HHS solicits technologists for healthcare cybersecurity tools

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (Arpa-H), said that it is launching an initiative dubbed the Digital Health Security project (Digiheals), to find and help fund the development of cybersecurity technologies that can specifically improve defenses for digital infrastructure in US health care.  

Running through September 7, Arpa-H, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, will review proposals from researchers and technologists for cybersecurity tools aimed specifically to health care systems, hospitals and clinics, and health-related devices.

“We’re looking for rapid and stupendous progress. We want to ensure that the impact we have is significant but also equitably distributed. It doesn’t matter if we develop a perfect cure that makes a network completely impenetrable if a rural hospital can’t adopt it because of light IT staff or minimal or no security budget,” said Digiheals program manager Andrew Carney. 

Digiheals is seeking a broad range of submissions related to vulnerability detection, software hardening, system patching, and the development of security protocols with the goal of fostering new and inventive solutions. Digiheals is also encouraging researchers to make submissions related to the types of security tools that are not working in health care settings and the reasons for these failings.

“Currently, off-the-shelf software tools fall short in detecting emerging cyber threats and protecting our medical facilities, resulting in a technical gap we seek to bridge with this initiative,” Arpa-H director Renee Wegrzyn said in a statement.  

Ted Miracco, CEO, Approov Mobile Security had this to say:  

“We believe the Digital Health Security project (Digiheals) is an important effort that is coming at the right time, with so many of our healthcare facilities under attack or in the crosshairs of bad actors.    

“Andrew Carney is absolutely correct in identifying the resource limitations and budgets as a prime factor to address, and we are optimistic that rapid improvements can be made by deploying both existing technologies more broadly, and sharing information rapidly when new threats emerge. Many of the recent attack are not new, so a component of the solution must be better information sharing across the complex healthcare ecosystem.

This is a great idea and I hope it results in better security for not just healthcare, but for all of us.

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