By Tapan Mehta, Global Healthcare Solutions Executive at Palo Alto Networks\n\nOver the last decade, healthcare has offered new lines of services such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring, expanded accessibility and ease for both patients and healthcare professionals, and supported innovations that measurably improve patient outcomes. It\u2019s a profound digital transformation.\n\nToday\u2019s digital healthcare organizations rely on data and IT in ways they never have before. Healthcare delivery has expanded beyond the four walls of a traditional acute care setting to ambulatory to the nascent hospital-at-home settings. IT continues to play a pivotal role in this ever-expanding healthcare delivery model and is tasked to not only drive successful business outcomes but also do so in a secure manner whereby patient privacy and data security are not compromised.\n\nThe pandemic further reinforced and accelerated the digitization of healthcare services. When COVID hit, within a matter of days, healthcare organizations had to pivot and create an environment whereby not only their employees could work remotely but also find ways to still deliver healthcare services in a virtual setting. They created new environments for operation and care \u2014 but also significantly expanded the surface that needed to be secured.\n\nThe top challenges of securing healthcare now\n\nHealthcare\u2019s digital transformation has created so many new opportunities \u2014 not only for patients and care providers but also for bad actors. Today, healthcare leaders need to think about three things:\n\n1. Ransomware: As healthcare operations have become digitized, attackers have taken notice. The healthcare industry is now a top target for ransomware attacks. When successful, those attacks can impact operations in ways that are life-threatening, beyond simply harming the business. In 2021, hackers published extensive patient information from US hospital chains in Florida and Texas. Confidential patient data was posted to the dark web, including files with personally identifiable information as well as tens of thousands of scanned diagnostic results and letters to insurers.\n\n2. IoT\/IoMT: Another challenge the industry faces is the abundance of devices within healthcare settings that are connected to the organization\u2019s network. The majority of these connected medical devices, such as patient monitors and infusion pumps, have been around for a long time. In fact, there can be multiple generations of devices present across healthcare environments including hospitals, acute care, and outpatient facilities.\n\nThis abundance of older devices creates visibility challenges as organizations attempt to identify all their connected devices. Security challenges are then multiplied by the need to update devices for potential security vulnerabilities, even when many devices have minimal security capabilities. These vulnerabilities make medical IoT devices perfect entry points for malware or ransomware attacks. The real risk is that when an attacker breaks into one of these devices, they can move laterally within a healthcare organization\u2019s network, which can have catastrophic impacts. The FBI issued its own alert that unpatched medical devices were a growing target for cyberattacks, adversely impacting healthcare operational functions, patient safety, data confidentiality, and data integrity.\n\n3. Hybrid environments: With many healthcare staff now having the ability to work both on-site as well as remotely, there are new security challenges that need to be solved. Whether working from home or anywhere else, healthcare employees need to have the same level of security as they do within the four walls of a medical facility. They also need the same level of bandwidth and low latency for accessing patient records in order to provide an appropriate level of care.\n\nThe new fundamentals for securing healthcare\n\nWith all the security challenges that healthcare organizations face, what has become abundantly clear is that they must adopt a proactive programmatic approach to delivering comprehensive security throughout the continuum of care. What that really means is making sure that organizations have the right infrastructure and that the applications that are running in healthcare environments have the necessary security capabilities. It\u2019s also about making sure that the users who are accessing information while providing care are protected and secured.\n\nSecurity should never be an afterthought. As we continue to come out of the pandemic, moving toward some new norm, security should not be viewed as a cost center but more of a critical business partner within the healthcare organization.\n\n\n\nTo learn more about Palo Alto Networks healthcare solutions, please visit our site.\n\nAbout the author:\n\nTapan Mehta is the Global Healthcare Solutions Executive at Palo Alto Networks. In his role, Tapan is accountable for the overall global strategy, solution development, thought leadership, business development efforts, and go-to-market execution. He's a graduate of the University of Michigan where he studied electrical engineering with a minor in business administration. He has spoken at several healthcare conferences and is an active member in the global healthcare community. Tapan has authored multiple articles\/papers\/blogs in industry-leading publications. More information can be found on LinkedIn.