As cyberattacks unfortunately become a more common occurrence, demand for qualified cybersecurity specialists has remained high for all of 2021 and into 2022. Retail transactions, governmental functions and all levels of education have increasingly moved online, heightening the risk of personal information being stolen and thus, the need for better cybersecurity practices and professionals.
One sector in particular is at a particularly high risk for cyberthreats: healthcare. Stolen health records are going for record rates on the dark web at record rates and the cost to remediate a breach in health care is almost three times that of other industries according to a report from IBM and Ponemon Institute. A combination of unique factors including increased virtual visits and aging online infrastructure has put the industry on red alert. For budding cyber experts, employment prospects at healthcare organizations have never been better.
Cybersecurity professionals who work in healthcare can obtain a high-powered and well-paying position, while knowing they’re making a positive impact on the lives of patients who rely on the critical institutions they serve. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how you can enter this excellent sector of the cyber world!
What Makes Healthcare Cybersecurity Unique?
Healthcare organizations can be particularly vulnerable for online attacks, which means they’re IT and Cyber teams must be especially equipped to handle any and all threats. Unlike most businesses, healthcare organizations possess information of both high monetary and intelligence value to all kinds of bad actors. This includes patients’ protected health information, financial information, including credit cards and bank accounts, as well as personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers. On top of that, many organizations also hold proprietary intellectual property, related to medical research and innovations.
The stakes are high when it comes to threats like malware and ransomware attacks. In a worst case scenario, patient care can be jeopardized when access to medical records is lost or altered, or the operations of lifesaving medical devices are affected. Additionally, healthcare companies must answer to multiple stakeholders, including patients, workforce members, C-suite executives and vendors, when and if a breach should occur. Finally, any failure to keep a patient’s records safe could result in pentials under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules in the U.S. or the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. As you can see, the pressure is on organizations and their cyber teams to create a top-notch security plan for all team members and virtual environments within the company.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Jobs
Like the business world at large, opportunities exist for cybersecurity professionals at all stages of the career ladder. Most organizations store their troves of data in custom-built networks and databases, overseen by Database and Systems Administrators, both mid to senior level roles that require a strong working knowledge of an organizations’ infrastructure requirements. Enterprise and Systems Architects are responsible for deciding which IT system to incorporate in a corporation’s network and maintaining optimal success. Healthcare is also not immune to the popular trend of transferring their servers to the cloud, and are therefore also in need of Cloud Architects to design and implement these systems.
When it comes to mid and entry-level roles, there is of course, still demand. Information Technology Specialists and Security specialists might have fewer years of experience under their belt, but play no less an important role in keeping an organization safe. These individuals work alongside a team to maintain, inspect and analyze all IT systems. They are also responsible for answering inquiries and promoting healthy cyber practices across the entire business. Hackers will always target what they perceive to be the weakest link in an organization, so training employees to be aware of common threats like phishing attacks, unencrypted personal data or unauthenticated mobile devices is vitally important.
On the strategy side, healthcare organizations are also in need of Network Analyst and Engineers to install equipment and make decisions about the increasingly complex network of extranets, intranets, and both local area networks (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN) that encompass their data storage. Some professionals obtain the title of Health data security analyst, emphasising their concentration within the field, or become Disaster Recovery Analysts, who specifically develop procedures for minimizing disruption from cyber attacks. Others work as consultants in the space, parachuting into healthcare organizations at critical junctures, like when systems need to be updated or after an attack, and moving on to the next gig after the job is complete.
The preceding paragraphs only scratch the surface of the types of opportunities available to cybersecurity professionals in healthcare! Below, we get into the steps you can take to set yourself up for success in the industry.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Salaries
As of December 2021, the average annual salary for a Cybersecurity Professional within Healthcare is $84,448, according to ZipRecruiter. This number is higher than average for the U.S. and even leans towards the higher side among the tech sector as a whole. The job site reports a wide range of salaries, with most falling between $37,500 and $118,000, indicating a high growth potential for those just starting out in their career. Overall, the numbers depend on the size of an organization, individual skill level and geographic location. Areas where a high number of large healthcare organizations are headquartered, like New York, New Hampshire and Vermont beat the national average for salary expectations. (Their averages are $96,572, $93,659, $88,581 respectively).
With a little bit of luck and a lot of ambition, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to working in cyber. Those in charge of cybersecurity and IT departments at major organizations have reported salaries exceeding $200,000/year and even up to $500,000. While the title of Chief Information Security Officer or Lead Software Security Engineer might not be in everyone’s future, it’s never too early to start planning for your dream role!
Landing a Healthcare Cybersecurity Role
If you’re one of the many people thinking about entering cybersecurity, the market is on your side. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is also predicting an 18% growth in the field of information security by 2024 and healthcare tops the list of industries looking to increase their cybersecurity workforce, according to (ISC)².
Here, we’ve listed out some of our tried and true methods for standing out from the applicant pack and landing your desired position:
Invest in Education – Almost all of the roles outlined here will require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, but you have additional options if you’re looking to specialize further. Cybersecurity-focused bootcamps are a great way to learn job-critical skills quickly and cost-effectively and can be taken, online or in-person, on a full or part-time basis. Look out for programs that offer instruction in Healthcare cyber best practices or prepare you for certifications (more on that below). You also might want to consider a Cyber Security Degree in Healthcare Information or a Health Informatics degree program. As opposed to a generalized computer science curriculum, you’ll master sector-specific skills like:
- Analysis of ethical and legal issues in healthcare sec and privacy
- The Management of IT physical and technical safeguards specific to health care
- The Confidentiality, Integrity Availability (CIA) triad model associated with health data security
- Understanding and enforcement of legal compliance in the space, especially as it applies to HIPAA
Explore Certifications – Industry certifications have been around in the Cyber world for more than 20 years and are one way recruiters verify an applicant’s knowledge and skills. While earning one can take months of training, completion of a 3+ hour test and hundreds of dollars, it’s absolutely worth it, based on the job opportunities and salary increases you can receive in return. If you’re serious about the healthcare industry, consider becoming a Healthcare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP) or Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS). Other certifications widely recognized by the industry include CISSP, CISM, CEH and CompTIA+. Follow the link to learn more about each of these, as you determine which one best aligns with your career goals.
Become Familiar with Frameworks – Organizations large and small use frameworks as a guide to standardize their response to threats and mitigate any business interruptions. Frameworks are made up of three parts: the core, implementation tiers and profiles, and it is the job of cyber and IT professionals to select the right framework for their company and implement it throughout the systems they manage. Having a working knowledge of common industry is a great way to demonstrate proficiency and will help prepare you for any potential questions thrown your way in an interview scenario. Start with the NIST Healthcare Framework, the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) Framework and the Critical Security Controls (CSC) from the Center for Internet Security. These are the top three frameworks put in place within healthcare, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Gain Experience with Internships – There’s no better way to determine a professional best fit, than with hands-on experience. Reach out to IT departments within your network or area, and keep a running list of potential opportunities as you progress through your education. Hospitals, clinics, supply vendors, medical research labs and even offshoots of the government like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) all provide opportunities. Keep in mind, that many organizations are now offering virtual internships, so you don’t have to feel constrained by your geographical location.
Keep it Personal – While technical skills will always be highly valued, working in IT and Cybersecruity, especially in healthcare, requires a high degree of interpersonal communication, You must be prepared to present findings to internal and external stakeholders and break down highly technical concepts to audiences who might come from vastly different educational backgrounds. On a similar note, it’s always a good idea to keep in touch with your personal network. Do your best to seek out a mentor, who can guide you along your professional path. Build out your own network of peers and past and present colleagues so you have somewhere to turn when it’s time to seek your next opportunity!
Hopefully, you now feel at least a little bit more prepared to begin pursuing the exciting opportunities that await in the world of Healthcare cybersecurity. Be sure to check out the articles listed below to learn more about industry opportunities and where your IT and Cyber career can take you.