(MARSHALL, Texas) – Just like illnesses invade the body, so can viruses of a more technical kind invade digital devices.

The health care industry is entrusted with sensitive patient information, and Texas State Technical College’s Cyber Security program trains technicians to diagnose vulnerabilities and protect data from intrusion in digital systems such as those maintained by hospitals and medical offices.

Some of the biggest security problems plaguing health care include phishing emails, human error, and the compromise of digital devices by third-party vendors, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s 2019 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey.

Less than half of the problems were discovered by internal security teams, according to the survey.

“Cybersecurity is essential for any business that has government regulations policing it,” said Amy Hertel, an instructor in the Cyber Security program at TSTC’s Marshall campus. “Health care is a great example of that due to thorough and complex HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations aimed at protecting patient privacy, whether it be a family practice or a whole system of hospitals.”

Texas has more than 24,800 cybersecurity jobs currently open, according to Cyberseek.org. More than 60,000 people are employed statewide in the cybersecurity field.

Hertel said cybersecurity internships can be difficult to get in the health care industry because of the patient data being stored. But, graduates can be hired as entry-level analysts to build trust in their workplaces.

“Rural health care facilities have a great opportunity to hire TSTC graduates who have first-class cybersecurity knowledge but prefer to stay in the local community instead of moving to a large city,” Hertel said.

David Dowdle, network administrator for HealthCARE Express in Texarkana, which has locations in Longview and Marshall, said geography factors into finding qualified people to fill jobs. He said finding good mentors can help students build on their interest in cybersecurity.

Malicious new viruses — like ransomware, a type of software that denies access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid — are a constant threat.

“I think one of the biggest responsibilities any information technology professional has is to stay on top of the industry news,” Dowdle said. “Ransomware, for example, was not heard of by your average professional a few years ago. By 2015, it was on everyone’s minds. People who were not staying on top of the news were blindsided by ransomware.”

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cyber Security in Marshall and at several other locations throughout the state. A certificate option is available.

“We teach students to plan and implement the policies and procedures that keep health care organizations HIPAA-compliant,” Hertel said. “This includes network setup and security, intrusion detection and prevention, and end-user protection and training.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

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