Student’s Vanguard: Ahead of Rising Ransomware Attacks, Microsoft Extends Security Services to Rural Hospitals

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

By Praniti Gulyani

On Sept. 20, 2019, at 3:30 am, Campbell County Health—a rural hospital in Wyoming—experienced a computer service disruption that was later identified as ransomware. As per a post dated Sept. 20, 2019, on Campbell County Health’s website, the “ransomware affected the hospital’s computer system and ability to provide some clinical services.”

This is not the first time that a hospital in rural America has faced such an attack.

As per a report by the National Rural Healthcare Association, rural health clinics—that serve up to 60 million people a year—are one of the top targets for cyberattacks. The healthcare sector reported more ransomware attacks than any other critical infrastructure sector, according to a report by Microsoft.

Overall, attacks by ransomware went up by 130% in 2023.

Ahead of these attacks, Microsoft—in collaboration with the White House, the American Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association—offers small hospitals free security assessments and up to 75% discounts on cybersecurity tools for a year.

Describing why rural hospitals come forth as a softer and hence more vulnerable target, in a report by Microsoft, Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisory for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, says, “Rural hospitals are often the primary source of healthcare in their communities, so keeping them open and safe from cyberattacks is critical.”

Microsoft has also gone on to launch a new Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals that is designed to support the customized cybersecurity needs of each individual institution. In addition to free and low-cost services for these hospitals, the program also offers training and support.

That is not all.

Recognizing the pressing need for a skilled workforce in Cybersecurity, Microsoft is also working in close association with Community Colleges to establish the Cybersecurity Skills Initiative and the Techspark Program that strive to establish cybersecurity and technology job creation.

In a report by Microsoft, Justin Spelhaug, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Philanthropies, says, “Healthcare should be available no matter where you call home, and the rise in cyberattacks threatens the viability of rural hospitals and impacts communities across the U.S.”

Emphasizing Microsoft’s resolve to stick by rural hospitals in their time of need, Spelhaug goes on to say, “Microsoft is committed to delivering vital technology security and support at a time when these rural hospitals need them most.”

About The Author

Praniti Gulyani is a second-year student at UC Berkeley majoring in English with minor(s) in Creative Writing and Journalism. During her time at The Davis Vanguard as a Court Watch Intern and Opinion(s) Columnist for her weekly column, ‘The Student Vanguard' within the organization, she hopes to create content that brings the attention of the general reader to everyday injustice issues that need to be addressed immediately. After college, she hopes to work as a writer or a columnist in a newspaper or magazine, using the skills that she gains during her time at The Davis Vanguard to reach a wider audience.

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