Senate addressing cybersecurity threats in healthcare

May 24, 2022

According to a release by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week held a hearing on how to strengthen cybersecurity in the healthcare and education sectors, from training and recruiting more cyber security experts to helping organizations share information.

In her opening statement, Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., noted that 70% of hospitals surveyed in 2020 reported facing a significant cybersecurity incident. 

“The fallout from these attacks can be devastating and wide-ranging,” she said. “Hospitals can get locked out of the electronic health records they need to understand a patient’s conditions, or software needed to schedule surgeries, track prescriptions, get lab results, and divert ambulances. These kinds of challenges don’t just cause major headaches, lawsuits, and expenses for hospitals. They put patients in danger. They undermine our national security. And in some cases they even cost lives.”

Testifying at the hearing were Denise Anderson, president and CEO of the Health Information Sharing & Analysis Center; Joshua Corman, founder of a volunteer cyber safety initiative; Amy McLaughlin, cybersecurity program director for the Consortium of School Networking; and Helen Norris, vice president and chief information officer for Chapman University.

Citing FBI reports that the health sector experienced at least 148 ransomware attacks last June to December, Anderson said threat actors have evolved their techniques over the past two years from simply asking for a payment to unlock files to blackmailing organizations with threatening to release records to the public. In addition to promoting awareness and best practices, she called for establishing a cybersecurity professional within the Department of Health and Human Services to act as a strong government liaison and advocate for the field.

John Riggi, AHA’s national advisor for cybersecurity and risk, said, “The AHA applauds the committee’s attention to the impact of cyberattacks on hospitals and appreciates the testimony of our colleague and partner Denise Anderson from the H-ISAC. The AHA has for years strongly advocated, including before the Senate, that ransomware attacks on hospitals disrupt and delay patient care delivery and risk patient safety. The AHA also works in close partnership with the H-ISAC to disseminate the latest technical threat intelligence, which can be found here.”

AHA release