How a Security Controls Validation Assessment Optimizes Cybersecurity Investments

Healthcare organizations invest billions of dollars in security solutions to safeguard sensitive patient data—but are those solutions working as intended?

A 2020 report by Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that the healthcare industry will spend $125 billion cumulatively on cybersecurity from 2020 to 2025, growing annually at a rate of 15 percent. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of these investments often remains uncertain.

Organizations are frequently left to speculate: Are our controls working, or are we simply unaware of an attacker’s presence?

This article explores the challenges healthcare organizations face in ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of their security solutions and introduces a groundbreaking approach to tackle this issue – the Security Controls Validation Assessment (SCVA).

The Dilemma of Healthcare Security Spending

Healthcare organizations recognize the critical importance of cybersecurity, so they allocate substantial budgets for security solutions. However, the evolving nature of cyber threats and the complexity of healthcare IT environments make it difficult to ensure these investments deliver the desired outcomes. Often, healthcare entities remain unaware of potential vulnerabilities and control gaps until a cyberattack occurs, leading to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and compromised patient trust.

Identifying the Gaps Too Late

A key challenge in healthcare cybersecurity is the lack of validation of security measures. Organizations deploy various security solutions, from firewalls to intrusion detection systems, hoping to provide comprehensive protection. However, the effectiveness of these solutions is rarely evaluated in real-world attack scenarios. The absence of regular validation and testing means that potential gaps in the security posture remain undiscovered until an actual breach occurs.

Understanding the Factors Behind Ineffectiveness

The following ten factors often contribute to the uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of healthcare cybersecurity solutions. These include:

1. Inadequate Configuration and Tuning: Modern cybersecurity solutions are powerful, but they are also typically complex. They require meticulous configuration and tuning to align with an organization’s network and security requirements. If not properly configured, they may generate false positives or fail to detect actual threats, leading to alert fatigue and missed incidents.

2. Misaligned Threat Detection: Many security solutions are designed to detect specific threats and attacks. If the threat landscape evolves and the solution cannot identify new attack techniques, it will miss those threats. Continuous updates and calibration are essential to keep up with emerging threats.

3. Lack of Regular Maintenance: Solutions often require ongoing maintenance to stay updated with the latest threat signatures, attack patterns, and system updates. They may become outdated and fail to detect modern threats without regular maintenance.

4. Overwhelming Volume of Alerts: In large and complex networks, security tools can generate a vast number of alerts, making it challenging for security teams to identify genuine threats amidst the noise. This can result in critical alerts being overlooked or delayed.

5. Limited Visibility: Security tools often operate based on the traffic that flows through their sensors or monitoring points. If there are blind spots in the network that the solutions cannot monitor, threats that occur in those areas will go undetected.

6. Evasion Techniques: Sophisticated attackers often employ evasion techniques to bypass detection. These techniques involve crafting attacks so that the security tools do not recognize them as malicious. This can render the security solutions ineffective against advanced adversaries.

7. Lack of Integration: Any particular solution is just one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. The tool’s ability to respond to threats may be limited without proper integration with other security tools, like intrusion prevention systems (IPS), firewalls, and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.

8. Resource Constraints: Security solutions can consume significant computational resources, and organizations with limited IT infrastructure might struggle to maintain the necessary hardware and software resources to support the solution effectively.

9. Complexity of Analysis: Security alerts often require skilled security analysts to investigate and determine the severity of a threat. If an organization lacks the personnel with expertise, the alerts might not be adequately assessed, leading to missed threats.

10. Lack of Training: Even with well-configured solutions, the system’s potential benefits will be diminished if the security team lacks the proper training to interpret alerts and respond effectively.

A Proactive and Comprehensive Approach to Cyber Defense: Clearwater’s Security Controls Validation Assessment (SCVA)

To help clients overcome these challenges and gain a better understanding of which cybersecurity investments are delivering a strong ROI, Clearwater provides the Security Controls Validation Assessment (SCVA). A tech-enabled solution that combines advanced attack simulation tools with expert analysis delivered by Clearwater’s award-winning Consulting team, SCVA offers a proactive and comprehensive approach to validating the effectiveness of security measures.

The assessment involves:

  • Deploying Simulators: SCVA deploys simulators within the healthcare organization’s environment to emulate both attacker and target.
  • Integrating Solutions: An organization’s security solutions, if supported, can be accessed during the assessment via standard API to provide confirmation of actions taken against the simulated attacks.
  • Simulating Attacks: Attack scenarios, drawn from a library of the most common threats in the industry, are designed to mimic real-world cyberattacks. These simulated attacks provide real evidence of the response or lack thereof of the organization’s security investments but in a safe way for the organization and its operations.
  • Evaluating Responses: The security solutions’ responses to the simulated attacks are thoroughly evaluated by experts in deploying and using security solutions in a complex healthcare environment.
  • Generating Insights: SCVA analysts generate a comprehensive report containing findings, observations, and actionable recommendations for enhancing security measures.
  • Executive Briefing: An executive briefing provides a clear overview of the assessment results and recommendations.

Minimal Disruption, Maximum Insight

In a SCVA, simulated attacks are run only against a handful of systems instead of a range of IP addresses as is done in standard penetration testing. Based on the client’s perimeter and internal architecture, the Clearwater team will recommend how many simulators to deploy to act as representatives of most of the environment.

This approach allows us to minimize the number of simulated attacks needed to gauge the environment. By running attacks against test machines and gold images where possible, we also minimize the possibility of business interruption.

Integrations with the client’s Security Control Products (SCPs) allow us to verify actions taken or not taken for each simulated attack.

Aligning with Industry Standards

In addition to providing insight into the effectiveness of your organization’s security investments, SCVA aligns with the recommended attack simulation practices within the 405(d) Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP) for larger organizations. This alignment ensures that healthcare entities adhere to industry best practices and standards while enhancing their security posture. For those organizations wishing to get even more benefits, the SCVA can be conducted jointly with a tabletop exercise for an even richer experience and learning opportunity.

By proactively evaluating the effectiveness of security measures through the SCVA, healthcare organizations can mitigate risks, prevent breaches, and optimize their cybersecurity investments. In a landscape where data breaches and cyber threats are rising, SCVA is a vital component of effective cyber defense, empowering healthcare entities to better protect themselves from an attack.


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