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As hospital ransomware threats rise, cloud is one, but not only, option

Ransomware attacks on hospitals garner media attention and create headaches for health IT pros. The cloud offers potential answers, but it may not be better than on-premises defenses.

In light of scary stories about hospital ransomware shakedowns -- and organizations finding themselves in hot water as their data is encrypted and yet at times lost -- many healthcare IT executives are under pressure to take appropriate steps to stay ahead of this ever increasing threat. 

Some technology consultants and vendors have suggested that shifting to the cloud will mitigate the risks associated with these crippling system infections. But is moving a system to the cloud really the right choice?

The answer is complicated. The reality is that the term "cloud" means different things to various people. But in general, shifting systems to the cloud does not eliminate the risks completely and is only capable of potentially reducing a few dangers in some capacity.

Email monitoring is front-line fortification

The areas in which the cloud can help eliminate risks associated with hospital ransomware are email services and email scanning services. Such software is capable of monitoring and detecting possible messages that contain the infection as an attachment or email messages that have a link within the body to a site that hosts the ransomware. 

Other services in the cloud that can benefit health organizations by reducing direct access to files and folders come in the form of online enterprise content management platforms. Documentation collaboration products and online file repositories have the ability to quickly restore affected files or block some of the ransomware behavior.

In general, shifting systems to the cloud does not eliminate the risks completely.

But ultimately, when considering infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in the cloud, it still leaves the organization just as vulnerable as if the systems were hosted on-premises or in a private data center. Cloud providers do not manage the security of their client's internal systems themselves. While they have protections against hackers, when a healthcare tenant has servers in the cloud, it still remains IT's responsibility to take the appropriate security measures to protect the technical environment.

Cloud-based recovery highlights efficiency

Many cloud providers offer quick and easy methods to revert or recover data in case of a mass file encryption. This benefit is the result of efficient backup capabilities available with an IaaS. In such situations, IT may face less complexity when workers need to restore systems in a hosted environment with assistance from the cloud provider. 

Fortunately, more security vendors offer comprehensive products that target hospital ransomware threats. These vendors have security suites that can be deployed to local or cloud-based servers to help recover or quarantine any system that might become infected. 

Cloud or no cloud, health IT systems must be appropriately protected from this serious threat. Although some security tools can help address the technical protections, there is a need to also ensure users are aware and educated on how to help prevent these infections on the front line.

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