Healthcare and cybersecurity share many of the same goals, objectives and challenges. Both industries want to keep people safe, whether it’s someone’s body or their personal data. And we want to lower the risk of adverse conditions in the future. Whether it’s a heart attack or a data breach, as the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

And in light of the current crisis, it’s worth examining what the two industries can learn from one another. When the recovery gets underway, we’ll each have unique roles to play in getting things moving again. Hospitals will need to get people back up to speed on their routine healthcare. Cybersecurity professionals will secure the technology infrastructure we use throughout the economy.

In cybersecurity, we’re used to managing crises and attacks. After all, if a virus strikes a major company or government, we aren’t able to shut down the entire internet until it’s safe to go online again.

From more effectively managing risks to better coordination with government entities, here’s what I think the cybersecurity and healthcare industries can learn from one another during a time of massive upheaval.

Focusing On Accurate Diagnostics

Both cybersecurity and healthcare organizations are tasked with fighting viruses, albeit in completely different contexts. Whether it’s a piece of malware or an airborne pathogen, the key to curing any infection is figuring out what the problem is in the first place. That’s why focusing on accurate diagnostics is critical for both industries. The primary reason governments had to take the drastic step of isolation is the lack of widely available, accurate diagnostics. 

In cybersecurity, as in healthcare, having the right diagnostic tools is essential. Not every lab test detects disease with 100% accuracy. Preventing hackers also has a margin of error because it’s simply impossible to detect and neutralize every single cyberthreat. Therefore, we need to implement the proper diagnostic tools to respond.

The good news is that both cybersecurity and healthcare are generally innovation-focused and forward-thinking industries. Biotech firms Covaxx and Roche, for example, are already making major strides in tests with near-zero inaccuracies. In cybersecurity, tools like artificial intelligence might one day be able to ward off every hacker. The key challenge in both cases isn’t just accuracy, but applying it at a mass scale.

So while we can’t detect every sick person or infected laptop, new diagnostic tools are constantly emerging to speed detection and response. Just like IT departments have breach response plans, healthcare organizations should adopt clear response strategies for the next pandemic.

Taking A Risk-Based Approach

Here’s where I think healthcare can learn a huge lesson from the approach we take as cybersecurity professionals. As mentioned, it’s basically impossible to hermetically seal an entire IT infrastructure to make it impenetrable to malicious actors. That’s precisely why we take a risk-based approach, analyzing which data or systems are the most vulnerable and/or likely to come under attack.

As we seek to balance the economic impact of a prolonged shutdown, it’s important for healthcare leaders and providers to understand that there will always be an element of risk. This can go counter to the idea that the goal is to eliminate risk altogether. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In cybersecurity, we always differentiate between actual risks and perceived risks. Today, we have an incredibly high amount of perceived risk when it comes to even the most basic daily activities. Going to a clinic for a basic checkup isn’t an option for most people, and even grocery shopping is a hassle. But a good cyber defense strategy is based on actual risk, backed up by data and testing. If we want to both handle the virus and get our lives back, then we need the healthcare sector to begin implementing a risk-based approach.

Adopting A Kill Chain Analysis

Similar to a postmortem, we conduct what’s called a kill chain analysis after a breach to figure out what went wrong. A kill chain analysis will tell us how a hacker entered the system, what data they had access to and how they moved within the system.

Thankfully, it seems as if healthcare organizations are working closely with government agencies to conduct a similar analysis given the current situation. But the kill chain analysis isn’t just about the forensic investigation of an isolated incident. It’s designed to help point out shortcomings in the current IT infrastructure so organizations can plug the gaps.

But if there’s one thing that cybersecurity can learn from healthcare, it’s a focus on compassion and caring in the midst of crisis. While our experience typically extends to securing systems for hospitals and providers — as well as compliance with regulations like HIPAA — healthcare professionals are the ones on the front lines trying to save lives.

Helping hospitals, clinics and insurance providers to keep sensitive patient information protected from hackers is cybersecurity’s main contribution to surviving this crisis. But healthcare and cybersecurity have a lot to learn from each other.