Ransomware

Microsoft & Google Help Rural Hospitals In Cybersecurity Effort

The plans were developed in collaboration with the White House, the American Hospital Association, and the National Rural Health Association.

by Alan J June 10th, 2024

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Microsoft and Google have announced plans to offer free or highly discounted cybersecurity services to rural hospitals across the United States. These initiatives come as the U.S. healthcare sector faces a surge in ransomware attacks that more than doubled last year, posing a serious threat to patient care and hospital operations.

The program – developed in collaboration with the White House, the American Hospital Association, and the National Rural Health Association – aims to make rural hospitals less defenseless by providing them with free security updates, security assessments, and training for hospital staff.

Microsoft and Google Cybersecurity Plans for Rural Hospitals

Microsoft has launched a full-fledged cybersecurity program to meet the needs of rural hospitals, which are often more vulnerable to cyberattacks due to more limited IT security resources, staff and training than their urban peers. The program will deliver free and low-cost technology services, including:

  • Nonprofit pricing and discounts of up to 75% on Microsoft’s security products for independent Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Emergency Hospitals.
  • Larger rural hospitals already equipped with eligible Microsoft solutions will receive free advanced security suites for free.
  • Free Windows 10 security updates for participating rural hospitals for at least one year.
  • Cybersecurity assessments and training are being made free to hospital employees to help them better manage system security.

Justin Spelhaug, corporate vice president of Microsoft Philanthropies, said in a statement, “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.

“Microsoft is committed to delivering vital technology security and support at a time when these rural hospitals need them most.”

Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, said in a statement:

“Cyber-attacks 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. 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.”

Alongside Microsoft’s efforts, Google also announced that it will provide free cybersecurity advice to rural hospitals and non-profit organizations while also launching a pilot program to match its cybersecurity services with the specific needs of rural healthcare facilities.

Plans Are Part of Broader National Effort

Rural hospitals remain one of the most common targets for cyberattacks, according to data from the National Rural Health Association. Rural hospitals in the U.S. serve over 60 million people living in rural areas, who sometimes have to travel considerable distance for care even without the inconvenience of a cyberattack.

Neuberger stated, “We’re in new territory as we see … this wave of attacks against hospitals.”

Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association, said, “Rural hospitals are often the primary source of healthcare in their communities, so keeping them open and safe from cyberattacks is critical. We appreciate Microsoft stepping forward to offer its expertise and resources to help secure part of America’s healthcare safety net.”

The plans are a part of a broader effort by the United States government to direct private partners and tech giants such as Microsoft and Google to use their expertise to plug significant gaps in the defense of the healthcare sector.

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