Government needs to help rural hospitals battle ransomware, IT security experts say

Rural hospitals need more government funding to deal with the increase in healthcare ransomware attacks and to hire more cybersecurity professionals, IT security leaders told Congress, CyberScoop reported March 16.

"We ... saw cybercriminals shift their focus to small and rural hospitals with this group lagging behind in strengthening their defenses," Kate Pierce, senior virtual information security officer at cyber company Fortified Health Security, told the Senate committee March 16, according to the story. "Our rural hospitals are facing unprecedented budget constraints with up to 30 percent or more in the red, with the public health emergency scheduled to end in May."

Ms. Pierce is the former longtime CIO and chief information security officer of Newport, Vt.-based North Country Hospital.

But it's not just small hospitals dealing with these cyberattacks, of course. Large health systems getting bigger through mergers and acquisitions are vulnerable because of all the different vendors and incompatible networks under their umbrellas, said Greg Garcia, executive director of the Healthcare and Public Health Sector Coordinating Council, CyberScoop reported.

The increase in remote patient monitoring, wearable devices and telehealth, as well as the shift to the cloud, also open up new avenues for hackers, Mr. Garcia testified, according to the story. While there's a "glut of information security best practices out there, we need to pick one because there is a lot of confusion," he said.

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