June 11, 2024

Tech giants announce plans to bolster rural hospital cybersecurity

Editor's Note

Microsoft and Google announced they will offer free or discounted cybersecurity services to rural hospitals in the U.S. to help protect against cyberattacks, CNN reported on June 10.

According to the article, Microsoft will provide free security updates, assessments, and staff training, while Google will offer free cybersecurity advice and start a pilot program to tailor its services to rural hospitals. This initiative, prompted by private discussions with the White House National Security Council, aims to address the vulnerabilities of the roughly 1,800 rural community hospitals, which often lack adequate cybersecurity resources. These hospitals are particularly susceptible to ransomware attacks that can disrupt patient care and endanger lives. The Biden administration is also working on setting minimum cybersecurity requirements for US hospitals, though this proposal faces opposition from the American Hospital Association.

Ransomware attacks on the US healthcare sector increased by 128% in 2023, CNN reports. Recent attacks have caused significant disruptions, such as a February attack on a health insurance billing firm that led to UnitedHealth Group paying a $22 million ransom. Another attack in May, this time on Ascension, forced nurses to manually enter prescription information, putting patients at risk. Despite crackdowns by the FBI and international allies, ransomware remains a significant threat, partly because many attackers operate with impunity from Russia. Hospitals often pay ransoms to quickly restore patient services, which perpetuates further attacks.

 

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