HHS opens health cybersecurity coordination center

The Department of Health and Human Services this week officially opened a cybersecurity center designed to support and improve the cyber defense of the U.S. healthcare industry.

The Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center—located at HHS headquarters in Washington—is meant to strengthen coordination and information sharing within the industry and provide timely and actionable information to healthcare organizations as well as develop strategic partnerships, according to the agency.

Specifically, the center’s role is to work with health sector stakeholders—including practitioners, organizations and cybersecurity information sharing organizations—to understand current and emerging cyber threats, identify hacker patterns and trends and coordinate with healthcare organizations so they can protect their assets and patients.

“HHS is proud to work with the health community to better protect Americans’ health data and confidential information,” says Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan in a written statement, emphasizing the importance of stakeholder engagement as part of the agency’s cybersecurity strategy.

The Trump administration has designated the Department of Homeland Security as the lead agency to combat cyber threats and develop preventive strategies across all industries, while HHS has been assigned the responsibility of focusing cybersecurity support on information sharing within the public-private healthcare sector.

HHS HQ

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“We believe that when a risk is shared across sectors, the only way to manage that risk successfully is to manage it collectively,” says Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS. “We know that the majority of the cybersecurity attacks that occurred over the past year could have been prevented with quality and timely information—and the heightened importance of sharing information cannot be stressed enough.”

From 2017 to 2018, the healthcare sector reported more than 400 major data breaches, according to HHS. To counter hacker activities, the center is charged with coordinating with stakeholders across the industry, and reporting to DHS on cyber threats, profiles and preventive strategies.

Manfra added that the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center is a “vital capability for the early detection and coordination of information between the private sector and the federal government, and with cyber professionals across the federal government.”

Earlier this month, DHS and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they signed a memorandum of agreement to work more closely to address growing threats to medical device cybersecurity that could impact patient safety.

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