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HHS Officially Opens its New Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has officially opened its Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3).

HC3, located in the Hubert H. Humphrey building at HHS headquarters in Washington D.C., was officially opened on October 29, 2018 by Deputy Secretary of the HHS, Eric Hargan.

HC3’s mission is to strengthen coordination and improve information sharing within the healthcare industry. HC3 will work closely with healthcare industry stakeholders, including practitioners, organizations, and cybersecurity information sharing organizations, to gain an understanding of current threats, patterns and attack trends. Information about current and emerging threats will be shared with healthcare organizations together with details of actions that can be taken to protect healthcare systems, medical devices and patient data.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the primary agency for dealing with cyber threats in the United States and is responsible for developing strategies to combat those threats. HC3 will work closely with DHS but will be solely focused on providing support to the healthcare sector to increase cyber resilience, strengthen coordination, and improve information sharing to help healthcare organizations take preventative steps to protect their assets and prevent patients from coming to harm.

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Action certainly needs to be taken to improve healthcare cyber defenses. The healthcare industry is being extensively targeted by cybercriminals looking to steal sensitive patient data, sabotage systems, damage medical equipment, and encrypt files for financial gain. In the past year alone there have been more than 400 major data breaches reported by healthcare organizations.

Rapid identification of threats and the provision of timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence is critical to the prevention of cyberattacks. “We believe that when a risk is shared across sectors, the only way to manage that risk successfully is to manage it collectively,” explained Jeanette Manfra, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications in DHS. “We know that the majority of the cybersecurity attacks that occurred over the past year could have been prevented with quality and timely information – and the heightened importance of sharing information cannot be stressed enough.”

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.