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Congress report finds healthcare sector ‘uniquely vulnerable’ to cyberattacks

Sen. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) released a report Thursday outlining cybersecurity threats in the health care sector and ways the federal government can improve security standards in the industry.

The report, which is divided into three sections, recommends that the federal government improve the nation’s cybersecurity risk posture in the health care sector, help the private sector mitigate cyber threats, and help health care providers respond to and recover from cyber attacks.

“Unfortunately, the healthcare sector is uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks and the transition to better cybersecurity has been painfully slow and inadequate,” Warner said in the report.

“The federal government and the health sector must find a balanced approach to confront the serious threats, as partners with shared responsibilities,” he added.

In the first section, Warner recommends that the federal government improve its cybersecurity leadership within the health care sector and protect health care research and development from cyberattacks.

Warner also suggested that the government mandate a regular process to improve Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) regulations to address cyber threats. HIPPA is a federal law that requires standards to protect sensitive patient data from disclosure.

The second section dives into ways the federal government can help the private sector reduce cyber risks. The report recommends that the government incentivize and require all healthcare organizations to adopt minimum cybersecurity hygiene practices to mitigate threats, especially those that could endanger patients’ health and safety.

The third area focuses on policies that can help the healthcare sector better respond and recover from cyber attacks. The report recommends that healthcare organizations have an emergency plan in place and train hospital staff to respond to a cyber attack.

It also suggested that healthcare organizations establish a cyber disaster relief program to help them recover more quickly after a cyber incident.

Warner also proposed establishing a federal reinsurance program to help insurance companies cover some of the costs associated with cyberattacks.

The federal government has considered whether to help private insurance companies cover cyber-related costs.

In September, the Treasury Department and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) asked cyber insurance industry stakeholders to consider whether there is a need for a federal insurance response to “catastrophic” cyber incidents.

This came as private insurance companies significantly increased premiums for companies seeking cyber coverage.

Warner is the latest lawmaker to express concern about cybersecurity threats in the healthcare sector.

In August, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging the agency to better protect the healthcare and public health sectors from the growing number of cyber threats targeting the industry.

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