With its treasure trove of sensitive information swirling inside vulnerable legacy software, the healthcare industry fits the profile of an almost textbook-perfect cyber attack target. This is why ransomware attacks are so popular within the healthcare sector. Threat actors have very little trouble getting into the industry’s network, and they know the data they compromise is too valuable to end up on the dark web.

An Attack Surface Management solution can help healthcare businesses rapidly improve their security posture to achieve data breach resilience, making it one of the best cybersecurity investments a healthcare entity can make - but only if an ASM product has the right features.

If you're in the healthcare industry and in the market for an attack surface management product, be sure to choose a solution with all of the key features outlined in this post to maximize the ROI of your new security tool.

Learn how UpGuard protects the healthcare industry from data breaches >

5 Key Features in an Ideal Healthcare Attack Surface Management Tool

The following key features map to the most critical requirements for securing the healthcare cyber attack surface against major cyber risks, including malware, ransomware, phishing, and, most importantly, data breaches.

Learn how to prevent data breaches with this free guide >

1. Asset Inventory Mapping

Manually inventorizing your digital assets is time-consuming and aimless. Even if your security teams somehow manage to map your entire asset network, they’ll constantly be playing catch up with your expanding attack surface, thanks to digital transformation. Despite its reputation for being excessively pragmatic on the tech innovation front, the healthcare industry has a fairly extensive attack surface - the sum of attack vectors (or potential cybercriminal access points) across its entire network of digital assets.

Some of the digital assets contributing to a healthcare entity’s attack surface include:

  1. Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems: These systems store and process highly sensitive patient information, including medical histories, treatment plans, medications, radiology images, diagnoses, etc. Because of the wealth of sensitive data EHRs store, they are critical security risks and likely targets in a cyber attack.
  2. Medical Imaging Devices: On-premise devices like MRI machines, X-ray machines, and CT scanners process sensitive imaging data, making them potential facilitators of data breaches.
  3. Third-Party Vendors: Service providers for healthcare SaaS products make up your external attack surface. Third-party vendors processing sensitive healthcare data are considered critical attack vectors. Even if a vendor doesn’t process sensitive information, they could still be manipulated into pathways leading to your sensitive data using cyber attack methods like supply chain attacks.
  4. APIs: Unsecure APIs associated with medical apps allow hackers to connect to sensitive application resources without a username or password. Such an attack method was used in the large-scale Optus data breach.
  5. Medical Devices: Medical devices, like infusion pumps, are becoming increasingly connected to the internet, which makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks. Even if a medical device can’t be used as a pathway to sensitive information, if it's an IoT, it could potentially be used in a type of devastating service-disrupting cyber attack known as a DDoS attack.
  6. Payment Systems: Hospital and medical clinic payment systems are linked to two categories of highly coveted data - financial and patient information.
  7. Appointment Scheduling Systems: If exploited, scheduling apps could act as pathways to sensitive data or give hackers sufficient network access to launch a ransomware attack.
  8. Pharmacy Management Systems: The solution process patient prescriptions, making them vulnerable targets of extortion attacks like ransomware.
  9. Email Systems: Email is the most popular medium for phishing attacks, the initial attack phase for almost all types of cyberattacks.
  10. Shadow IT: These devices are connected to a network without the permission of security teams, placing them outside of network security policies and their security controls. Employee mobile devices are amongst the most common Shadow IT endpoints creating critical security gaps.
  11. Cloud Storage: Cloud technology hosting sensitive data can be compromised if it contains vulnerabilities caused by cloud security misconfigurations.
  12. Websites and Portals: Any web login portals, whether for patients or medical staff, is a potential access point to a private network. Some portals can be manipulated to provide malicious access to sensitive backend databases if the portal isn’t secured against SQL injections.
Internet-facing digital assets are the most critical attack vectors.

Even though air-gapped or isolated networks are also vulnerable to cyberattacks, assets connected to the internet (internet-facing) are much easier to compromise, making them more critical cyber attack targets.

As mentioned earlier, the healthcare industry has also been influenced by the digital transformation revolution, meaning an increasing number of its assets are now internet-facing and, therefore, highly vulnerable to cybercriminal compromise.

The silver lining, however, to internet-facing assets is that they have an IP address, which not only makes them easier to discover but also makes discovery automation a possibility.

An ideal attack surface management solution should be capable of discovering all of the internet-facing digital assets in your organization’s attack surface; the more assets in the above list that can be detected, the better.

Learn how to choose a healthcare cyber risk remediation product >

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard streamlines asset discovery by using fingerprinting techniques, including active and passive DNS, certificates, and web archives, to surface any unknown assets in your IT ecosystem.

By allowing users to specify IP monitoring ranges, UpGuard automates asset discovery by instantly monitoring connected devices within specified ranges when they become active. This feature could also serve as an effective method for Shadow IT mitigation.

Attack surface monitoring range specification on the UpGuard platform.
Attack surface monitoring range specification on the UpGuard platform.

Experience UpGuard’s attack surface management features with this self-guided product tour >

2. Attack Surface Reduction

To align with best cybersecurity practices, your objective should be to keep your attack surface as small as possible. Not only does an excessive attack surface give hackers more exploitation options, it increases the weight of cyber threat management for already overwhelmed security teams, leaving fewer resources available for addressing sudden threat landscape developments, like zero days.

Attack surface reduction is the process of disconnecting and removing assets that don’t need to be connected to the internet. This effort should include external assets connecting to your network, such as remote work environments endpoints and third-party vendors.

Some examples of attack surface reduction opportunities include:

  • Unmaintained web pages - The login portals of these pages could be exploited to achieve sensitive database access in attack methods like SQL injections.
  • Legacy web server software - Any asset running legacy software sits outside of security patching processing, which almost guarantees that they contain some security vulnerability.

Besides culling internet-facing devices, attack surface reduction could include increasing the security (or hardening) of internet-facing devices to reduce the risk of their compromise. This effort could involve:

Learn more attack surface reduction examples >

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard’s attack surface management solution helps you quickly discover attack surface reduction opportunities by including common attack surface reduction candidates in its cyber risk discovery profile.

Attack vectors, like unmaintained web pages, commonly bloat healthcare attack surfaces, and a lack of awareness of these exposure leaves healthcare entities vulnerable to data breaches, despite having application security tools in place. With UpGuard, these critical attack vectors won’t sit outside your threat detection radar. You can detect and decommission these assets before cybercriminals discover and exploit them.

Watch the video to learn how UpGuard streamlines attack surface management.

Experience UpGuard’s attack surface management features with this self-guided product tour >

3. Continuous Attack Surface Monitoring

An ideal healthcare ASM should continuously monitor the health of your entire attack surface. This effort should be two-fold:

  • Continuously monitor for emerging security threats
  • Continuously monitor the efficacy of remediation efforts

To effectively track the health of your attack surface across these two avenues, threat exposure should be represented by a single quantified value, measuring changes in real time. In the cybersecurity industry, this is known as security ratings - unbiased measurements of an organization’s security posture based on a scoring system ranging from 0 to 950.

By demonstrating the impact of asset security risks on your security posture, security rating help you prioritize risks that will have the greatest benefits on your overall cyber threat resilience.

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard includes a security ratings feature allowing you to track the health of your security posture over time.

Security posture tracking on the UpGuard platform.
Security posture tracking on the UpGuard platform.

This tool can also estimate the impact of selected cybersecurity risks on your security posture, and the security postures of your third-party vendors, allowing you to focus remediation efforts on risks that will have the greatest positive impact.

Security ratings alone, however, do not provide sufficient insights into the health of your attack surface. UpGuard combines continuous monitoring with point-in-time risk assessments for the broadest and deepest degree of coverage of your attack surface.

risk assessments and attack surface monitoring creating real time awareness.

Start your free UpGuard trial >

4. External Attack Surface Management

Almost 60% of data breaches are caused by a compromised third-party vendor, so if you’re not monitoring your external attack surface, you’re back is turned to an entire continent of potential attack vectors.

An ideal ASM should be capable of monitoring the impact of internal and third-party vulnerabilities on your security posture. This is especially important for healthcare entities since they're likely to share sensitive patient information when outsourcing administrative processes.

Your sensitive data is vulnerable to internal and external security risks.
Your sensitive data is vulnerable to internal and external security risks.

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard’s attack surface monitoring capabilities extend to the third-party network to include vendor security posture tracking, vendor security risk detection, and even the detection of complex third-party cyber risks, like data leaks.

Watch the video below for an overview of UpGuard's data leak detection module.

Start your free UpGuard trial >

5. Integration with other Cyber Risk Management Strategies

Cybercriminals adopted a multi-dimensional approach when attempting data breaches. At a high level, they first identify your web-facing assets and then aim to learn and exploit their vulnerabilities. It doesn’t make sense to contend with a multi-dimensional adversary with a one-dimension solution. If your ASM tool is only capable of helping with asset discovery, it’s only addressing the first stage of this attack sequence.

two terms seperated by an arrow - identify web assets and exploit vulnerabilities

An ideal healthcare attack surface management product should be capable of addressing the second stage of this attack sequence with vulnerability management features. Combining supporting cybersecurity workflows into a single product will prevent the need to Frankenstein different solutions to form a single risk management framework, a poor practice causing excessive attack surface bloat.

How UpGuard Can Help

UpGuard addresses the complete risk management lifecycle for internal security risks and vendor risks. From attack surface monitoring to risk assessment and remediation management and even Vendor Risk Management, UpGuard establishes the framework for a complete cybersecurity program in one intuitive platform.

Learn how UpGuard protects the healthcare sector from data breaches >

Ready to see
UpGuard in action?