By Amit Sharon, Head of Global Customer Community & Market Intelligence, Check Point
In 2020, the COVID pandemic made healthcare the most targeted industry sector, with cyberattacks spiking by 45%. In addition to compliance concerns, healthcare systems were forced to cope with new security challenges. CoxHealth scaled security to new levels and extended capacity when needed—here’s how.
CoxHealth is the leading healthcare system in southwest Missouri, serving patients across five campuses. The system operates six hospitals, more than 80 clinics, and five emergency rooms with 12,000 employees. I recently sat down with Kyle Pomering, Network Engineer for CoxHealth to find out how they handled such a challenging environment in the face of a pandemic.
Prior to COVID, the CoxHealth network team’s priority was ensuring mission-critical network availability. Cyberattacks or malware could not be allowed to affect the network and cause an emergency system crash or interrupt patient care. When COVID forced CoxHealth to move 3,500 employees to work-from-home environments, the network impact also compromised security.
Amit Sharon: What were the new challenges you faced when the pandemic disrupted operations?
Kyle Pomering: We’re always focused on meeting HIPAA compliance regulations and protecting patient data. When CoxHealth moved 3,500 employees offsite, network bandwidth usage tripled overnight, and firewalls were strained to capacity by external VPN traffic. Our outlying clinics’ network connections were also strained. In addition, CoxHealth had to quickly install temporary kiosk environments—which also needed network connectivity—across the region to conduct COVID testing.
Amit Sharon: How did that affect security?
Kyle Pomering: An overloaded network made it difficult to scale our defenses to protect remote workers and temporary testing environments. We also now had to manage firewall policies remotely—with our management traffic running over the same overloaded network. There was always the risk of network failure due to high traffic loads. We needed the ability to scale security and deliver capacity where—and when—it was needed.
Amit Sharon: Why did you reach out to Check Point?
Kyle Pomering: We engaged the Check Point team to quickly help us identify and implement a solution that would give us the scalability we needed with advanced protection. And since our team was now working remotely, it had to work without us needing to constantly intervene. Check Point went above and beyond to bring our security capabilities and capacity up to date. In just a few weeks, our new solution was installed and operational.
Amit Sharon: What is your new Check Point solution?
Kyle Pomering: We upgraded our Check Point firewalls to Check Point Quantum Security Gateways [https://www.checkpoint.com/quantum/next-generation-firewall/], which immediately increased our capacity, while adding protection against the latest cyberattacks. We also implemented a Check Point Maestro Hyperscale Orchestrator solution [https://www.checkpoint.com/quantum/maestro-hyperscale-network-security/], which took us to an entirely new level. Maestro automatically load-balances traffic coming through the Quantum Security Gateways from the external internet without any intervention by us. We can expand a single gateway to the capacity and performance of 52 gateways in just minutes. Maestro gives us elastic flexibility with up to Terabit-per-second firewall throughput—and we can put it wherever we need it.
Amit Sharon: What would you tell other teams who are managing dynamic environments like CoxHealth’s security?
Kyle Pomering: I can’t emphasize enough how Check Point went above and beyond to help us during this time. Check Point Maestro has made all the difference in the world to us. Operations are seamless, and we don’t even know it’s running in the background. You’ve made our job so much easier.
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