How to Build a Healthcare Cybersecurity Assessment Plan

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It’s no secret that healthcare facilities store data in large volumes. Sensitive customer data like payment information make hospitals and clinics easy targets for cybercrime. As a healthcare provider, it’s your job to protect private information. To bolster security, you’ve probably considered a cybersecurity assessment to mitigate and identify the risks of an attack.

A cybersecurity assessment evaluates all company technological assets, such as devices and networks, and determines your business’s ability to protect against cyber threats.

It’s in your organization’s best interest to perform one of these assessments. Where does your  security posture stand? Read along to learn how to perform an assessment and identify areas for improvement that enhance your organization’s overall security.


Why Conduct a Healthcare Cybersecurity Assessment?

Identifying potential security risks, even something as innocuous as a mobile device used in patient care, helps you stay on top of sensitive data and: 

  • Protect data: Take steps to mitigate and prevent potential cyber attacks and enforce data protection.
  • Maintain business continuity: Cyber attacks can disrupt business operations, from interrupting patient care to compromising data security. Performing a cybersecurity risk assessment regularly can help identify and address vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of disruption.
  • Protect your reputation: A breach can devastate a company’s reputation. Particularly so in healthcare, where patient trust is paramount. Practices in the U.S. have experienced significant data breaches, resulting in substantial reputational damages.
    Demonstrating a commitment to cybersecurity through regular assessments can help build trust—on both a staff and patient level.
  • Enhance your security posture: Identifying and mitigating the risks is everyone’s responsibility. Identifying gaps in security awareness training can help strengthen your team’s overall defense against common attacks such as phishing scams.


Get ahead of the potential cybersecurity threats with these blogs: 


Who Should Perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

A team with IT security and healthcare executive leaders typically conducts cybersecurity assessments.

The team should have expertise in healthcare technology, compliance regulations, and industry standards like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a common set of requirements for how organizations store and transmit payment information.

Internal IT staff may provide extensive insight into your organization’s networks. Yet, they may not have the expertise to identify all vulnerabilities and assess overall network security.

Likewise, smaller clinics without dedicated IT staff may struggle to protect important assets. In both cases, facilities can benefit from outsourcing to a third-party IT provider as a cost-effective solution.


Have you considered…Network Security Assessment
Source: HealthTechZone, HITInfrastructure, and Keysight Technologies


Step-by-Step Guide to a Healthcare Cybersecurity Assessment

Ready to take the first steps in the first of your cybersecurity assessments? Follow this guide:


1: Identify Assets

First, create an inventory of all physical and virtual assets attackers could compromise. To compile this list, you must understand:

  • How data flows into your organization
  • Where data is stored
  • Who has access to the data

Assets include:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Data
  • Interfaces
  • End-users
  • Personnel
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Communication infrastructure
  • Intellectual property

To avoid missing assets, ask the following questions:

  • What kinds of information are departments collecting?
  • From where are they collecting it?
  • Where do they send information?
  • Where are they storing information?
  • Which external vendors do departments use?

Assets shared with 3rd party vendors are often overlooked and are the largest contributor to healthcare security breaches.


2: Classify Assets by Value and Risk

No system is 100% secure from attackers. Therefore, you must identify urgent information security risks and prioritize the protection of your most critical assets.

To determine asset value, ask:

  • Are there penalties or impacts on profit for exposing or losing this information?
  • How valuable is this information to a competitor?
  • Can we easily recreate this information, and at what cost?
  • What would be the reputational damage of a data leak?
  • How would losing this data impact day-to-day business operations?

Classify each business asset as either critical, major, or minor.

Discuss resource allocation based on asset classifications and regularly review and update them as asset value and risk level change over time.

IT Security Assessment


3: Identify Vulnerabilities and Determine Attack Likelihood


Now brainstorm all scenarios where a cybercriminal could attack your assets. Remember to include physical vulnerabilities such as natural disasters and their potential impact.

To consider asset vulnerability, ask:

  • Who has access to the assets?
  • How is authentication managed?
  • Which devices access the assets?
  • How do remote workers access assets?
  • Which networks and databases are involved?
  • Which servers handle the assets?

Summarize this information into simple scenarios and outline their potential impact. Doing so makes it easier for all stakeholders to understand the risks they face concerning key business objectives.

Aligning business objectives with cybersecurity is key in prioritizing your organization’s overall security. 


4: Analyze and Develop an IT Security Assessment Plan

Once the C-suite understands what’s at risk, security teams can identify appropriate measures and best practices to address the vulnerabilities.

Reach consensus on corrective action toward each threat:

  • Avoid: Completely eliminate the risk by taking action.
  • Mitigate: Take action to reduce the risk and impact.
  • Transfer: Move the risk to a third party or avoid action altogether.

Then, prioritize corrective actions as:


5: Implement Security Controls After Network Security Assessment

Controls are the mechanisms you have in place to prevent losses.

Security controls are:

  • Technical (i.e. multi-factor authentication)
  • Physical (i.e. locks, keycodes)
  • Administrative (i.e. confidentiality integrity)

Carry out cybersecurity assessments on an ongoing basis so you can implement new controls as technology and cyber threats evolve.


6: Document Results in a Security Assessment Report

A security assessment report documents asset value, vulnerabilities, potential risks, incident likelihood, incident impact, and the controls in place.

It helps leadership make cybersecurity decisions on security:

  • Budget
  • Policies
  • Protocols
  • Response plans

Regularly review and update the report to ensure management has an up-to-date account of its cyber risks.

You may choose to create a risk scenario spreadsheet or matrix with the following factors:

  • Asset
  • Asset value
  • Threat identification date
  • Security controls in place
  • Current risk level
  • Response plan
  • Control progress status
  • Risk owner


7: Continually Monitor and Review Risk Assessment Process

As bad actors keep changing tactics, your organization needs to adjust its security policies. 

Maintain a risk management program that continuously monitors your IT environment for potential threats. Plan routine structures for updating the response plans.

By documenting your assessment, you have a framework for future assessments that you can work from and optimize.


Simplify Your Cybersecurity Assessments

Getting your organization’s cybersecurity up to par is a significant undertaking. Assessments completed regularly prevent incidents from occurring. Streamline your time and defense by partnering with a third-party IT provider like ISOwire.

We’re not just cybersecurity experts—we know healthcare! 

Partner with a team that understands patient flows and healthcare technology stacks. We tailor our service to meet the unique requirements of healthcare facilities, keeping HIPAA compliance at the forefront.

Book a no-obligation call to tell us about your setup.