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HHS to Fund Cybersecurity Information Sharing Organization

July 26, 2016
by David Raths
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Resource to better equip health systems to identify potential threats and protect electronic health information

Information sharing within industry sectors is a relatively new approach to cybersecurity. One example is the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), which serves as a focal point for cyber threat prevention, protection, response and recovery for the nation's state and local governments. Its operations center provides real-time network monitoring, early cyber threat warnings and advisories, vulnerability identification, and mitigation and incident response. Now something similar is being proposed for the healthcare sector.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) have announced two cooperative agreement funding opportunities for an Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) for the healthcare and public health sector. 

“Establishing robust threat information sharing infrastructure and capability within the Healthcare and Public Health Sector is crucial to the privacy and security of health information, which is foundational to the digital health system,” said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, in a prepared statement. “This coordinated resource will focus on sharing the most up-to-date threat information across the health and public health sectors and will better equip health systems to identify potential threats and further protect electronic health information.”

The funding opportunity announcements announced by ONC and ASPR call for an existing ISAO or Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) to:

• Provide cybersecurity information and education on cyber threats affecting the healthcare and public health sector;

• Expand outreach and education activities to assure that information about cybersecurity awareness is available to the entire healthcare and public health sector;

• Equip stakeholders to take action in response to cyber threat information; and

• Facilitate information sharing widely within the healthcare and public health sector, regardless of the size of the organization.

The combined funding from both opportunities for an ISAO in the first year will be worth $250,000 and could be renewed for up to five years. HHS hopes these opportunities will facilitate the sharing of cybersecurity threats identified in the Healthcare and Public Health sector with relevant stakeholders in the industry as well as federal partners, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 “Keeping health IT up and running is critical to health system preparedness. Not only do we need to worry about natural disasters, but also increasingly we must combat—and prevent—cyber threats. Many parts of the healthcare system don’t have access to the information they need to protect themselves from these threats,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, in a statement. “Using an ISAO to exchange cyber threat information with these healthcare organizations, bi-directionally between HHS and the healthcare and public health sector, we hope to build the capacity to better prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks.”

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