Can Zero Trust Help Protect Health Care Security?

In recent years, the health care industry has become a popular target for bad actors seeking to wreak havoc and extort money in exchange for the return of illicitly acquired sensitive data.

According to the Journal of American Medical Associations, ransomware attacks on hospitals and health care systems in the U.S. more than doubled between 2016 and 2021.

Today’s organizational landscape is rife with increasingly advanced cyber threats that can cause a lot of damage to health care organizations. 

In response, developers present evolving approaches to cybersecurity that include deeper-level protections.

To meet the increased threat levels, organizations must implement a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity that can prevent even the most cunning attacks. Zero trust security is one such approach.

This article will discuss the features and benefits of zero trust security, and explore why it’s so essential for protecting organizations in the health care industry.

What is zero trust security?

Zero trust security is a blanket protective system that requires every single user and device attempting to access company networks to pass through multifactor security authentication gateways. 

As the name suggests, zero trust security takes a “guilty until proven innocent” approach to granting network access.

Every entry point is protected because each user who seeks access is assumed to be a bad actor unless they can sufficiently authenticate themselves.

That includes employees at all levels of the organization, as well as devices within or outside the geographical area of the company network. 

Zero trust security features

Zero trust security uses a multi-layered approach to provide maximum protection for organizations. Let’s look at some of the key features:

Identity and access management

A zero trust security plan uses multiple authentication factors, controls authorization methods, and implements other gateway techniques to securely verify each user. 

IAM (identity and access management) techniques ensure that each request for network access is thoroughly vetted, pre-authorized, and legitimate. Zero trust security acts as a sophisticated gatekeeper that will not award any trust until a user’s identity and qualifications have been sufficiently confirmed.

Network segmentation

Zero trust network security uses multiple forms of segmentation to contain any potential breaches.

Networks are segmented into smaller, more isolated networks. Each smaller network holds particular documents, data, and workloads. Since each of these smaller networks has its own entrance and exit access controls, any unauthorized network access would be contained to the data stored only in that segment. 

This makes it harder for bad actors to access the entire database of any network, and provides a narrower trail for security analysts to track.

The zero trust segmentation process is based on identity verification, which makes it easier to maintain across a broad network with many dynamic components and moving parts. 

Continuous monitoring

Zero trust security methods continuously verify all access attempts for every single resource. No credentials or devices are assumed to be trusted and secure, with the system instead verifying every entry point all the time. 

Zero trust relies on the motto “never trust, always verify” to constantly monitor access points across every facet of the organization network.

Since the verification monitoring and analysis process is happening in the background, it should not interrupt the workflow of individual employees and system users. 

Zero trust security benefits

Zero trust security methods offer several benefits in comparison with previous cybersecurity approaches: 

1. Enhanced visibility

Zero trust security enhances the visibility of all network traffic and entrance and exit behavior.

Because it provides continuous application and network monitoring, there is greater visibility across the entire spectrum of the organization network. 

Any errant behavior or indicators of unauthorized access will be quickly identified and rectified. 

2. Real-time analysis

Zero trust uses analytics tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to swiftly detect, process, and respond to any cybersecurity threats.

AI analytics tools can identify the presence of malware or bad actors in real time, helping organizations disable potential threats and provide advanced threat intelligence. 

3. Advanced control over user access

Zero trust security methods provide advanced controls over user access to organization networks by leveraging tools such as network segmentation and customizable access levels.

Controls in a zero trust system are not limited to one binary option, such as device vs. network access, but instead allow security experts to determine layered, sophisticated access points of control. 

4. Improved data protection

Zero trust policies improve data protection and thus bolster an organization’s overarching security position.

Only users and devices with the necessary authorization levels can access specific networks, documents, applications, and digital workspaces.

Zero trust policies include asset management, so specific endpoints have additional layers of security to protect sensitive data. 

5. Increased resilience in the face of attacks

The network segmentation of zero trust security means that even in the event of a cybersecurity breach, the access area is limited, which mitigates the damage from the outset.

In addition, zero trust security can minimize the financial consequences of a data breach and boost an organization’s overall resilience in the face of an attack. 

6. Reduced costs

Because zero trust security relies on automation, it creates a more efficient security system that frees up security analysts to focus on the nuanced threats that may arise.

AI automatically updates and patches the system, providing consistently advanced security without relying on company funds for human employees.

Meanwhile, security processing is performed more efficiently and at reduced rates, saving organizations money in the long run.

Zero trust in the health care industry

According to a Kaspersky study, 73% of health care providers rely on outdated IT systems that are often riddled with vulnerabilities and weak spots.

This means that these organizations are wide open for cyber attacks. Updating medical software and security systems is vital to protecting the health care sector and preventing further cybersecurity breaches. 

Zero trust security is a strong contender for protecting health care organizations because it covers every access point for the sensitive data stored within the system.

Treating every attempt at access as a potential threat means the data stored by the organization will be much more securely protected. 

As cyber attacks continue to target the health care sector, organizations will need to get rid of their legacy IT systems and approaches to cybersecurity.

Instead, zero trust security provides a robust, blanket layer of protection that can safeguard entire systems.

As more health care organizations adopt a zero trust security policy, the sector will be better protected from cyber criminals and ransomware attacks.