This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to examples of cloud computing in healthcare

Healthcare cloud security benefits from advanced protection

Although healthcare organizations have wavered on trusting their data to cloud service providers, there are areas where the cloud excels in security.

When it comes to the growing computing needs of healthcare, the cloud is on the short list of services that can address needs like infrastructure scalability. Hospital CIOs are well aware that building data centers within their facilities and managing them may not be the most cost-effective way to deliver services to their end users and support their systems. Despite the low cost of entry when it comes to cloud computing, as well as scalability and speed of implementation, IT executives are still not fully comfortable with healthcare cloud security. While these concerns can be costly, today's service providers may be better equipped than the hospitals themselves when it comes to securing health data.

In health IT, security is top of mind and one of the highest priorities. This is the result of cybercriminals actively targeting healthcare organizations to steal their data and hold it hostage. The ongoing data breaches seen in the U.S. and globally have made the shift to cloud services even more questionable since it would possibly put an organization at a much higher risk. Cloud service providers are reminding their current and prospective clients that their environments are far more secure and protected than most hospitals systems. Here are four reasons cloud service providers can offer better healthcare cloud security.

Cloud providers can invest more in security

When Microsoft published its yearly earnings report, the company's vice president of security Bharat Shah announced that they are investing over $1 billion in security development and R&D. This is not unique to Microsoft as other cloud providers also invest heavily into building strong security tools to protect their environment and their clients' environments from attackers.

When it comes to hospitals, it would be naïve to think they are able to meet the dollar investments that are being made by these hosting providers. With these types of expenses, cloud service provider security tools will be much more effective at stopping attackers than a hospital with basic protections.

Meeting multiple compliance requirements

Another area in which service providers tend to invest more for health is around meeting regulatory compliance requirements. These include numerous attestation and certification requirements from the government and specific verticals that vendors must meet in order to do business with some entities. To meet these requirements, service providers must undergo rigorous testing and adopt specific healthcare cloud security practices that ensure the protection of the data they are hosting.

For most hospitals, there is usually a small set of certifications or attestations they are required to meet. As a result, they undergo a limited number of technology and security assessments, making cloud service providers more secure and protected.

Advanced monitoring, detection and protection tools

Fighting cyberattacks can be a daunting task for hospitals, and many are still using tools that are limited to attempting to block known viruses from infecting systems and giving remote control to attackers. Unfortunately, many of today's attacks go undetected as hackers and cybercriminals are evading most known detection tools that are widely used in healthcare today. Cloud service providers are known for using advanced threat protection technology to monitor and block any suspicious activities using machine learning.

In addition to these advanced tools, most cloud providers are also able to block traffic or further investigate traffic from suspicious IPs or sources right away. Many of these advanced early detection tools are becoming commercially available to hospitals, and some have already adopted advanced threat protection and intelligent detection tools.

Data recovery and system failure protections

Another aspect of the cloud that makes it an ideal environment to safeguard data is its ability to back up and recover systems if they are infected. When configured correctly, this capability enables IT to recover systems quickly if they have been affected by ransomware. Cloud backup and recovery can also prevent corruptions of critical operating system files that can cripple the systems where EHR or billing systems reside. While not directly related to healthcare cloud security, this approach addresses several regulatory compliance requirements in which sensitive data must be backed up.

Even with the most secure environments and top-rated security tools, there have been a number of well-known data breaches and attacks that were the result of stolen credentials. This simply means an intruder can pass legitimately through all the security systems without raising any flags and still manage to steal sensitive data. This highlights that even with the most robust protections available, there are still a number of critical steps that hospital IT must consider as part of their overall healthcare cloud security strategy. Those factors will help ensure that even when the cloud is used to host the data, a healthcare organization can be certain its data is well-protected.

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