Managed Security Services (MSS) are essential for healthcare providers in the United States. Without it, it becomes very difficult to comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements that demand protection of sensitive patient data known as personal health information (PHI). MSS providers help healthcare providers protect patient data, maintain compliance, and minimize the risk of security breaches.
If you work in the healthcare industry and your title starts with a “C” - Chief Information Officer, Chief Security Officer, Chief Technology Officer, or a Cloud Architect - this article clarifies some pieces of the PHI puzzle, offering some best practices as you search for a suitable partner in your MSS journey.
What’s Your HIPAA Obligation?
You already know that the core foundation of HIPAA compliance centers around protected health information (PHI). And you also know what constitutes PHI and that you are obligated to have physical, digital, and process measures to protect patient data. But what happens when it goes awry?
The Nightmare Scenario
Here is something you might not know.
Small employers are not immune from security breaches. In 2021, the United State’s Department of Health and Human Services received 63,571 reports of breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals, affecting nearly 320,000 people.
State-based breakdowns show security compromises among companies that might not be household names, but the impact of the breaches were no less significant:
- California: Regal Medical Group, Inc., in February 2023, affecting 3,300,638
- Texas: Baptist Medical Center, in June 2022, affecting 1,608,549
- New York: Professional Business Systems, Inc., d/b/a Practicefirst Medical Management Solutions, in July 2021, affecting 1,210,688
- Arizona: Yuma Regional Medical Center, in June 2022, affecting 783,145
- Illinois: DuPage Medical Group, Ltd., in August 2021, affecting 655,384
- New Jersey: CentraState Healthcare System, Inc., in February 2023, affecting 617,901
These, and many more cases, bring into full relief the need for vigilance and stronger cybersecurity measures.
What Does an MSS Do?
You are probably convinced that you need a MSS, but you are not quite sure an MSS does for you. An MSS can have quite a long list of service options. It is important for you to know your needs and determine which service options most suit your business environment.
Here are some of the services a MSS offers:
- Security risk assessments: Conducting comprehensive assessments of your IT infrastructure and identifying potential vulnerabilities and risks.
- Network security monitoring: Monitoring your network for any suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access or data breaches.
- Threat detection and response: Detecting and responding to security threats, including malware and ransomware attacks, in real-time.
- Security incident response: Developing and implementing incident response plans in the event of a breach.
- Compliance management: Ensuring that you are compliant with industry regulations and preparing for audits.
- Employee training: Training on security best practices and how to identify potential security threats.
- Cybersecurity consulting: Offering guidance on cybersecurity strategy and developing a comprehensive security plan.
- Data backup and recovery: Providing data backup and recovery services in case of an outage or disaster.
- Access management: Managing access to your sensitive patient data, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access it.
- Patch management: Ensuring that your software and systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited.
What Am I Looking For in an MSS Partner?
MSS can give you a laundry list of service options, but you know your needs best. Keep these issues in mind as you start your MSS search:
- Experience: Look for vendors with experience in the healthcare industry. The regulatory framework for healthcare is so complex, and the risk of a breach is so severe, you should always ask for an MSS provider’s experience in the healthcare industry, including the metrics by which they measure their own success.
- References: Ask your potential MSS vendor for references in the healthcare industry. If a vendor claims to have deep experience but is not prepared to offer references - reconsider. Startups in the industry are worth looking into because they are agile and innovative, even if they might not have as many references as a larger more established company.
- Knowledgeable: Come up with a list of questions so you can flesh out whether the vendor is up-to-date on current guidelines and industry trends. This might sound similar to experience, but it isn’t. Experience reflects what a company has done in the past. Knowledge reflects what they know today.
An MSS Checklist
If you are a cloud architect, CTO, or CIO in the healthcare industry, this checklist might help you prepare your RFP. The answers you get will often help you flesh out the right partner for you.
- What services is the MSS offering?
- What types of security controls will they implement?
- What areas of your cloud infrastructure will be covered
- What threats are they monitoring for?
- Are they compliant with industry regulations (HIPAA, SOC 2, and HiTrust)
- Are they following best practices in securing PHI?I
- How do they prove they are compliant and following best practices?
Monitoring and detection:
- How is the MSS monitoring events?
- What kind of threats are they looking for (malware, ransomware, and unauthorized access)
- What is the detection process?
- What are the steps they take in real-time to respond and prevent in the future? .
- How will the MSS notify you of a security incident?
- How often will they keep you in the loop?
- What is a typical response plan and how would they alter it for your needs?
- Who is responsible for managing an incident?
- How is communication handled?
Risk assessment and management:
- How is the MSS conducting risk assessments of your cloud infrastructure?
- How often are they conducting these risk assessments?
- What kind of vulnerabilities are they looking for?
- How will they mitigate them before the infrastructure is exploited?
- How will the MSS address data privacy?
- How do they handle encryption?
Why Work with an AWS MSS Provider
Working with an AWS MSS provider can be beneficial for healthcare organizations because you effectively kill two birds with one stone. An AWS certified MSS provider leverages the expertise of security professionals who specialize in securing cloud environments while also ensuring that you remain compliant with industry regulations and best practices.
How Ibexlabs Works for You
Ibexlabs is a certified AWS partner with competencies in AWS Security and AWS Level 1 Managed Security Services, as well as an AWS Well-Architected Partner. We apply AWS best practices to design and build cloud solutions that meet the highest standards of governance, security, and compliance.
We can help you retain and gain new customer - scalability will follow as you build your reputation as a secure and entrusted provider. .
How We Work
Our process is a straightforward but uncompromising multi-pronged approach. Let’s start with our cloud security framework. Ibexlabs will work with you to make sure that your cloud meets these crucial infrastructural requirements:
- Authentication: Multi-factor authentication is the cornerstone of cloud security, requiring two or more forms of identification. We will work with you to ensure that this extra layer of security is beyond just a password, which can be easily compromised.
- Access Control: Role-based access control (RBAC) and Identity Access Management regulates access to resources based on the roles and responsibilities of individual users. Users’ roles control access to sensitive patient data that is stored and processed in the cloud. It’s not always easy to identify users and their roles. We will work with you to ensure that, for example, physicians have the access they need to patient medical records, while receptionists have access only to appointment scheduling information.
- User Behavior Analytics: UBA detects anomalous behavior and potential security threats through collection, analysis, and correlation of data from multiple sources, including network traffic, system logs, and user activity logs. UBA tools build a profile of "normal" user behavior and helps us detect deviations from that profile.
- Logging and Reporting: This is a critical function for healthcare providers since it records events and activities that occur within your network, such as user login attempts, system changes, and network traffic. Log data is stored in a centralized location and can be used to identify security incidents, troubleshoot issues, and allows you to meet regulatory HIPAA compliance requirements.
- Asset and Data Classification: Identification and categorization of your assets means you can prioritize security efforts and allocate resources effectively. We work with you to identify and categorize your digital assets and data based on their value, sensitivity, and criticality.
- Encryption: As the word implies, we make sure that sensitive data is encrypted - unreadable - without a decryption key, protecting it from unauthorized access whether that data is in transfer or is just sitting in the cloud. Encryption is used to protect electronic health records (EHRs), from being accessed by unauthorized users. This is particularly important in cases where patient data is transmitted or stored in electronic form, as these forms of data can be more easily compromised than paper records.
- Logical Segmentation: Segmentation involves the separation of your network into smaller, isolated segments to reduce the potential impact of a security breach. We work with you to design and implement network segmentation strategies that keep certain types of data separated from other data, reducing the surface attack area.
We partner with global industry leaders like Ermetic, ZScaler, Cloud Storage Security to find security gaps and remediate them as soon as possible, and we have extensive experience of implementing cloud architecture that enables healthcare companies to achieve compliance faster.
We deliver innovation, deep expertise, and an agile framework to meet our customers’ acute business and technical demands with a holistic approach to enterprise compliance:
- Security Assessment: Working together, we assess the context of your business environment, regulatory landscape, and industry requirements.
- Secure Landing Zone: Employing the most strict zero-trust IAM rules that ensure only the most minimal and privileged access needed.
- Monitor and Logging: Continual monitoring, testing, and audits are built into ongoing operations.
- Continuous Risk Assessment: Security analytics and best practices deployed regularly to continuously detect, assess, and respond to threats.
- Build Governance: Develop compliance and governance benchmarks so you set the highest bar for certifications and accreditations.
Contact Ibexlabs today so we can chart your compliance course, guarantee your patient’s data, and solidify your reputation as a trusted healthcare provider.