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How Zero Trust Protects Patient Data Against the Most Serious Security Threats

How Zero Trust Protects Patient Data Against the Most Serious Security Threats

Health Systems Respond to New and More Sophisticated Threats

The need for security measures such as zero trust is being driven by cybersecurity threats that grow more numerous and dangerous every year. Cybercriminals are well funded and organized, enabling them to carry out attacks that are increasingly complex and detailed. For example, social engineering attacks identify a specific target and leverage what’s important to that target to take a specific action, such as clicking a link or opening an attachment to an email.

The success of attacks such as ransomware has led to cybercrime becoming a viable business model. Further, the speed at which cybercriminals can exploit new vulnerabilities is faster than ever. For example, within hours of reports in December 2021 of a security flaw in the Log4j2 Java logging library, security professionals observed more than 100 attempts to exploit the vulnerability every minute.

The cybersecurity challenge that organizations face is exacerbated by state-sponsored cyberattacks. Government-backed hackers are well trained, well funded and coordinated in their attempts to compromise data and applications. Further, the use of cloud-based tools such as Ransomware as a Service increases the ease with which cybercriminals can carry out their attacks while also increasing the computing power at their disposal and making it easier for them to cover their tracks.

To address these threats, healthcare organizations need to be better than ever at cyberdefense. Zero trust has become a valuable part of these defenses.

Simple Steps to Protect Patient Data

As healthcare organizations look to implement zero trust, they can take some simple steps to get started. First, an assessment of an organization’s current security posture can help executives and IT professionals understand where vulnerabilities may exist, what the organization’s priorities are and what security controls are in place.

“Assessment is critical,” Bell says. “You need to know where the organization is as far as security and where data is, then you can create a roadmap toward implementing the pillars of a zero-trust model.”

Next, identity is a foundational element of zero-trust initiatives. If an organization is able to authenticate a user’s identity to a high degree of confidence, it can make better decisions about how it implements other security controls. To build this capability, many organizations implement multifactor authentication tools, as well as security controls that provide visibility into user behavior.

READ MORE: Find out why healthcare organizations should consider zero trust.

“Organizations should have a clear picture of who has access to what data at any given time,” Weiss says. “This is a major challenge.”

A zero-trust approach provides flexibility to help healthcare organizations deal with the rapid evolution of cybersecurity threats. While zero-trust principles focus on enforcing security policies around services and applications, the approach also relies on measures such as encryption and microsegmentation to protect networks. In a security landscape where unauthorized access to some assets is almost inevitable, these controls are essential to prevent cybercriminals from moving easily through an organization’s network.

“It’s impossible to foresee every threat,” Weiss says. “Zero trust is important because it helps prevent lateral movement by threats.”