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Microsoft & Google Launch Cybersecurity Support to American Rural Hospitals

Written by : Aishwarya Sarthe

June 11, 2024

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This program, developed in collaboration with the White House, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), seeks to support approximately 1,800 rural hospitals nationwide.

In response to the escalating threat of cyberattacks targeting healthcare providers, Microsoft and Google have jointly launched a new cybersecurity initiative to strengthen rural hospitals' security measures.

Developed in collaboration with the White House, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), this initiative is designed to support approximately 1,800 rural hospitals across the United States.

Recent FBI data has underscored the urgency of this initiative. It revealed a sharp spike in ransomware attacks against healthcare providers, with incidents rising by nearly 130% in 2023. This alarming trend poses significant risks to patient care and the seamless functioning of hospital operations.

As part of the program, Microsoft and Google will offer nonprofit pricing and discounts of up to 75% on their security products tailored for smaller healthcare organizations. Additionally, larger rural hospitals already utilizing eligible Microsoft solutions will receive complimentary access to the most advanced security suite for one year.

Microsoft's comprehensive initiative also includes free cybersecurity assessments from qualified providers and complimentary training sessions for frontline and IT staff at eligible hospitals. Furthermore, participating hospitals will benefit from free security updates for Windows 10 for one year.

Sharing thoughts, Justin Spelhaug, corporate VP, Microsoft Philanthropies, said, “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. Microsoft is committed to delivering vital technology security and support at a time when these rural hospitals need them most.”

Google's Cybersecurity Support

Google has also joined the effort to bolster cybersecurity in rural hospitals. According to a White House announcement, Google will provide endpoint security advice at no cost to rural hospitals and nonprofit organizations. 

Additionally, the company will fund software migration projects and launch a pilot program to develop security capabilities tailored to rural hospitals' unique needs.

Commenting on the same, Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, said, “Cyberattacks against U.S. healthcare systems rose 130% in 2023, forcing hospitals to cancel procedures and impacting Americans’ access to critical care.’’

The deputy national security adviser further continued to add that the rural hospitals are particularly hard hit as they are often the sole source of care for their communities and lack trained cyber staff and modern cyber defenses. 

“President Biden is committed to giving every American access to the care they need, and effective cybersecurity is a part of that. So, we’re excited to work with Microsoft to launch cybersecurity programs that will provide training, advice, and technology to help America’s rural hospitals be safe online,” added Neuberger.

Healthcare Sector Vulnerabilities

The roughly 1,800 rural community hospitals in the US are among the most vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to limited IT security resources and cybersecurity-trained staff. 

These hospitals serve over 60 million Americans, with many classified as critical access hospitals located more than 35 miles from another hospital. This geographic isolation makes patient diversions and manual workarounds particularly challenging during cyber disruptions.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA, emphasized the shared responsibility in safeguarding healthcare infrastructure. “Cybersecurity is a top priority for America’s hospitals and health systems. It is also a shared responsibility. While hospitals and health systems have invested significant resources to guard against cyberattacks, they cannot do it alone, which is why these commitments from Microsoft and Google are important.”

According to Pollack, many rural hospitals across America are struggling as they serve as a healthcare lifeline in their communities, so keeping them safe is essential. 

“The AHA appreciates the White House’s support of rural hospitals and health systems and looks forward to working with them and other stakeholders across government, law enforcement, and the technology sector to expand these resources to all hospitals,” AHA president noted.

The partnership between the government and tech giants Microsoft and Google aim to protect vital healthcare services and ensure the resilience of rural healthcare providers in the face of escalating cyber threats.


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