WatchGuard Blog

How to Strengthen Cybersecurity in the Healthcare Industry

Technology is a crucial part of today’s healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Advances in medical devices, data use, and interconnected systems have significantly improved patient care, reduced costs, and increased efficiency. However, as the sector’s reliance on technology grows, so does the risk of cyberattacks. Attacks on hospitals can have serious consequences, as threats can spread through the network and affect healthcare providers, pharmaceutical research partners, manufacturers, and patients.

In 2023, 60% of healthcare organizations were victims of ransomware attacks, according to a recent study. While this percentage is slightly lower than in previous years, the attacks perpetrated last year have been more damaging and impacted more people, as John Riggi, National Cybersecurity Advisor for the American Hospital Association, explains in an interview

A comprehensive cybersecurity approach is needed to ensure network security in the healthcare sector. When strengthening healthcare organizations’ security posture, it’s essential to gain full network visibility by implementing continuous monitoring tools to identify anomalies or potential threats immediately.

3 advantages of using a firewall to protect healthcare networks 

Firewalls function as the first digital protection barrier between valuable network data, such as protected health information (PHI), and cyber threats. This virtual barrier blocks access to data from unknown entities, all based on established configurations. It ensures a secure data flow, regulating incoming and outgoing data on the network. In addition to this key function, firewalls deliver key cybersecurity benefits for hospitals and healthcare centers: 

  • Ensuring regulatory compliance: 

    Firewalls are critical for complying with regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). However, they must be configured properly for them to be truly effective. Specific rules that allow only the necessary data traffic from authorized network addresses are needed for this purpose. Broad "permission" rules should be avoided, as they may allow unauthorized access to PHI data.

  • Protecting medical devices: 

    Due to the rise of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices, numerous medical devices are now interconnected, facilitating real-time monitoring and seamless data sharing. The downside of this new scenario is that it poses significant security risks. These can be countered with a firewall, which segments the network, creating independent subnets and controlling the traffic between them. This reduces the possibility of threats spreading, as a breach in one specific part will not necessarily affect the entire network. Combined with well-executed access control policies and active traffic monitoring, this provides greater control over the network, keeping it more secure. 

  • Improving network performance: 

    Besides enhancing security, firewalls optimize network performance. By managing traffic flow, they can prevent unnecessary bandwidth consumption, ensuring the proper functioning of critical medical applications. This helps optimize overall network efficiency by decreasing latency and improving response times.

Cybersecurity must be a priority for healthcare institutions; deploying a firewall is essential to protecting their networks. Shreveport-based health system Allegiance Health Management (AHMGT) has a clear view on this and deployed WatchGuard Firebox to manage unwanted network traffic more effectively at its hospitals. 

The teams responsible for security at these organizations do not always have the expertise or staff they need to address the full range of cyber needs. Enlisting the support of an MSP can be beneficial in these cases.

To learn more about protecting healthcare services, see this additional blog post: How can healthcare reinvent itself in the Cloud to prevent cyber threats? 

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