Microsoft offers low-cost security services to rural hospitals – Fierce healthcare

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Hospitals are increasingly under attack from cybercriminals, with the healthcare sector reporting more ransomware attacks than any other critical infrastructure sector in 2023, according to FBI data.

Cyberattacks involving ransomware against the healthcare sector were up nearly 130% last year, data from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shows.

The roughly 1,800 rural community hospitals across the U.S. are among the most vulnerable to ransomware attacks because they often lack IT security resources and cybersecurity-trained staff. 

Often, these hospitals are the only healthcare option for many miles in the communities they serve.

Microsoft rolled out a new cybersecurity program designed to help rural hospitals boost their cyber defenses. The tech giant says it will deliver free and low-cost technology services for these hospitals, along with free training and support, the company announced Monday.

The company said it is working with the White House, the American Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association on the rollout, adoption and effectiveness of the program.

“Healthcare should be available no matter where you call home, and the rise in cyberattacks threatens the viability of rural hospitals and impact communities across the U.S.,” said Justin Spelhaug, corporate vice president, Microsoft Philanthropies in a statement. “Microsoft is committed to delivering vital technology security and support at a time when these rural hospitals need them most.”

For rural emergency hospitals and critical access hospitals, Microsoft will provide nonprofit pricing and discounts for its security products optimized for smaller organizations, providing up to a 75% discount, the company said.

And for some larger rural hospitals already using eligible Microsoft solutions, the company will be providing its most advanced security suite at no cost for one year. As part of the new program, the company is also providing Windows 10 security updates to participating rural hospitals for at least one year at no additional cost.

Microsoft will also provide free cybersecurity assessments through Microsoft and its trusted partners to evaluate risks and gaps and offer free cybersecurity training to staff in rural hospitals to help them better manage the day-to-day security of their systems.

“Rural hospitals face a unique challenge in cybersecurity, balancing limited resources with the increasing sophistication of cyberthreats, which puts patient data and critical healthcare infrastructure at risk,” said Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Association in a statement. “This important partnership with Microsoft will help ensure that rural hospitals are prepared in the future to meet this rising threat in small rural facilities.”

“Cyberattacks against the U.S. healthcare systems rose 130% in 2023, forcing hospitals to cancel procedures and impacting Americans’ access to critical care. Rural hospitals are particularly hard hit as they are often the sole source of care for the communities they serve and lack trained cyber staff and modern cyber defenses,” said Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisory for Cyber and Emerging Technologies in a statement. “President Biden is committed to every American having access to the care they need, and effective cybersecurity is a part of that. So, we’re excited to work with Microsoft to launch cybersecurity programs that will provide training, advice and technology to help America’s rural hospitals be safe online.”

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