Incident response is a vital part of a strong cybersecurity program. However, responding to cybersecurity threats and attacks is only part of the equation. Healthcare organizations need to be proactive in their security solutions, spotting threats before they lead to data loss. 

This is where threat hunting comes in. 

What is threat hunting?

Threat hunting involves proactively searching an organization’s cyber landscape for suspicious activity. Through the program, the IT team will search endpoints, databases, networks, cloud infrastructure, and file systems for signs of threats. Analysts typically use a combination of manual and automated searches to look for this activity.

This effort is a critical part of any robust cybersecurity program because it focuses on persistent threats. When a malicious actor enters a network, they may remain undetected for months or longer. The more time a cybercriminal has to execute an attack, the more sophisticated it may be. 

Threat hunting adds another layer to data loss prevention, taking a deep dive into networks, data sources, and endpoints to spot threats. 

What do these threat look like? 

Cybersecurity experts employ technology and manually search for signs that a cybercriminal has compromised a system. Some examples of these signs include:

  • Unusual activity on an account or device
  • Abnormally high traffic
  • Atypical outbound traffic
  • Abnormally fast or slow traffic
  • File changes
  • Unusual email activity 
  • Suspicious login activity
  • Abnormal device-to-device communication 
  • Web browser redirects

To address the complexity of today’s cyber attacks, implementing threat hunting within your healthcare  organization requires a full threat intelligence program.

A healthcare-focused Managed security service provider (MSSP) will provide comprehensive threat intelligence services, employing a variety of tools to spot risks before they become a larger problem. They can then pinpoint and eliminate the threat and make recommendations for future prevention. 

The specific makeup of threat intelligence varies by organization, but most will integrate threat intelligence into their endpoint security systems and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), followed by firewall, IDS/IPS, DLP, and WAF. These tools help IT teams quickly spot, identify, and mitigate threats for long-term security. 

Why does threat hunting matter in healthcare? 

Healthcare organizations are common targets for cyber criminals. Hospitals, private practices, and medical offices handle patient data on a daily basis, and malicious actors see this data as valuable. This is why healthcare organizations need to be several steps ahead of cyber attacks. 

There are several reasons why threat hunting should be a non-negotiable part of a healthcare organization’s security posture. 

Proactively shields ePHI

Cyber criminals can compromise healthcare networks, databases, and endpoints to access and exploit sensitive data. Threat hunting helps organizations shield ePHI from any threats that might be lurking—remaining proactive when safeguarding ePHI protects patient confidentiality and security.

Elevates threat detection

Without threat hunting, threats might remain in a network for weeks without detection, but with this cyber security service, IT teams proactively search for signs of threats that other detection services may have missed. Threat hunting can allow IT experts to act before the threat turns into a breach.

Safeguards patient care

A data breach will not only expose sensitive patient information, it can also hinder patient care. Cyber attacks may compromise the devices that keep patients alive, so spotting threats early is imperative. Medical providers can sustain patient care with less worry when the IT team is running a threat hunting program.

Optimizes technology

Healthcare organizations use a variety of tools to monitor their networks and endpoints. Threat hunting is one way that your organization can get the most out of this technology. When a program detects a threat, the threat hunter will trace and uncover the source.

Collects security data

Threat hunting provides data on the types and frequency of cyber threats that healthcare organizations are facing. This helps IT teams address the most common vulnerabilities and strengthen security protocols. Organizations can use this data to identify long-term trends and upgrade their security tools accordingly.

Mitigates false positives

Without up-to-date threat detection tools, IT teams might waste time chasing false threats. This allows true threats to remain in the system even longer. Fortunately, threat hunting takes the guesswork out of the detection process. This protocol will help organizations more accurately identify and trace actual threats, eliminating the risk of false positives. 

Threat hunting is part of a larger suite of SOC services. However, to develop a comprehensive threat mitigation program, threat hunting should be complemented with:

To learn more about the essential role threat hunting plays in protecting your healthcare organization, check out our on-demand webinar, How and why you should add threat hunting to your healthcare SOC.