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Two rural Mississippi hospitals to...

Two rural Mississippi hospitals to receive cybersecurity assistance from Microsoft

By: Jeremy Pittari - June 20, 2024

Tuesday, representatives of two rural hospitals, Microsoft and Congressman Bennie Thompson announced a new initiative to protect health care industries from cyberattacks. Pictured from left are Brandy Bradshaw, Director of Community Outreach of Sharkey Issaquena Hospital; Vickie Robinson, General Manager of Microsoft Airband Initiative; U.S. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi’s Second Congressional District; and Gary Marchand, Interim CEO of Greenwood Leflore Hospital. (Submitted photo)

  • Greenwood Leflore and Sharkey Issaquena will receive advanced protection packages with automated security and information protection to reduce data breaches.

Two rural hospitals in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District will receive assistance through the Microsoft Rural Hospital Cybersecurity Program to ensure they are protected from online threats. The aid is being provided through a collaboration with Microsoft, among others, with support from Congressman Bennie Thompson’s office.

Last year, cyber and ransomware attacks on the nation’s healthcare system were up 128 percent. Just one cyberattack on a hospital can result in a drop of revenue by 40 percent, putting the hospital at risk of closure, according to information provided by Microsoft. Recovering from the effects of a cyberattack can set a hospital back almost $11 million. 

Tuesday afternoon, Congressman Thompson and representatives of Microsoft, Greenwood Leflore Hospital and Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital announced they were partnering with the program.

During the presentation, staff of both hospitals learned that they will receive a year of free Windows 10 advanced protection packages along with funding from Microsoft to provide cybersecurity training, support and technology services. The advanced protection package includes identity and threat protections along with automated security and information protection to reduce data breaches. Microsoft is providing $50,000 to fund cybersecurity remediation and resiliency services to ensure patient and hospital data is protected. 

Greenwood Leflore Hospital’s Interim CEO Gary Marchand told Magnolia Tribune his system is constantly fending off cyber threats.

“Regarding the Microsoft Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals, we would like to express our appreciation to Rep. Thompson for his support of this initiative,” said Marchand. “Greenwood Leflore Hospital is constantly fending off cyber threats, both internally and externally. This is becoming increasingly difficult as hacker tactics and techniques increase in sophistication and are enhanced with machine learning and artificial intelligence. This program will also allow us to augment our I.T. staff with additional software and hardware, thus, greatly minimizing our attack surface.”

After the first year of free Windows security updates, the hospitals will benefit from non-profit pricing models for security products offered by Microsoft. Those pricing models will provide rural emergency hospitals and independent critical access hospitals with up to 75 percent of savings.

Jerry Keever, CEO of Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital, stated the additional training and services will help mitigate risks.

“Rural hospitals such as Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital have a vital role in providing the necessary care and services in local communities. We have many challenges – with the rising risk of cyber-attacks being a critical concern,” Keever said. “We need additional support to guard our systems and patient data. We are grateful for this new program, which will bring cybersecurity training and services to our hospital, and to Representative Thompson for his support.”

The assistance is being provided to rural hospitals like Greenwood Leflore and Sharkey Issaquena because they have been determined to be more at risk for a cybersecurity attack. The collaboration, which includes Thompson’s office, the White House, American Hospital Association, Microsoft and the National Rural Health Association, is part of a nationwide focus to protect healthcare institutions from cybersecurity threats.

“We are now one step closer to ensuring that residents of Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District receive the same high-quality care available throughout the rest of the state,” said Congressman Thompson in a statement.

About the Author(s)
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Jeremy Pittari

Jeremy Pittari is a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast. Born and raised in Slidell, La., he moved to South Mississippi in the early 90s. Jeremy earned an associate in arts from Pearl River Community College and went on to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor's of arts in journalism. A week after Hurricane Katrina, he started an internship as a reporter with the community newspaper in Pearl River County. After graduation, he accepted a full-time position at that news outlet where he covered the recovery process post Katrina in Pearl River and Hancock Counties. For nearly 17 years he wrote about local government, education, law enforcement, crime, business and a variety of other topics. Email Jeremy: