Cybersecurity has never been held at a higher value. On the one hand, businesses everywhere have come to understand the threat of security breaches.
This education has come mainly from splashy headlines detailing security failures at their worst. When major companies like Yahoo or Marriot experience breaches, it’s a message to the rest of the world that everyone is vulnerable.
The stakes are high for hospitals. Not only do they have to keep their internal information secure, but HIPAA legally requires them to follow specifically outlined security protocol to keep patient records safe.
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Table of Contents
- The Career Outlook for Healthcare Cybersecurity Experts
- Why It Matters
- HIPAA has Its Say
- Healthcare Cybersecurity Job Outlook
- Educational Background Required
- Prominent Cybersecurity Jobs in the Healthcare Industry
- Legacy Vulnerabilities
- Communication is Key
The Career Outlook for Healthcare Cybersecurity Experts
For many healthcare systems, this is a tight rope they need help navigating. That’s where cybersecurity experts come into play. In this article, we look at cybersecurity experts’ job outlook. We also review the risks and requirements of securing a hospital’s records.
Why It Matters
Cybersecurity has grown in prominence across pretty much every industry. Cyber threats have never been more visible, and businesses have taken heed that even Fortune 500 companies can find themselves at the wrong end of a significant security breach.
For the healthcare industry, the stakes are a little bit higher. Healthcare systems across the country are all held to the high standards of HIPAA. They are responsible for keeping patient information secure and private.
In the past, the process of accomplishing this was relatively straightforward. Patient records were physical items. They were locked away and accessed only when a physician or patient needed them.
This system made it relatively easy to keep track of records. Short of a break-in, there was no threat that sensitive health information would fall into the wrong hands.
That’s not how things are done anymore. The digitization of patient information has primarily been a good thing. Patients now have significantly more autonomy when accessing their health information, allowing them to understand their healthcare needs better.
Unfortunately, the increased accessibility has not been limited only to patients. It’s now relatively easy for a bad actor to access private healthcare records.
A phone gets lost. A phishing email is opened. Someone uses the wrong wifi hotspot at their local café. These are all simple mistakes that most people will make at some point in their lives—possibly many times over.
In terms of keeping healthcare information secure, they are disastrous. Cyber security experts are there to keep customer information safe and secure.
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HIPAA has Its Say
It is important to note that digital records are not a lawless landscape. Modern though they may be, they are still held to the same HIPAA standards that have guided the healthcare system for decades. For example, phone applications that allow access to patient records must:
- Feature multiple-step verification
- Require automated signouts
- Be encrypted
Cybersecurity experts may work with app developers to maintain these stringent standards, improving security and guaranteeing patient privacy.
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Healthcare Cybersecurity Job Outlook
Cybersecurity jobs have grown in leaps and bounds over the past several years. Between 2020-2021 alone, more than half a million positions for cybersecurity experts opened up. About ten percent of them were in California alone.
The need for cybersecurity experts in the healthcare industry is only expected to grow in the years that are to come. Qualified experts are well-positioned to find work in the lucrative, engaging field of cybersecurity.
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Educational Background Required
Cybersecurity processes are more or less standardized across industries, even while different sectors of the business world will have their own unique needs. Cybersecurity professionals interested in working within the healthcare industry do not necessarily have to have a background in healthcare.
Healthcare systems will often supply HIPAA experts to work with cyber security experts, ensuring that the federally mandated protections are provided and that the highest level of protection is established.
People interested in entering the cybersecurity industry should get a bachelor’s degree in cyber security or a related field like computer sciences.
It may also be worth considering continuing your education in the form of a master’s degree. While not necessary for finding work, higher education opens the door to more enormous salaries and senior positions within cybersecurity firms.
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Prominent Cybersecurity Jobs in the Healthcare Industry
In the following sections, we look at prominent jobs in the healthcare industry for cyber security experts.
Application developers are held to the strict standards of HIPAA when they make technology for the healthcare industry. To achieve these standards, developers will work closely with HIPAA experts and cyber security professionals to develop systems that are at once convenient and secure.
Cybersecurity experts can lend their expertise to app development by helping to create technologies that include data encryption and other security measures designed to keep patient data safe and secure.
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An incident responder will go in after a breach has already occurred. They work directly with the healthcare system to identify what happened, why it happened, what damage was done, and how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.
As with most cybersecurity jobs, the incident responder will perform a system audit, looking for vulnerabilities. They will then perform updates and upgrades to make the system as secure as possible.
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Ethical hackers do work in much the same vein as their criminal counterparts. They are hired by businesses to attempt to break into their security system essentially. The objective is to assume the perspective of a cyber criminal and learn how easy it would be to access sensitive information.
Once the ethical hacker has breached, they may perform system maintenance and offer recommendations for strengthening the system and improving security.
As the name suggests, network architects are responsible for designing systems for hospitals.
The job usually requires several years of experience performing more entry-level cyber security tasks, and applicants may benefit from advanced education in terms of ability and marketability.
However, it is a high-paying line of work, with salaries averaging more than six figures.
Cybersecurity engineers work with healthcare systems to update, upgrade, and improve their systems. They may help design strategies and best practices optimized for the hospital’s specific needs while protecting their networks and data.
Cyber Security Analyst
The cyber security analyst will look at a hospital’s cyber security infrastructure and identify its weak points. The job is similar to an ethical hacker in that vulnerabilities are identified and tested.
The cyber security analyst may provide system updates and recommend improving overall security practices.
Cybersecurity Training Providers
Some cybersecurity experts may also offer training courses. Training experts will look at a healthcare provider’s existing security infrastructure, as well as its overall goals and needs, and then provide tailored instruction to help them meet said needs.
Cybersecurity training professionals aim to improve the overall security of a healthcare system and equip the hospital with the resources and understanding required to sustain safe practices.
Cybersecurity Expert Salary
Naturally, the average salary of a cybersecurity expert will ultimately depend on several factors, including the specifics of the job, the individual’s experience, educational background, and general location.
That said, the outlook is good. Most cyber security analysts working at the entry-level enjoy salaries significantly higher than the national average.
Many of these jobs feature average salaries that exceed six figures. The national average for a cybersecurity professional is $50 an hour, resulting in an annual income of just over $100,000.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Challenges
Now that we’ve looked at the jobs in place to protect patient information let’s take a look at a few of the most prominent threats you will be working against in the healthcare cyber security world.
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Because patients now carry their healthcare information in their pockets, the risk for outsider theft has increased considerably. Patient records can now be compromised inadvertently, as part of a more significant breach, or as a direct result of bad actors that wish to sell private information for profit.
Insider misuse is equally threatening. This can come in the form of malicious behavior—a hospital insider selling data for profit—but will most often come in accidental breaches. This could include:
Curiosity: A healthcare provider decides to review records to satisfy their interest, even though doing so does not directly relate to providing care. While the information does not necessarily fall into dangerous hands, HIPAA has still been breached and privacy compromised.
Convenience: Following HIPPA protocols in the digital space is not always convenient. Multi verification steps and automated signouts can make relatively routine work feel tedious. Healthcare providers may wish to over avoid these steps, which, though convenient, may make it easier for bad actors to do their work.
Human error: Human error is the most common cause of security breaches. An employee opens a suspicious email or goes on the wrong site, and a bad actor gains access to the system.
Many of the most newsworthy breaches in modern history have resulted from a small mistake sometimes made by an entry-level employee. These breaches are perhaps the most infamous as internal intentions were good.
When they happen, however, the results can be severe. Hackers can lurk within systems for years, accessing essential records and doing damage in the process.
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Hospitals still hanging on to legacy systems may be more vulnerable because they do not access the most recent security protocols.
Upgrades cost time and money, leading many healthcare systems to put them off or avoid them altogether.
Correcting the vulnerabilities of a legacy system can only be accomplished through a combination of upgrades and cybersecurity expert intervention.
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Finally, complacency. Healthcare workers get set in their routines and let their guards down. They may become less diligent about updating firewalls or signing out of their accounts after each session.
Complacency is inevitable for healthcare systems that do not make an active and ongoing commitment to cybersecurity practices.
The intervention of cybersecurity experts, in the form of security audits, updates, upgrades, and training, can help to negate the damage done by complacency. However, without an active commitment by the healthcare system itself, these benefits will only be temporary.
Communication is Key
People interested in working within the cybersecurity industry should note that good communication skills are crucial to success. This may be particularly true in the healthcare industry, where the entire staff of a hospital may need to be primed on best security practices.
Communication in cybersecurity is critical because your job will ultimately be to take esoteric information and communicate it to people who probably know little to nothing about IT.
Ideally, once the professional cybersecurity moves on, the hospital they helped will have all the information they need to move forward with sound, safe practices. Good communication skills are vital to making sure this happens.
Cybersecurity experts play an essential role in the overall management of the modern healthcare system.
Of course, security professionals are always in a position to do good, but this is perhaps never truer than when they are helping to keep sensitive health information safe and secure.
It’s noble work. It’s also lucrative, in-demand employment that anyone with skills in IT should be well advised to take heed of. In the years to come, the need for cybersecurity professionals in the healthcare industry is only expected to grow. Now is a great time to enter into this rewarding line of work.