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The Power of SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) in Cybersecurity

Lorna Jones

Lorna Jones, Senior Cyber Security Consultant
Nov 02, 2023

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Strengthening Healthcare Security Operations with SOCaaS

Your business is in the healthcare sector. As we established in past articles, healthcare is the most targeted industry after banking and finance. For many different reasons, tending to its security is a significant investment, future-proofing and a step for business owners. You must recognise an internal infrastructure-dependent SOC for an outsourced SOC that another well-versed company fully maintains.

You started your business. All is well. Thanks to the cloud migration you have set up over the past few years, it delivers fast. Now everything is connected, well maintained and easy to access. Not knowing that one morning at 10:02 AM, you will be overwhelmed by calls and alerts about a breach in your data centres. Over a million records were stolen, and HIPAA is on their way. See, healthcare is more vulnerable to attacks not only because of the financial losses of leaving customers and budgets spent to build the systems after attacks but also because of fines and regulations. It is crucial to stand out and find a real defence system (Invest once, and you will not regret it twice).

As threats rapidly escalate, managing cybersecurity with limited IT resources is increasingly untenable for healthcare organisations. Hospitals, clinics, insurers and other providers face relentless attacks attempting to steal protected health information and disrupt operations. High-profile breaches at reputable institutions demonstrate vulnerabilities facing the entire healthcare ecosystem.
According to recent Optiv research, healthcare cyber attacks have increased by 55% since 2020, the highest of any industry. Yet 70% of hospital security teams need to be more staffed. Building robust internal security operations centres is challenging amid these realities. It is driving the growing adoption of outsourced SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) as a strategy for healthcare providers to reinforce defences and compliance.

The Rising Threats Targeting Healthcare

Recent major incidents underscore the proliferation of threats facing hospitals, insurers, and healthcare providers:
- Hackers in 2021 breached the American Medical Collection Agency, accessing 25 million patient records at hospitals nationwide due to unpatched vulnerabilities.
- Connecticut-based Clinical Pathology Laboratories suffered a 48-hour ransomware attack in early 2022 that disrupted COVID testing services for thousands until the organisation paid a sizable ransom.
- Ireland's Health Service Executive fell victim to a Conti ransomware attack in 2021 that took health IT systems serving thousands of patients offline indefinitely.
- Over 15 million patient records at over 100 healthcare providers were impacted in 2020 when Blackbaud, a significant healthcare IT vendor, was breached.
- Investigators in late 2021 uncovered a data breach at Florida-based Advent Health impacting over 300,000 patients, attributed to an email phishing attack.
These incidents highlight how healthcare organisations and partners overlook critical security gaps, leaving health data vulnerable. Addressing the underlying people, process, and technology issues enabling breaches grows increasingly urgent.

Real-World Healthcare SOCaaS Examples:

  • UnityPoint Health saw a 25% increase in threat detection efficacy after partnering with Arctic Wolf's SOCaaS offering. Analysts detected ransomware attacks weeks earlier than internal staff.
  • Houston Methodist reduced security analyst workloads by 65% by leveraging SentinelOne's SOC to assist in managing alerts and notifications, improving analyst productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Community Health Network consolidated dozens of disconnected security tools into IBM's QRadar-based SOCaaS solution. It provided unified visibility with 30% less overhead.
  • Michigan-based Mercy Health enhanced HIPAA security rule compliance by integrating NortonLifeLock's SOC platform with existing EHR and database systems.

The Pitfalls of Building Healthcare SOCs In-House

Constructing a fully-featured 24/7 security operations centre in-house seems ambitious and prestigious for healthcare providers. But monumental challenges quickly deflate most DIY healthcare SOC initiatives:

- Analyst staffing costs alone average $1 million annually, according to CyberRisk Alliance – more than the entire security budget for many smaller healthcare organisations.

- Recruiting and retaining specialised SOC analysts and engineers are extremely difficult for healthcare, given the industry's massive talent shortages. Skilled analysts get quickly burned out dealing with constant healthcare threats.

- Integrating the array of advanced detection, analytics, and response tools like SIEMs required for modern SOCs adds massive IT overhead. Healthcare IT teams are already overburdened with managing EHR systems, medical devices, and more.

- Scaling 24/7 response capabilities strains limited security personnel. Lacking experience, junior analysts struggle to separate urgent threats from false positives leading to alert fatigue.

- Governance and workflows are immature. Analysts lack standardised operating procedures and playbooks needed to scurry during incidents. Chaos ensues. Without forgetting, reporting to executives provides little meaningful business context around security metrics. Leadership needs to gain more confidence in the ROI of SOC investments.

Without built-in capabilities and experienced staff, in-house healthcare SOCs often fail to deliver returns justifying heavy investments. Rather than enhancing defences, they become distractions from core duties. Partnering with specialised MSSPs skilled in healthcare security is usually far more effective for elevating capabilities.

The Appeal and Value of SOC as a Service

SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) from specialised managed security providers offers an emerging path to reinforce healthcare security operations without the challenges of in-house SOCs. With SOCaaS, healthcare providers can leverage the following:
- Advanced threat monitoring, detection, analysis and response capabilities managed by a 24/7 external SOC.
- Security analysts with deep healthcare domain experience and relevant certifications like HCISPP.
- Integration with healthcare technologies, including EHR systems, medical devices, email security tools, and more.
- Consulting services to optimise SOC workflows, develop playbooks, tune detection, and build internal skills.
- Assistance correlating controls to HIPAA, HITECH and other healthcare compliance frameworks.
- Scaling to provide surge SOC capacity during high-severity incidents.
- Lower costs for staffing and enterprise tools gained through economies of scale.
These benefits allow healthcare security leaders to elevate defences with elite capabilities while focusing internal resources on policy, governance, technology risk management, and other core priorities. Shared data and collaboration with SOCaaS partners are fundamental rather than fully outsourcing visibility.

Searching for a True Healthcare Security Partner

Not all SOCaaS providers genuinely understand the nuanced threat landscape, technologies, and regulatory obligations unique to healthcare. When evaluating partners, healthcare CISOs should look for these critical capabilities:
Healthcare Focus and Experience:

The partner should have substantial experience securing hospitals, clinics, payers and other primary healthcare organisations at scale. Avoid generalist providers lacking recent healthcare expertise. Require examples of supporting healthcare firms with similar sizes and needs.

Customised Healthcare Offerings:

Offerings should be tailored to healthcare use cases like ransomware response, medical IoT/OT security, and healthcare cloud platforms rather than one-size-fits-all services. Staff need deep healthcare domain training. Ask partners to outline their healthcare customisations.

Tight Technology Integrations:

The partner's SOC platform should integrate smoothly with your core healthcare IT systems like electronic health records, speciality medical equipment, email security tools, and healthcare data/analytics platforms. API integration is ideal.

Healthcare-Verified Staff:

Validate security analysts and engineers with respected domain credentials like the HCISPP and general certifications like CISSP. Specialised healthcare threat intelligence capabilities are also vital. CISSP. Specialised healthcare threat intelligence capabilities are also vital.

Compliance Expertise:

Given the plethora of healthcare regulations, the partner should offer advisory services to help map SOC capabilities and outputs to compliance frameworks like HIPAA and HITECH. Ask for real examples of how they support compliance.

Nonprofit Scaling:

Pricing and packaging should align with the budgets and value-based care models common to nonprofit healthcare systems. Avoid partners catering only to the deep pockets of large corporations.

Threat Landscape Fluency:

Partners must exhibit dedicated research into healthcare-specific threat actors, campaigns, ransomware groups and their latest tactics. They should provide customised threat intelligence.

Incident Response Services:

Given increasing attacks, partners should have skilled incident response teams to assist with containment, eradication and recovery activities during significant security events.
Beyond these areas, healthcare firms evaluating SOCaaS should thoroughly vet partners on communication practices, roadmap alignment, and cultural fit. Existing client references in healthcare are invaluable. The most effective partners behave as trusted advisors guiding healthcare security, not just vendors selling a service. With rigorous selection, SOCaaS delivers tremendous value in securing healthcare in the face of unrelenting threats.

Building a More Effective Healthcare SOC: Best Practices

Once a healthcare organisation makes the strategic decision to reinforce defences with SOCaaS, additional steps can further optimise security capabilities:
Tighten Integration with Internal Tools: 

Rather than fully outsourcing visibility. The partner SOC should tightly integrate with existing healthcare security tools like SIEMs and endpoint agents via API connectors. This stitches together internal and external capabilities into a unified fabric.

Create Specialised Use Cases:

Work with the partner to build tailored playbooks, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and documentation governing the SOC customised to the healthcare environment. Avoid generic content.

Implement Automation:

Explore ways to leverage orchestration and automation within the SOC to improve efficiencies across repetitive tasks like alert triaging, system responses, and threat blocking.
Conduct Ongoing Assessment: Schedule a regular evaluation of SOC effectiveness via metrics like Mean Time to Detect, False Positive rates, and analyst productivity. Baseline and continuously improve.

Ensure Governance:

Institute a governance model and committees to centrally direct ongoing SOC advancement and budgeting. Keep executive leadership and the board closely involved. 

Clarify Reporting Standards:

Set expectations for technical and business-level reporting catered to various healthcare organisation stakeholders with the correct contextual details.
Foster an Integrated Culture:

Drive cultural integration between in-house analysts and outsourced SOC team members. Promote open communication channels and shared training.
The most successful healthcare SOCs tightly align people, processes and technology between internal capabilities and specialist SOCaaS partners dedicated to the healthcare domain. This fusion amplifies the strengths of both.

Securing Healthcare's Future with SOCaaS

As digital transformation accelerates across healthcare, cybersecurity threats continue escalating from all directions. Medical data has become a prime target for financially motivated hackers. Patient safety and care hang in the balance.
While resource constraints make building large internal SOCs impractical for most healthcare organisations, outsourcing core monitoring and response to SOCaaS specialists offers a strategic force multiplier. Partnering with the right fit allows healthcare providers to secure the future by uniting internal talent with elite external capabilities fine-tuned to unique industry challenges.
SOCaaS from MicroMinder Managed Detection and Response delivers the healthcare focus, use case specialisation, integrated technologies, and tactical expertise to reinforce defences and compliance. Join over 2500 leading healthcare institutions partnering with MicroMinder SOC to detect threats early, respond rapidly, and safeguard patient care against disruption. Because in healthcare, security is everyone's duty.

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