What is threat hunting?

Similar to how early detection and prevention are crucial to maintaining patient health, threat hunting plays a critical role in identifying potential cyber threats and breaches before they occur.

Within a Security Operations Center (SOC), threat hunters systematically search through an organization’s network, system, and data logs to identify any anomalies or suspicious behavior that may indicate the presence of a threat.

It’s like a doctor running scans on a patient to detect a disease before it can cause harm to their health. Threat hunting is especially important in the niche of healthcare cybersecurity where time is of the essence. SOC teams want to quickly identify and contain threats to protect patient privacy and safety, and prevent potential damage to the organization’s data, systems, or reputation.

How threat hunting protects hospitals

Here are some ways that threat hunting can help Security Operations Centers improve the security posture of their healthcare organization:

    1. Identify cyber threats that may have bypassed existing security measures
      Hackers are constantly developing new methods to bypass existing security protocols. By proactively searching for threats that may have gone undetected, SOC teams can identify and mitigate them before they become a problem.
    1. Gain a better understanding of the threat landscape
      Security teams are better able to identify trends and patterns in cyber attacks by proactively seeking them out. This knowledge can then be leveraged to create new threat and alarm rules that can effectively mitigate future attacks and improve the overall cybersecurity posture of the organization.
    1. Reduce dwell time
      Dwell time refers to the amount of time a cyber attacker spends in an organization’s network before being detected. The longer the dwell time, the more damage a hacker can cause. Through threat hunting, security teams can reduce dwell time and minimize the impact of a cyber attack.
    1. Improve risk management

      Risk management is a critical function in healthcare. The consequences of a data breach can be severe, not just in terms of patient data privacy, but also in terms of potential legal, financial, and reputational damage to the organization.

      By proactively identifying and addressing potential threats, threat hunting can help healthcare organizations improve their risk management in several ways:

      • Minimize the likelihood of a successful attack
      • Identify areas of weakness and prioritize security measures accordingly
      • Make more informed decisions about resource allocation
    1. Increase compliance

      Healthcare organizations are subject to numerous regulations and compliance requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Compliance with these regulations is not only a legal requirement, it’s also a critical component of protecting patient data, privacy, and security.

      Threat hunting can help organizations meet these regulations by demonstrating a proactive commitment to protecting patient information, as well as staying ahead of emerging threats and trends in the cyber threat landscape.


Realities of the reactive SOC

Most healthcare SOC teams appreciate the value and importance of threat hunting. The reality, however, is that this proactive strategy often gets deprioritized due to a lack of resources, staffing, and funding.

In addition, it’s common for SOC teams to find themselves in firefighting mode, focusing primarily on the alerts that come in, and fixing problems as quickly and effectively as possible.

While a reactive SOC tends to be the norm, it’s essential for both approaches—reactive and proactive—to be employed to ensure that a healthcare organization’s data and systems have a strong security posture.

Threat hunting is not a replacement for reactive security measures. Rather, it is a complementary technique that can help your healthcare SOC team stay ahead of emerging threats and trends in the cyber threat landscape.


An infographic by Fortified Health Security explaining threat hunting in action for auditing Enterprise Admin and Domain Admin accounts through a series of steps.


Threat hunting: a team effort

By adding threat hunting to your security strategy, in conjunction with reactive SOC measures, your SOC team will be better equipped to maintain compliance, avoid penalties, and protect patients.

That said, it may not be possible for your SOC team to consistently perform threat hunting or other proactive SOC activities. Depending on your internal resources, it may make more sense for an experienced healthcare cybersecurity partner to conduct the threat hunting portion, and provide their findings and insights to your team so that you’re better equipped to be more proactive.

Both reactive and proactive SOC approaches are a team sport. Whether you execute it all in-house or components of it through a trusted partner, collaboration across different teams and stakeholders within your organization is needed to effectively implement and maintain a strong security posture

To learn specific strategies for how to implement threat hunting and other proactive SOC approaches effectively within your healthcare organization, check out our on-demand webinar.