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The migration to SaaS has resulted in the distribution of valuable data across a number of highly decentralized cloud applications. While the security impact of this shift can be felt across all sectors, it weighs particularly heavily on healthcare—an industry which has long been a primary target for cyberattacks.
Whether it’s a patient’s medical history or medication records, healthcare providers must ensure the integrity of patient data in the cloud. After all, protecting this information is essential for delivering precise and prompt care; without it, a patient’s life could be at risk.
In this blog, we’ll look at some of the distinct SaaS security challenges healthcare organizations likely contend with and explore how security teams can address these different areas.
Managing user access in healthcare is no easy feat, given the complex network of individuals involved. This challenge stems from having a diverse and evolving workforce of in-house providers, contractors, researchers, and collaborative partners, many of whom operate across multiple facilities. SaaS introduces an added layer of complexity, with data dispersed across disparate sources, making it difficult to pinpoint where sensitive data resides and who has access to it.
To address this, healthcare organizations should initiate an audit of user privileges and access rights. From there, they can limit administrative rights following the principle of least privilege (PoLP). Organizations can reinforce access control with real-time monitoring solutions that track user activity. This helps them detect suspicious access, respond to potential threats and minimize the impact of breaches while safeguarding sensitive information. Data classification also plays an important role here, allowing organizations to administer more stringent security measures for Protected Health Information (PHI), as an example, over administrative data. This approach enables teams to allocate resources more effectively and prioritize their efforts, especially in resource-constrained environments.
Healthcare organizations should continuously monitor third-party integrations. While these integrations enhance healthcare operations, they also introduce heightened risk factors, especially when dealing with sensitive data such as Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
To address these challenges, organizations can start by taking inventory of their integrations and the risks they pose. This includes examining their permissions, the scopes of their access, how they were connected in the first place, and several other factors. It’s equally important to monitor how your integrations behave–even trusted integrations–to identify the occurrence of possible compromises. Integration risk management solutions can help with all of these challenges. IRM solutions do this in two ways: first, by continuously monitoring the configuration of your organization’s SaaS applications, integrations, and activities, and second, by employing technical measures to detect, prevent, and automatically respond to incidents. Maintaining an inventory of integrations can also aid security teams in monitoring your organization’s application count, permissions, and configuration changes.
Exercises such as breach and attack simulations can also enhance your strategy and response to risk. This involves granting testers within an organization unrestricted access to the environment, allowing them to simulate the actions of a real adversary. While it may be concerning if testers gain access to sensitive data, it helps teams learn and enhance their security strategy – all aimed at preventing such occurrences in the real world.
To uphold stringent industry requirements, healthcare organizations should focus on continuous compliance. This is incredibly challenging in SaaS, where poor visibility often leads to non-compliant data storage practices, additional auditing and costly remediation. Organizations can tackle this by referencing frameworks aligned with regulations such as HIPAA, conducting regular risk assessments, and promptly addressing identified vulnerabilities. Organizations can streamline compliance monitoring, tracking, and reporting with advanced compliance management software and automation tools, ensuring real-time visibility into their compliance status. Continuous staff education and awareness programs can also keep employees informed as compliance requirements evolve.
Despite the complexity of SaaS security, healthcare organizations can tackle this by proactively addressing user access, third-party integrations and compliance requirements. This helps ensure the highest level of protection for sensitive data, allowing teams to focus on what matters: delivering high-quality patient care.