Navigating the Cloud Landscape: Best Practices for Healthcare Security

The healthcare industry is rapidly evolving, with more sensitive patient information being stored in the cloud. As a result, the security of this data has become a top concern for healthcare providers. Navigating the complex landscape of cloud security can be challenging, but several best practices can ensure the safety of sensitive data.

This blog will explore some of the strategies, tools and other aspects of cloud security for healthcare providers. We start with understanding the different cloud strategies that can be applied industry-wide.

Cloud Strategies

Generally, when we test agility and higher operation efficiency, many projects are inclined toward the cloud. Agility, higher productivity and cost efficiency are some business requirements effectively solved by a cloud model. High scalability and availability of services, increased operational efficiency, monitoring, multitenancy, etc., surround these cloud models.

Amongst these models, one of the main components is the security and governance of the cloud. So let’s dive deep into how we can use cloud strategies to effectively achieve security in healthcare projects and achieve the best compliance adhering to HIPAA compliance checks.

Possible Security Attacks in Healthcare

One question arises every time, what are the possible security attacks that might occur in healthcare?

Especially in healthcare projects, when we work on a web application or mobile app, the possible generic attacks are mainly DOS attacks, data breaches, cross-site scripting attacks, etc.

In DOS attacks, they inject a lot of malicious traffic into the services, making the servers stop and block the organic traffic. Because of this inorganic traffics, there is a possibility of the server to shutdown.

Similarly, ransomware attacks are also one of the possible things and have been seen a lot in recent times. The attack mainly includes injecting some malicious scripts which corrupt the sensitive data. The corrupting of data causes encrypting, and the users cannot use the data.

If healthcare data is not protected well, there are high possibilities of data breaches. Data breaches attack the data which should not be exposed and lead to privacy violations. Another oldest attack is phishing. It is similar to DOS attacks. Phishing includes intruding emails, which means malicious links are injected into the emails. Every activity of the users is tracked down as soon as anybody clicks on the links.

Due to poor passwords and authentication systems, there is a possibility of broken authentications. Similarly, SQL injection attacks are mostly seen in our projects. The applications are running SQL queries, so hackers malformed the SQL period, enabling it to get the data from the database.

Possible security attacks in healthcare

DevSecOps as a Service

DevSecOps combines software development, security, and operations to create a culture of collaboration, integration, and automation. As a service, it refers to providing these practices by a third-party company or organization to help clients implement them in their operations. The DevSecOps as a service is to help organizations improve their overall security posture while still allowing them to focus on their core business operations.

The data will be associated with infrastructure and application, mainly at the infernal level and application. When we come to this application and infernal class, agility is the most automated thing we achieve. We must implement Dev setups where the security has to be integrated strictly with DevOps.

We had some use cases recently that we implemented for a few healthcare providers. Healthcare companies have to do frequent security assessments. When we do infrastructure as a code while provisioning the infrastructure, we follow the security policies where we run the policies as the code.

Similarly, we run frequent infra-complex risk assessments once the infrastructure is provisioned. The application must also be securely and thoroughly assessed whenever the build happens and the code is deployed to the test server or stage server. The Dev server will have static code security testing or dynamic application security testing, Sash and Dash. SaaS identifies any probabilities in the code or performs composite software analysis to determine any deprecated libraries that cause some security attacks.

That is when the application is being executed or is in the runtime enrollment, gets attacked, and is checked.

DevSecOps As A Service

CI/CD with DevSecOps

CI/CD emphasizes frequent, small code changes and automates testing and deployment. When using CI/CD with DevSecOps, security is integrated throughout the entire software development lifecycle. For example, automated security testing is performed as part of the continuous integration process, where developers integrate the code changes into a public repository multiple times a day.

CI/CD integration has different frameworks and tools for security audits and scans. The CI/CD integration with security can be applied in every build in different environments. Various types of scans can be performed, such as infra-level scans, which can enhance the efficiency of the pipeline.

Related Read: What, How and Why of CI/CD

The scans are performed in different phases. For example, before deploying to the server and the pipeline gets triggered, it will execute SCA and SBOM to detect the deprecated libraries. After having a quick test scan, it generates reports. The SAST, a part of static code security testing, can also be applied to the pipeline.

DevSecOps ProcessSuch security checks and approvals are integrated to ensure that the code deployed is free from known vulnerabilities and meets compliance and security standards. This approach helps organizations to detect and remediate security issues quickly, reducing the risk of successful attacks and minimizing the impact of security breaches.

 

Tools and Platforms- Compliance Assessment Tools

Compliance assessment tools check whether an organization’s systems, applications, and processes comply with specific industry standards, regulations and best practices. Different compliance assessment tools are available, each designed to assess compliance with specific rules or standards.

Here are a few examples of compliance assessment tools;

Cloud security Compliance Assessment Tools

1. Terragrunt

Terragrunt is an open-source tool for managing infrastructure as a code. It enables collaboration among teams and improves security. The device can perform advanced validation input variables, making it easier to catch errors early in the development process.

Terragrunt allows you to store and reuse common configurations, such as backend and provider configurations, making it easier to manage large-scale deployments. It helps to improve security by allowing for more secure storage of sensitive data, such as access keys and hidden variables.

2. MobSF

Mobile Security Framework is an open-source tool that automates mobile application security testing. It performs various tasks such as static and dynamic analysis, malware analysis, and vulnerability scanning. In addition, MobSF generates comprehensive reports with the analysis results, including information about the app’s architecture, code quality and security issues.

It supports multiple file formats, including APK, IPA and ZIP. The tools’ reports state the vulnerability’s nature and potential impact on the project or system.

3. ProwlerPro

ProwlerPro is an open-source tool for infra-scan. It was initially designed for AWS, Azure and GCP, but later it started supporting other clouds too. The device performs assessments of data which are security-based practices like auditing. ProwlerPro follows the guidelines of all the CAS AWS Foundation’s benchmarks. There are other additional checks, including GDPR and HIPAA complaints.

The tools can automate identifying and reporting vulnerabilities, making it easier for developers and the security team to address them. In addition, ProwlerPro allows users to customize checks using custom profiles, making it more flexible for the clients to assess their specific environments.

4. NeuVector

NeuVector is the container security platform that provides automated security for containerized applications. It uses a combination of network segmentation, runtime security, and machine learning to protect containerized applications from known and unknown threats.

NeuVector can monitor the runtime behavior of containerized applications to detect and block malicious activity in real-time. The algorithms detect environmental threats by blocking network connections, killing containers or taking other actions. It supports multiple container platforms such as Kubernetes, Docker, and OpenShift.

5. Rancher

Rancher is an open-source platform for managing containerized workloads and services. It provides a simple and intuitive web-based interface for deploying, scaling and controlling the application security on any infrastructure. It allows you to manage multiple Kubernetes clusters.

Rancher is designed to automate data encryption at rest and in transit and integrates with external security providers. Rancher generates compliance reports, which can help organizations meet regulatory requirements and adhere to security best practices.

HIPAA Compliance in Healthcare

HIPAA is a federal regulatory body that sets standards for protecting sensitive patient health information (PHI). HIPAA applies to healthcare providers, health plans and their business associates. Any services developed for healthcare providers need a specific level of security that has to be followed. With services like Key Management Services, you can easily plug and play to have safe practices for development. Let’s understand how HIPAA plays a major role in healthcare.

Every cloud has an agreement and regulations to be followed to provide secure services. The deals make cloud vendors to be mutual consent with the application. It is the agreement between the cloud provider and the cloud vendor. From an architectural perspective, we must follow all these steps to HIPAA-compliant application and data.

It includes transport, data-level security, access controls for authentication, and network security for firewalls for the application. While setting up a web application firewall, AWS has layers 4 and 7 shields and security groups applicable to the Google cloud, like RMR and Azure path.

Related Read: Why Is HIPAA Important To mHealth Apps More Than Ever?

Audit controls include frequent audit checks on the application’s infra-level. Even while monitoring and logging, the data should be masked, especially for sensitive data. The systematic activity logs include service-level agreements on the backups, which means if you lose the data, it results in a major loss. The DR mechanism prevents system failures.

Such security measures and practices are applied on application, data and infra-level.

Application Security Measures

Application security can be practiced by applying various measures. Instead of using password-based authentication mechanisms, we use Auth0-based things with short-lived tokens. In case we are using password-based authentications, it will Hash password storage.

In the case of sensitive data, there are measures like data masking, encryption and tokenization. We have even followed audit mechanisms in our recent projects checking the interceptors, logging, listeners etc. Furthermore, code-level security carries out specific measures such as avoiding hardcoding of sensitive data, avoiding storing secrets running at client-side scripts, avoiding logging of plain text running in client-side scripts and domain object security.

cloud application security measures

Architecture for Security and Compliance

The partner agreement is managed based on AWS agreements supported by other cloud providers. Transit KMF is one of the services which can be used for encryption with S3 plus storage. The data can be stored in the storage systems tightly connected with the KMS, where AWS can take care of the encryption. As a developer or engineer, you don’t need to do anything.

RDS is the relational service database. They provide a certificate manager which generates the SSL certificates. These certificates get automatically renewed by AWS Excel. EC2 is, again, a complete cloud that is connected to the network through load balance. So we can have tight security between the EC2, where the actual application is running and the load balances.

For security and admin policies, authentication/ authorization roles like IAM are one of the best ways to ensure that the boundaries are perfectly defined regarding exit management. Auth02 and Cognito are the cognitive ones of AWS’s widely-used services. It is considered a HIPAA complaint that provides security as far as the Network level is concerned.

architecture for security and compliance

The Private Kubernetes is the virtual private cloud in AWS. The VPC networks can be created easily on the cloud. Another concept called- Replacing endpoint is used to secure the application. The security groups ensure that the firewall is back and only the needed ports are opened. The security grip is widely used, whether EC2 or the load balancer.

The audit logs consist of Cloud Trail, Cloud Watcher and Opensource. These are widely used in AWS. Open search is a service similar to the enterprise using multiple backups. As these services are available as open-source, you can save a lot of costs.
Amazon Glacier is usually used for archival data to reduce costs. For example, the government has to store some of the data files for 10 or 20 years for complex reasons. Suppose such data files are stored normally in S3, which can cost a lot. Instead, you use a glacier which can archive the data, but when you retrieve it again, data may take some time but will reduce the cost. The same goes for the Key-based snapshots and route S3.

Data Security Phases

In addition to the application and infra-level security, even data security services at a granular level is most important. For example, there are different data security phases where we will have the data access control mechanisms, backups and recovery, encryption and masking, and most important, tokenization.

The access control performs authentication like SS4-based authentication and role-based access control. Therefore, the backups for data theft through data steering can be performed virtually. Data encryption and masking are most important to protect sensitive data with random characters that are not algorithmically reversible. The concept of tokenization is being widely used in the data security area. This is maintained by the centralized organization server that can get the tokenization input and validate the information. You can see a detailed used case for tokenization below.

Data Security Phases

Tokenization- Data Security

We have a detailed explanation below, where we can see how you can protect data institutes so the algorithms cannot be reversible. For example, we have an application that processes sensitive data. We have an evolved tokenization server so that a part of a token can be integrated. When we pass the sensitive data, firstly, it will check for authentication, whether the request is coming from the proper user or not.

If the authentication is successful, it generates and converts the sensitive data to a token. The token can be fixed even when we try multiple algorithms. However, we cannot reverse the data. The reversing of data will replace sensitive data with non-sensitive information.

Tokenization flow for Data Security

Different third-party libraries are available, like Apache, an open-source library. Through such libraries, we can leverage the B crypt. If we reverse the data, the token can be converted to sensitive data so it can be managed easily by data organization.

Tokenization Security

Tokenization prevents sensitive data by replacing it with a random string of characters, called a toke, with no inherent meaning or value. The token can be used in place of the original data, such as credit card numbers, for certain operations, such as payment transactions and healthcare systems.

Tokenization enhances security by reducing the risk of stolen sensitive data, as tokens are useless without the original data and the algorithm used to create them. As a result, healthcare providers can leverage the benefit of tokenization and comply with data protection laws and reduce the risk of data breaches.
Tokenization can help healthcare providers in various ways with its advantages such as;

Advantages of Tokenization

Tokenization use Cases

Tokenization has various use cases in several industries, some of the most common ones are;

use cases of Tokenization

1. Payment Information

Tokenization is widely used in payment processing to secure transactions. Tokens replace sensitive data, reducing the risk of fraud and data breaches.

2. GDPR, HIPAA, and other Compliance Data

You can secure sensitive data such as medical records, social security numbers, and other personal information, eliminating the chances of data breaches and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and HIPAA.

3. Blockchain Network

Tokenization is used in blockchain networks to convert real-world data into tokens that can be securely traded and managed on the blockchain. This enables the creation of decentralized, secure, and transparent markets for various assets, including real estate, commodities, and more.

Related Read: How Blockchain Is Changing The Healthcare Industry?

4. Digital Wallets

Tokenization is also used in digital wallets to secure and manage sensitive data, such as payment information and login credentials. Tokens replace sensitive data, reducing the risk of data breaches and ensuring that users’ information is protected.

5. Healthcare Sensitive Data

Tokenization can be used to secure sensitive healthcare information, such as medical records and personal health information. Tokens replace sensitive data, reducing the risk of data breaches and ensuring that healthcare organizations can securely manage and access patients’ information while meeting their obligations under privacy regulations.

6. Banking and Financial Applications

Tokenization is used in banking and financial services to secure sensitive information, such as account numbers and login credentials. Tokens replace sensitive data, reducing the risk of data breaches and ensuring that banks and financial institutions can securely manage and access customer information while still meeting their obligations under financial regulations.

Automation in Security

Automation in security refers to using technology to automate various security processes, tasks and functions. This includes automating security administration tasks such as policy enforcement, configuration management, and compliance reporting. Automation in security aims to improve efficiency, reduce manual efforts, and minimize the risk of human error, ultimately helping organizations better protect against security threats.

Automation In Security

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Conclusion

Navigating the cloud landscape can be complex and challenging for organizations. However, by following best practices for security, organizations can ensure that their cloud environments are secure and well-protected against threats.

You can use tools for security scanning at both the infra and application levels. You can include static and dynamic application security testing and container security. Tokenization of data at the application layer will help protect sensitive data in healthcare industries.

You can use a trusted cloud provider with experience in delivering high operational efficiency, productivity and security levels. In addition, businesses can adhere to security measures to protect their healthcare data and sensitive information from breaches.

Our recent webinar covered all the aspects of the cloud landscape and its security measures. Click here to watch the webinar.

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