Protecting Critical Infrastructure With Secure File Sharing: Healthcare

Protecting Critical Infrastructure With Secure File Sharing: Healthcare

Critical infrastructure refers to the systems, services, and networks that are essential to the functioning of a society. These include energy, water, transportation, communication systems, and healthcare, among others. Protecting these infrastructures against cyberattacks is of utmost importance to ensure the security and well-being of the citizens of a country. One way to protect critical infrastructure is by using secure file sharing.

What Is Secure File Sharing?

Secure file sharing is a technology solution that provides a secure way for individuals and organizations to share confidential information. It involves the use of encryption, access controls, and other security features to protect files from unauthorized access and cyber threats. In the healthcare industry, secure file sharing is crucial to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks and meet regulatory requirements.

Understanding Critical Healthcare Infrastructure

The healthcare infrastructure in the United States consists of various components, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, and research facilities, among others. These components are interconnected and rely on information technology systems and networks to provide quality care to patients. These systems and networks are used to store and manage patient records, monitor patients’ vital signs, schedule appointments and tests, and communicate between healthcare providers and patients. Electronic medical records (EMRs) systems are a prime example of information technology systems in healthcare. EMRs allow healthcare providers to access a patient’s medical records from a centralized system, making it easier to diagnose and treat patients. X-rays, CT scans, EKG monitors, and other diagnostic machines are also integrated into the healthcare network to provide real-time results and treatment plans. However, these systems and networks are at high risk of cyberattacks, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals.

The healthcare infrastructure is critical to the well-being of individuals and the society at large, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals. Cyberattacks on healthcare infrastructure can result in the loss of sensitive patient information, ransomware attacks, and disruption of critical services. The loss of sensitive patient information, ransomware attacks, and disruption of critical services can lead to severe consequences, including loss of life.

Potential Loss of Life Due to Cyberattacks

Imagine a major hospital hit by a cyberattack, disrupting its IT infrastructure. Patient records cannot be accessed, including allergies, prescriptions, doctors’ notes, and diagnoses, leading to confusion and delays in treatment plans. New patients cannot be admitted, and those who require emergency care must be diverted to another hospital, causing critical delays in treatment. In the worst-case scenario, patients may lose their lives due to a delayed diagnosis or inadequate care.

Security Challenges in Critical Healthcare Infrastructure

The healthcare industry faces several security challenges that make it vulnerable to cyberattacks. For instance, the industry relies heavily on legacy systems that are outdated and vulnerable to cyber threats. Additionally, healthcare organizations collect and store large volumes of sensitive patient information, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals.

Some of the major types of cybersecurity threats facing healthcare infrastructure include ransomware attacks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, phishing attacks, and malware attacks. To mitigate these threats, secure file sharing is necessary to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical information, wherever it’s stored and especially whenever it’s accessed or shared.

Protecting Critical Healthcare Infrastructure Against Cyberattacks

To protect healthcare infrastructure against cyberattacks, several regulatory requirements have been put in place. The two primary types of cyberattacks in healthcare infrastructure include:

  • Ransomware that locks staff out of critically important systems until they pay a ransom
  • Protected health information (PHI) theft that can be sold to commit identity theft and insurance fraud

Protecting patient privacy inevitably requires protecting systems that process, store, and share PHI. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are some of the major regulatory requirements for healthcare infrastructure.

These regulations require healthcare providers to implement security measures to protect sensitive patient information, including electronic medical records. Secure file sharing can help healthcare providers meet these regulatory requirements by providing a secure way to share and store confidential information. In other words, protecting PHI (and therefore demonstrating compliance with HIPAA, HITECH, GDPR, etc.) often means controlling, monitoring, and tracking access to healthcare IT systems and applications.


Benefits of Secure File Sharing in Critical Healthcare Infrastructure

Secure file sharing can also improve communication between healthcare providers, enabling them to collaborate more effectively. Physicians can share patient information such as protected health information (PHI) securely with other healthcare professionals to provide better care to patients. For instance, Indiana University Health implemented a secure file sharing solution that provides its doctors and staff with a secure way to transfer and share patient information and collaborate more effectively.

Secure file sharing allows IU Health physicians to share PHI securely with other healthcare professionals, enabling them to provide better care to patients. The healthcare providers are able to access patient information quickly and easily, improving the efficiency of their workflows. Additionally, the secure file sharing solution helps IU Health meet regulatory requirements, ensuring that patient information is protected, and prevents costly fines and legal action.

Best Practices for Secure File Sharing in Critical Healthcare Infrastructure

To ensure the security of sensitive patient information, healthcare providers must follow best practices for secure file sharing. Here are a few examples.

1. Implement Role-based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC is an access control practice that allows only authorized personnel to access important files. It restricts access to sensitive data based on the job level of the user. This ensures that only privileged users have access to confidential information.

2. Use Encryption to Confine PHI Access to Authorized Personnel

Encryption is a method of securing data by converting it into a code that only authorized users can access. It is important for healthcare organizations to use strong encryption algorithms when sharing files to prevent unauthorized access, especially when transferring files over the internet, and for regulatory compliance. For instance, HIPAA requires encryption of protected health information (PHI) and electronic PHI (ePHI) of patients when the data is at rest, meaning when the data is stored on a disk, server, USB drive, etc.

3. Use Secure File Transfer Protocols When Sharing PHI

Healthcare organizations should ensure that file sharing and file transfers are done using secure protocols such as HTTPS, SFTP, FTPS, and SSL. These protocols ensure that data is transmitted securely and protected from hackers.

4. Provide Staff Training to Ensure Proper Handling of PHI

Employees need to be trained on how to handle sensitive data securely. They should understand the importance of secure file sharing and data handling. Training should also include how to identify and report suspicious activity. Employee security awareness training is important for employees to recognize potential security threats for an organization’s physical and digital assets. Security is not one single department’s responsibility but rather every employee of an organization’s responsibility.

5. Use Multi-factor Authentication to Protect PHI

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security measure that requires users to provide at least two forms of identification to access data. This can include a password and a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition. MFA can prevent unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised.

6. Regularly Update Software

Healthcare organizations should regularly update their software to protect against vulnerabilities and ensure they have the latest security measures in place. This includes patching, updating antivirus programs, and keeping firewalls up to date to prevent malware attacks. When software reaches end of life (EOL), it means the software will no longer be supported by the developer and there will be no more updates. Without updates and bug fixes, this software becomes vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals.

Healthcare organizations should ensure that security is a top priority when sharing sensitive files. By implementing these best practices, they can minimize the risk of data breaches and keep patient information safe.

7. Use Data Loss Prevention (DLP) to Prevent PHI Leaks

DLP solutions can prevent data leakage by monitoring and controlling the transfer of sensitive data. It can detect and block unauthorized access or transfer of sensitive data, preventing data breaches. Healthcare organizations should consider implementing DLP solutions to ensure that all file sharing is secure and compliant with regulatory requirements. A good DLP solution includes centralized management, policy creation, and enforcement workflow, all focused on monitoring and protecting content and data, including data on the move through secure file sharing.

Common File Sharing Solutions Used in Healthcare

Critical healthcare infrastructure typically involves file sharing solutions and, ideally, secure file sharing solutions. There are several file sharing solutions commonly used in healthcare infrastructure, including Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Citrix ShareFile. These solutions provide various features and benefits, depending on the healthcare provider’s needs and requirements.

1. Box

Box is a secure file sharing solution that is compliant with strict regulatory requirements in the healthcare industry. It offers features like two-factor authentication, granular permissions, advanced encryption, and audit trails. Box also provides healthcare organizations with the ability to collaborate on patient care plans, securely share sensitive information with other providers, and manage important documents from a secure platform.

2. Microsoft OneDrive for Business

Microsoft OneDrive for Business is a secure file storage and sharing platform developed specifically for enterprises, including healthcare organizations. It is integrated with Office 365, allowing users to access and share files from any device. It also offers a range of security features such as two-factor authentication, advanced audit logs, granular permissions, remote device wiping, and more.

3. Dropbox Business

Dropbox Business offers two-factor authentication, advanced audit logging, granular permissions, and a host of other security features. Files are securely stored in the cloud, allowing access from anywhere, anytime. Teams can easily share files with internal and external users while maintaining security and control. The platform is intuitive and easy to set up, making it ideal for healthcare organizations of all sizes. It is also highly secure, with two-factor authentication and encryption at rest.

4. Citrix ShareFile

Citrix ShareFile is an enterprise-grade file sharing and storage platform developed specifically for healthcare organizations. It offers two-factor authentication, advanced audit logging, granular permissions, remote device wiping, and a host of other features. It also provides encryption at rest and supports a range of file types.

5. Google Drive Enterprise

Google Drive Enterprise is another cloud-based file sharing solution developed specifically to meet the needs of healthcare organizations. This platform also offers two-factor authentication, advanced audit logging, granular permissions, remote device wiping, and a host of other features. It also comes with Google Suite, which includes storage, word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software.

6. Kiteworks

Kiteworks ensures secure file sharing and collaboration across multiple devices, platforms, and users. It allows healthcare organizations to share PHI securely, protecting patient privacy and ensuring high levels of protection against data breaches and cyberattacks. The Kiteworks platform is equipped with a range of advanced features, such as file activity monitoring and logging, one-click HIPAA and GDPR compliance reports, and end-to-end encryption, which ensures that sensitive content remains protected at all times.

Lastly, Kiteworks is highly scalable and customizable, which enables healthcare organizations to tailor the solution to their specific needs, without compromising the security of their content.

Implementing Secure File Sharing Into Critical Healthcare Infrastructure

Implementing a secure file sharing solution into critical healthcare infrastructure involves several steps, including assessing the healthcare organization’s security needs, selecting a secure file sharing solution, and training employees on how to use the solution properly.

It is essential to involve all relevant stakeholders in the implementation process, including IT staff, healthcare providers like doctors and nurses, and finally support staff who handle sensitive patient information. This ensures that all individuals understand the importance of secure file sharing and their role in protecting sensitive patient information.

Challenges and considerations for implementing a secure file sharing solution into a critical healthcare infrastructure include ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, integrating secure file sharing solutions with existing IT systems, and ensuring that employees are trained on how to use the solution securely.

Kiteworks Secure File Sharing Helps Healthcare Organizations Secure PHI and Protect Critical Infrastructure

The Kiteworks Private Content Network provides healthcare organizations a secure environment for exchanging PHI and other sensitive content between users, organizations, and systems. When healthcare organizations use Kiteworks to share PHI with business associates and other trusted partners, they protect PHI, demonstrate compliance with HIPAA, and mitigate the risk of a data breach or compliance violation.

Kiteworks provides a robust antivirus (AV) capability and integrates with advanced threat protection (ATP) solutions that together are crucial in safeguarding healthcare infrastructure from malware and ransomware attacks. Kiteworks scans incoming files for malicious code that can compromise PHI. Kiteworks’ secure email also mitigates the risk of phishing attacks by only allowing messages from preapproved third parties.

Kiteworks offers a self-contained, preconfigured hardened virtual appliance, that significantly shrinks the attack surface for all communication channels. Kiteworks also offers several secure deployment options, including on-premises, private cloud, hybrid cloud, hosted, and FedRAMP virtual private cloud. This allows healthcare organizations to choose the most suitable deployment option based on their specific needs and requirements.

Another important feature of Kiteworks is its comprehensive audit logging, which tracks all file activity and enables administrators to monitor, track, and record who sends which file to whom. This helps to enforce data governance policies and industry regulations related to patient confidentiality.

Kiteworks enables granular access permissions to sensitive content, ensuring that only authorized users have access to confidential information. This further strengthens the security of patient data and helps to prevent unauthorized access.

To learn more about Kiteworks and how it helps protect critical healthcare infrastructure, schedule a custom demo today.

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