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How to Protect Healthcare Data in a Multi-Cloud Environment

July 1, 2024
Written by
Anushika Babu

The healthcare industry, notorious for handling so much sensitive patient data, faces unique challenges in maintaining security across multiple cloud platforms.

Did you know that over 70% of healthcare organizations have adopted multi-cloud solutions

Securing healthcare data is all about protecting patient data. Breaches can be catastrophic, leading to huge financial losses, criminal charges & proceedings by regulatory & government bodies and, most critically, can erode patient trust. Are you aware that the average cost of a healthcare data breach has risen to $10.93 million?

Table of Contents:

  1. The Critical Need for Secure Multi-Cloud in Healthcaresome text
    1. Risks Associated with Public Cloud Adoption
    2. Benefits of Multi-Cloud for Healthcare
  2. Challenges in Multi-Cloud Security
  3. The Responsibility of the Healthcare Industry

The Critical Need for Secure Multi-Cloud in Healthcare

As the healthcare industry continues to adopt multi-cloud solutions, they also need to make sure that they have effective secure data management. With the integration of various cloud platforms, healthcare organizations can improve the way their operations work. But this also brings a complex array of security challenges. The first step is to make sure patient data remains protected and compliant with strict regulatory standards, such as:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • The National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

Risks Associated with Public Cloud Adoption

Next on the agenda are the risks of adopting public cloud solutions:

Complexity of Implementing Effective Cloud Security

Companies are increasingly moving to the cloud due to its ease of use, scalability, a wide range of infrastructure services, and reliability. It helps companies to eliminate the costs associated with setting up, maintaining, and updating their own infrastructure. However, this rapid adoption often overlooks the critical aspect of security. Many organizations initially approached cloud security with a traditional data center perspective which usually leads to security misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.  When expanding to a multi-cloud setup, the complexity increases significantly, and that requires a deep understanding of how each cloud provider’s security works.

Shared Responsibility Model

With public clouds, the security responsibilities get split between the provider and the customer company. This divide can lead to confusion over who's supposed to do what, if roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined and understood. Cloud providers typically secure the infrastructure, while the organization is responsible for securing the data and applications. Healthcare organizations must clearly understand their responsibilities and make sure that they implement strong security measures like data encryption, identity and access management, and continuous monitoring to protect their data and applications effectively.

Compliance Challenges

One of the advantages of using major cloud providers like AWS, GCP, and Azure is that their environments are designed to meet compliance standards out of the box. These providers’ infrastructures are certified and compliant with HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, FEDRAMP, and security frameworks like NIST, OWASP ASVS, and CIS benchmarks. However, while the cloud environments and infrastructure meet these compliance standards, the data and associated applications hosted on them do not automatically inherit these compliance guarantees. Healthcare organizations must understand how compliance mandates apply to their specific data and applications and implement necessary security measures to ensure compliance when hosting apps and data on a multi-cloud setup. This involves conducting detailed compliance audits and making sure that all data-handling processes meet the required standards.

Data Breaches

Public clouds are a juicy target for attackers and malicious entities. With the amount of data they store, data breaches in the healthcare sector can have devastating consequences, like financial losses, criminal charges & proceedings, legal liabilities, and damage to reputation. Just one breach can expose a lot of sensitive patient information that could be the reason for identity theft and other forms of fraud. 

Vendor Lock-In

Putting all your eggs in one cloud provider's basket means you're pretty much stuck with them. Vendor lock-in happens when it becomes difficult or costly to move data and applications from one provider to another. It limits your flexibility down the road and could end up costing you more over time because you no longer have the option to take advantage of better pricing or advanced features offered by other providers.

Benefits of Multi-Cloud for Healthcare

So the benefits, you ask?

  1. Better agility. Having resources spread across multiple clouds lets healthcare providers adapt quickly when needs shift. They can easily scale up or down by tapping into different cloud platforms based on the current demands. 
  2. Making the most of resources. Working with various cloud vendors gives healthcare organizations the chance to really optimize their resource usage. Strategically mixing and matching your workloads across these providers will help your organization to cut costs, boost performance, and make sure they've got the right tools for each specialized job.
  3. Avoiding vendor lock-in traps. A huge perk of the multi-cloud approach is avoiding that dreaded vendor lock-in situation where you're overly dependent on just one provider. Spreading infrastructure across multiple platforms gives organizations stronger negotiating leverage and flexibility. 
  4. Better redundancy. Multi-cloud environments beef up redundancy, which is absolutely necessary for healthcare's need for continuous, available care and data protection. Having data and apps living across multiple cloud platforms, organizations can implement really robust disaster recovery. 
  5. Optimized performance all around. Using a multi-cloud strategy lets healthcare organizations tap into each vendor's unique capabilities to optimize overall system performance. Specific providers can be selected for beastly computing power, lightning-fast data transfers, or ultra-efficient storage. 

Challenges in Multi-Cloud Security

It’s not easy to secure multi-cloud setups. There are a lot of things that could go wrong that demand a strategic, coordinated approach. With sensitive patient data scattered across multiple platforms, it’s very important to deal with the complexities around cloud security management to make sure of consistent policies, close any skill gaps, integrate security tools, and maintain continuous monitoring and compliance. Here are the challenges that come with adopting multi-cloud.

Wrangling security across multiple clouds

The Challenge: Managing security across different cloud platforms is highly complex. Each provider—whether AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud—has its own unique configurations, a multitude of services, different methods of managing secrets, and different methods of managing access control etc. And these differences make it challenging to guarantee that you have consistent data security and encryption across a multi-cloud environment. Not only that, the bigger issue here is the skills gap among IT professionals which makes this issue even bigger. Many professionals know how the security of one cloud environment works, but they lack comprehensive expertise across all major cloud platforms.

How AppSecEngineer helps: AppSecEngineer provides comprehensive training to build expertise in managing multi-cloud security setups. Our training includes:

  • Courses that cover the latest security strategies and technologies
  • Hands-on labs that simulate real-world scenarios
  • Programs that deep dive into the specific services offered by AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud
  • Our signature Purple Team methodology where we combine offensive (attack) and defensive (defense) training
  • Advanced training in identity and access management, data encryption, threat detection, and compliance across multiple platforms.

Multi-cloud security at scale

The Challenge: Each cloud platform’s unique configurations and services complicate the application of consistent security controls across all environments. Organizations need a strategic approach to deploy security measures at scale that make sure all cloud resources are uniformly protected.

How AppSecEngineer helps: AppSecEngineer uses Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) tools, particularly Terraform, in our training programs. Terraform is a popular IaC tool that helps developers, DevOps, and CloudOps engineers to deploy cloud resources and services at scale with security controls embedded in the deployment scripts. Our training includes:

  • Training on creating Terraform scripts to automate the deployment of cloud resources securely across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
  • Instructions on building security configurations into Terraform scripts to make sure that every deployed resource adheres to security best practices.
  • Hands-on labs and real-world scenarios where participants practice deploying secure infrastructure using Terraform and reinforce their ability to scale security across a multi-cloud environment.
  • Detailed modules on the security features and services of each cloud provider, combined with Terraform’s capabilities, provide a unified approach to multi-cloud security.

Detecting security incidents and effective response

The Challenge: It can be challenging to detect a security attack or incident and formulate an effective response to mitigate the security threat. In a multi-cloud environment, this becomes even more difficult due to the intrinsic differences between cloud systems. Each platform has its own set of tools, logs, and threat detection mechanisms that make it hard to maintain a unified incident response strategy.

How AppSecEngineer helps: AppSecEngineer’s cloud security courses across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud train users on scenarios involving incident response and detection engineering. The training includes:

  • Ingesting and Harnessing Control-Plane Logs - Your team will learn how to effectively ingest and analyze control-plane logs from different cloud providers to monitor and detect suspicious activities.
  • Using Threat Intelligence Services - Training on how to use the threat intelligence services provided by each cloud platform to stay ahead of potential threats.
  • Building Detection Queries and Parameters - Users are trained to create and refine detection queries and parameters within cloud storage systems to identify security incidents swiftly.
  • Incident Response Scenarios - Hands-on labs and real-world scenarios help users practice and develop incident response strategies tailored to multi-cloud environments.

Security tooling for multi-cloud security

The Challenge: Building and maintaining continuous security testing and monitoring for a multi-cloud environment is complex. Your team needs a deep understanding of various tools and their integrations to make sure of consistent and effective security measures across different cloud platforms.

How AppSecEngineer helps: Our training helps users explore and implement a combination of several security mechanisms natively provided by the cloud providers. Training users on the effective usage and implementation of:

  1. AWS IAM & Policy Management - Learn to manage identities and permissions effectively to ensure only authorized access.
  2. AWS Network Security Controls - Implement VPCs, security groups, and network ACLs to secure network traffic.
  3. AWS GuardDuty - Use this threat detection service for continuous monitoring and protection against malicious activities.
  4. Google Logging & Monitoring - Set up comprehensive logging and monitoring to maintain visibility and track security events.
  5. Google Service Account Control & Least Privilege - Implement least privilege access to control and secure service accounts.
  6. Azure Defender & Microsoft Sentinel - Use these tools for advanced threat protection and comprehensive security information and event management (SIEM).
  7. Azure Network Security Groups & Firewall - Configure network security groups and firewalls to control traffic flow and protect your Azure environment.

Training Your Team Effectively

AppSecEnginer’s advanced admin panel, a crowd favorite, takes training management up another notch. As an administrator, you can assign specific courses, monitor team progress, and assess individual performance through detailed analytics. You can also view your team’s data: Total Courses Completed, Total Courses Active, Badges & Certificates Earned, Call out the Outliers and gently 🫵 nudge them to complete their training.

As an Enterprise subscriber, you have a flexible seat management capability. Which means, you can deactivate a user and reassign that spot to another team member. Okay, imagine this: with our flexible seat management model, more team members will have access to training. The users who have completed their training or have moved on from your company, their seats can be given to others who need training. This removes the need to keep purchasing more seats to expand the reach of training across the product development team.

Let me tell you one more thing: AppSecEngineer’s Challenges are in demand. A lot of our learners are hooked, but if you need something more niche, you can also build your own. An administrator can create custom challenges for a specific language, framework, difficulty level, and more.

The Responsibility of the Healthcare Industry

It’s your responsibility to secure healthcare data in a multi-cloud environment. With the right training and tools, your organization can confidently navigate the complexities of multi-cloud security to make sure that patient data remains protected and regulatory compliance is maintained. Investing in comprehensive cloud security training for your IT team is a proactive step towards building a robust defense against sophisticated cyber attacks.

Here at AppSecEngineer, we share the responsibilities of healthcare providers in implementing strong security across multiple cloud providers. Our program is filled with practical, hands-on learning experiences that are important when you’re handling sensitive patient data. We made sure that our courses covered critical areas such as HIPAA compliance, data encryption, and real-time threat detection.

AppSecEngineer can help you improve your security posture, protect patient data, and maintain regulatory compliance, all while fully taking advantage of the benefits of multi-cloud solutions.

Source for article
Anushika Babu

Anushika Babu

Marketer, Designer and Mom. Her coffee is never hot enough.

Anushika Babu


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