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Healthcare Organizations Plan “CyberRX”: First Industry-Wide Cyber Attack Exercise

HITRUST announced today that it will lead an industry-wide effort to conduct exercises to simulate cyber attacks on healthcare organizations, named CyberRX. The results will be used to evaluate the industry’s response and threat preparedness against attacks and attempts to disrupt U.S. healthcare industry operations. These exercises will be conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and major healthcare industry companies.

CyberRX will include the participation of providers, health plans, prescription benefit managers, pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, and DHHS. The exercises will examine both broad and segment-specific scenarios targeting information systems, medical devices and other essential technology resources of the healthcare industry. CyberRX findings will be analyzed and used to identify areas for improvement in the coordination of the HITRUST Cyber Threat Intelligence and Incident Coordination Center (C3); with security and incident response programs; and in information sharing between healthcare organizations, HITRUST and government agencies. These findings will be summarized into a report distributed to the industry and presented at HITRUST 2014 in April 2014.

“We have been coordinating and collaborating with HITRUST to enhance the resources available to the healthcare industry,” said Kevin Charest, chief information security officer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our goal for the exercises is to identify additional ways that we can help the industry be better prepared for and better able to respond to cyber attacks. This exercise will generate valuable information we can use to improve our joint preparedness.”

Recognizing the growing threats posed by cyber attacks targeted at healthcare organizations, HITRUST established a fully functional cyber threat intelligence and response program to enable the U.S. healthcare industry to protect itself from disruption by these attacks. The HITRUST C3 is the single best source of intelligence on threats targeted at healthcare organizations and medical devices, providing actionable information for strategic planning and tactical preparedness, and coordinated response for both large and small organizations. The HITRUST C3 facilitates critical intelligence sharing between the healthcare industry, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HITRUST will coordinate two CyberRX exercises. The initial exercise will take place over a two-day period in Spring 2014, and the second one will take place in Summer 2014.

In addition to aiding organizations in evaluating their own processes, the March exercise will focus on the following objectives:

  • Developing a better understanding of the healthcare industry’s cyber threat response readiness
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the HITRUST C3 in supporting the healthcare industry and opportunities for improvement
  • Testing the coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relating to cyber threats and the healthcare industry response
  • Documenting threat and attack scenarios of value for future exercises engaging additional healthcare industry organizations and in support of industry preparedness

“I feel strongly that these exercises are needed as a crucial step in the healthcare industry’s continued maturity around cyber threat preparedness and response,” said Roy Mellinger, vice president and chief information security officer, WellPoint, Inc. “It will allow organizations to evaluate and improve their processes and identify gaps in what is needed industry-wide and from government.”

HITRUST and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services held a Health Industry Cyber Threat Preparedness Summit in December 2013 to discuss numerous topics around the healthcare industry’s cyber threat preparedness and coordination and response. One of the recommendations was to evaluate the industry’s preparedness and HITRUST C3 effectiveness through an industry-wide cyber attack and response exercise. The Spring 2014 CyberRX exercise will include 12 organizations. The group is predominantly comprised of Summit participating organizations, such as Children's Medical Center Dallas, CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, Health Care Service Corp, Highmark, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint. HITRUST is currently soliciting participation for the Summer 2014 CyberRX exercise.

“As cyber threats continue to increase and the number of attacks targeted at healthcare organizations rise, industry organizations are seeking useful and actionable information with guidance that augments their existing information security programs without duplication or complication,” said Daniel Nutkis, chief executive officer, HITRUST. “CyberRX will undoubtedly provide invaluable information that can be used by organizations to refine their information protection programs and will enable HITRUST C3 to better serve the healthcare industry and support public and private industry partnerships.”

Healthcare organizations interested in participating in the Summer 2014 CyberRX exercise can register to receive additional information or to learn more about the HITRUST C3 by visiting www.hitrustalliance.net/c3/.


The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) was born out of the belief that information security should be a core pillar of, rather than an obstacle to, the broad adoption of health information systems and exchanges. HITRUST, in collaboration with healthcare, business, technology and information security leaders, has established the CSF, a certifiable framework that can be used by any and all organizations that create, access, store or exchange personal health and financial information. Beyond the establishment of the CSF, HITRUST is also driving the adoption of and widespread confidence in the framework and sound risk management practices through awareness, education, advocacy and other outreach activities. For more information, visit www.HITRUSTalliance.net.

All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

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