A group tasked with improving cybersecurity will have a tough time assuaging a fearful and targeted healthcare industry whose frontline defenders are often unwilling to talk about their experiences.
“People are reluctant to talk about it” because it gives the bad guys ideas, said Theresa Meadows. She's senior vice president and chief information officer of Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas. She's also a member of the newly created HHS task force.
But, Meadows said, “I think it's going to take more education and we can't worry about what could happen if we talk about it.”
A half dozen hospitals have been hit by ransomware attackers in the past month and Meadows said she doesn't see that slowing down any time soon.
The 21-member task force is charged with looking at what other industries are doing to protect their computer systems, networks and digital data. The group sunsets in March 2017.
Members will explore the best ways organizations of all types are securing data and connected medical devices, said Mary Wakefield, HHS acting deputy secretary, in a statement released when members to the task force were named last month.
The group will eventually report their findings to Congress. Wakefield said they'll also develop materials to share among healthcare organizations.
The group's first face-to-face meeting is scheduled for April 20-21 in Washington, D.C.
Right now, “I think everybody is vulnerable,” Meadows said, adding that the bad guys are “very sneaky.”
Meadows said her own hospital experienced a relatively small intrusion a few months ago. A physician was doing online research for a patient and found the website was infected. Meadows said the virus affected a drive used only for document storage.
But “it could have been so much worse,” she said.
“That's what we're dealing with—people trying to complete their daily activities and something awful happens,” Meadows said. "It's going to take all of us working together to come up with solutions. We've got to figure out how we can learn from each other."