The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) has announced plans to conduct a new study on cyber threats in the healthcare industry.

While banks and other critical infrastructures typically have a general understanding of cyber threats, there's an unfilled void in healthcare. This has prompted a spur of attacks against healthcare providers and insurers, including the recent Anthem, Inc. breach in which 80 million records were exposed. Health insurer Premera also reported a data breach, announcing the news just days after Anthem.

But it's not just sensitive patient data and records that's vulnerable to cyber attacks. A recent article published by Wired magazine found that many devices used in hospitals and doctors' offices can be hacked remotely. This is certainly disturbing considering the fact that these devices may offer critical life functions to patients.

In an effort to curb such attacks, HITRUST is launching a widespread study involving more than 210 healthcare providers. The Texas-based company will explore persistent cyber threats, malware, viruses, and other topics associated with cybersecurity in the healthcare industry. The study, called HITRUST Cyber Security, will provide participants with software and hardware to monitor and analyze potential cyber threats. The study is expected to last approximately 90 days, with Trend Micro providing participants with the necessary tools.

In a press release, HITRUST added that speculation around cyber attacks is at an all-time high. And that in order to combat these threats, healthcare providers need more information.

The level of speculation around attacks, targets and persistent threats has reached an all-time high. To combat this growing concern, we need more facts to better dissect threats and develop a corresponding strategy to address them. This research will provide valuable data to those charged with keeping healthcare information secure,” said Daniel Nutkis, chief executive officer, HITRUST.

Of course, healthcare providers shouldn't wait until the results of the HITRUST Cyber Security study are revealed. It's no secret that cyber threats pose a greater risk than ever. Doctors, dentists, hospitals, chiropractors and other healthcare providers should take a proactive approach towards ensuring their systems are safe and secure.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) outlines some key practices for protecting sensitive information, as described in the Security Rule. Covered entities should familiarize and implement the practices listed here to protect themselves from cyber threats and remain HIPAA-compliant.

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