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North Dakota Initiative to Offer Cybersecurity for Hospitals

The North Dakota Hospital Association is working with a cybersecurity company and an insurance firm to offer affordable services to hospitals and health-care organizations statewide. It comes as cyber attacks on health-care groups are rising.

With three paper coffee cups at hand, a woman in a black hooded sweatshirt works at several computer monitors.
(TNS) — A new cybersecurity initiative from the North Dakota Hospital Association, made in the wake of rising cyber attacks on hospitals and health care organizations, is the first of its kind.

"We're super happy with how everything turned out," said Aaron Brennan, trust administrator at the NDHA. "From our research, we don't think this initiative has been put together specifically for health care organizations anywhere across the country, so we give ourselves a few pats on the back."

The initiative, called Cyber Cover, is a partnership between the NDHA, cybersecurity company Critical Insight and insurance company Marsh McLennan Agency. It aims to provide affordable cybersecurity services to hospitals and other health care organizations in North Dakota.

The program provides NDHA members with a discount on their cyber insurance, if they choose to go through Marsh McLennan Agency, with an additional discount if they choose Critical Insight for their cybersecurity services, Brennan said. The initiative is also open to other health care organizations, such as long-term care facilities, smaller hospitals and clinics in the state, though NDHA members will be prioritized.

The decision behind creating Cyber Cover stems from the rise of cyber attacks and data breaches on hospitals and other health care organizations. According to an NDHA press release, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services shows a 93 percent increase in significant health care breaches from 2018 to 2022. The average breach, the release said, costs the affected organization $10.93 million.

In 2023, a data breach of Pembina County Memorial Hospital resulted in information including Social Security numbers, medical information, addresses, phone numbers and health insurance information possibly being accessed. Brennan said it's only a matter of time before these large-scale hackers begin targeting more organizations in North Dakota.

Pembina County Memorial Hospital declined to comment for this story.

Hospital cybersecurity is unique and becoming more complex due to the number of entry points an attack can come through, Brennan said. The hospital's internal network, Wi-Fi and medical devices can all be the starting point for a hacker. Brennan recalled a story where a worker that was part of a crew working on a hospital's HVAC system connected their hacked laptop to the hospital's network. The hacker was able to access the hospital through the laptop.

The NDHA's choice to create Cyber Cover is in the effort to prevent events like this and the breach at Pembina County Memorial Hospital from happening.

"We wanted to be proactive on our end," he said.

NDHA members and non-members interested in being a part of the initiative can reach out to the NDHA for more information.

©2024 the Grand Forks Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.