Securing Healthcare Communication: The Imperative Role of Email Link Isolation

By Oliver Patterson, Director of Product Management, VIPRE Security Group
LinkedIn: VIPRE Security Group
X: @VIPRESecurity

In the ever-evolving healthcare sector landscape, communication is the lifeblood that keeps organizations functioning smoothly. Among these vital communication channels, email takes center stage. However, the healthcare industry faces unique challenges and is not immune to the lurking risks that can potentially disrupt operations and compromise sensitive patient data.

Email is at the forefront of these digital perils, the primary vector for cyberattacks in the healthcare sector. Email phishing attacks have proven remarkably effective, making them the most prevalent method cybercriminals employ. Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations, particularly smaller ones, are ill-equipped to combat these dynamic threats due to limited resources and time constraints. This vulnerability puts them at substantial financial and legal risk.

Recent times have seen a heightened interest from cybercriminals in healthcare entities, including small clinics, healthcare educational institutions (university hospitals, for example), and local government health departments. These organizations, constrained by limited resources, become prime targets. As a result, safeguarding email communication in the healthcare sector has become paramount.

Email-based attacks jeopardize healthcare organizations’ data and pose risks to the loss of personal health information. Email link isolation may be an overlooked defense against email-borne dangers and an educational tool to promote safer and more effective email usage in healthcare organizations.

The Email Link Isolation Advantage

Email link isolation deploys a multifaceted approach to protect healthcare organizations from the ever-evolving tactics of cybercriminals who target email as their preferred attack mode. Link isolation employs URL rewriting to neutralize concealed threats lurking within rogue URLs. Unlike traditional list-based systems, email link isolation proactively defends against known threats, suspicious links, and unknown URLs, ensuring that even trusted websites cannot be compromised.

Once a user clicks on a rewritten link, link isolation subjects the destination page content to rigorous scrutiny within a sandboxed environment, effectively isolating the URLs in the email message. This approach provides enhanced protection.

Depending on the configuration settings, healthcare professionals are presented with options to interact with the content. They can view a safe, stripped-down version of the page, proceed to the entire site with an acknowledgment of the associated risk, or report an error if the site is known to be clean and safe. This level of user control empowers healthcare personnel while ensuring their safety.

How links are “re-written”

The email link isolation solution employs a proactive defense mechanism through URL rewriting to swiftly neutralize concealed threats within email links. Unlike traditional list-based systems, this approach enhances security by actively identifying and mitigating potential risks associated with URLs. Here’s a breakdown of how the link isolation solution rewrites email links:

Identification of URLs: When an email is received, the email link isolation solution scans the content for embedded URLs, which could be potential vectors for cyber threats.

URL Rewriting: Upon identifying a URL, the solution rewrites the link to create a new, sanitized version of the original. This process involves modifying the URL in a way that preserves the functionality for the end user while adding an additional layer of security.

Proactive Defense: The rewritten URL serves as a proactive defense against known threats, suspicious links, and unknown URLs. This step ensures that even if the original link contained hidden threats, the modified version mitigates the risk by redirecting the user through a secure pathway.

Prevention of Compromised Websites: By rewriting URLs, the solution prevents cybercriminals from exploiting trusted websites. Even if a legitimate site becomes compromised, the modified link ensures that users are directed to a secure environment, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access or data breaches.

The link isolation solution actively rewrites URLs within emails, creating a secure and sanitized pathway for users while mitigating the risks associated with email-borne threats in the healthcare sector.

Beyond Protection: An Educational Resource

Email link isolation goes beyond mere protection; it can also be used as an educational resource. In addition to blocking potential threats, it allows users to engage with sanitized pages, turning each interaction into a valuable training moment. This approach aligns with ongoing security awareness training reinforcing cybersecurity best practices among healthcare employees. When users encounter a dubious link or content, they are protected and can receive training about the potential danger of the link. This knowledge reduces the likelihood of falling victim to similar attacks.

Email link isolation emerges as a critical tool to fortify email communication in the healthcare sector, where the stakes are high and patient data is sacred. By effectively neutralizing threats and educating healthcare professionals, it strengthens the cybersecurity posture of healthcare organizations, ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of essential services to patients while safeguarding sensitive information. Email link isolation is the guardian angel healthcare organizations need in an industry where every email matters.