How Healthcare Can Evolve Its Approach To Fighting Cyber Threats

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Eric Hyman

By Eric Hyman, vice president of corporate and product marketing, GTT.

Telehealth and telemedicine have made rapid advancements in the past few years. However, while these advancements greatly improved access to healthcare services, they’ve also created a new avenue of attack for cybercriminals looking for valuable personal data or just to cause chaos.

A report by Omdia found that there has been an increase in cyberattacks on enterprises since 2020 across network applications, public and private clouds as well as fixed and mobile endpoints. The healthcare sector is experiencing the same too; healthcare organizations in the U.S. faced record-high cyberattacks impacting over 45 million patients last year.

One crucial solution to protect healthcare organizations against cyberattacks is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), a framework first coined in 2019 that promises a better and more secure integration of software-defined networking and cloud-based security. The SASE framework provides advanced visibility, flexible connectivity, network reliability, application-aware routing, enterprise-grade security, and advanced protection for today’s rapidly expanding and evolving healthcare networks. It’s critical that forward-thinking healthcare security leaders understand what makes SASE such a vital tool to curb modern cyber threats and how to ensure proper deployments that help to keep their organization and its patients safe.


In 2020, many healthcare companies were forced to explore telehealth and telemedicine options. This meant that IT and security teams suddenly had to securely connect doctors and nurses while they provided services online, and everyone had to move applications for managing sensitive health data to the cloud. This created a need for sophisticated security measures to keep patients’ records safe and ensure patient care wouldn’t be interrupted. This is when healthcare IT began to understand the SASE framework as an indispensable part of any post-pandemic cybersecurity strategy.

SASE integrates powerful network capabilities including software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) with a robust collection of security tools such as firewall-as-a-service , secure web gateway , zero-trust network access , and cloud access security broker. It supports organizations in setting and automating network and security policy, including secure, individualized, accelerated access to the cloud resources – especially critical for the healthcare sector. Each of these tools have evolving feature roadmaps that continue to address ever-changing threat actor behaviors and the changing needs of healthcare companies and their mission-critical applications.

According to Gartner, by 2025, at least 60% of enterprises will have explicit strategies and timelines for SASE adoption encompassing user, branch and edge access, up from 10% in 2020. Omdia’s research showed that enterprise SASE adopters are happy with their managed deployment and operating experiences, with satisfaction ratings reaching the highest the firm had recorded for any network transformation service in the past five years.

What is needed for a successful deployment of SASE?

By integrating SD-WAN with cloud-based security services, the SASE framework protects organizations  from web-based attacks and unauthorized access to networks and applications while also improving network performance. For healthcare organizations in particular, SD-WAN offers dynamic path selection across multiple connectivity options (i.e., MPLS, 5G, broadband) so that hospitals, clinics and the doctors working within them always have an optimized route to telemedicine and other cloud-based applications.

Since SASE is a collection of capabilities, organizations must have a deep understanding of which components they require to best fit their needs. With this in mind, a truly successful deployment hinges on the organization’s security strategy and taking a consultative approach to network transformation.

Because of the high level of confidential and sensitive data used within the healthcare industry, healthcare leaders must identify and implement security solutions that ensure protection of all data and access points used in the organization, such as emails, logins, dashboards, connected devices, and internal systems

A SASE future for the healthcare industry

It may seem daunting to deploy an entirely new security framework, especially at a time when C-suites are scrutinizing budgets. However, SASE benefits the entire healthcare ecosystem of clinics, members, and patients, all of whom rely on timely, accurate and secure communications. It improves visibility across hybrid environments, providing more reliable network performance and increased communication speed and effectiveness to improve patient safety and positive outcomes. In addition, it complies with global and industry regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.

Given its benefits, it is not surprising that research shows many enterprises planning to deploy SASE. And those that have already begun implementing SASE should ensure it is built and deployed as effectively as possible to reap its full range of benefits.

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