeting US healthcare and public health sector organizations. The ransomware is linked to the North Korean government.

Agencies have also discouraged healthcare providers from paying ransom because doing so does not guarantee the recovery of stolen data. Instead, they recommended that healthcare organizations adopt cybersecurity best practices and report ransomware attacks to law enforcement.

“When it comes to cyberattacks affecting patient care, the question is no longer whether or when they happen, but how often and how disastrous the results are,” Warner said in the report.

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