Cloud Security Guide for Health and Life Sciences

How to Stay Secure in the Cloud While Driving Innovation and Discovery

Health and life sciences organizations are experiencing a culture shift as they respond to demand for improved healthcare information, experiences, products, and services. Building applications and migrating regulated workloads to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers an attractive way to respond to competitive pressures, speed innovation and discovery, time to market, and resilience. However, the self-service, dynamic nature of software-defined cloud environments creates unique challenges for IT security, governance, risk and compliance professionals in the health and life sciences industry.

Processes and tools that worked well in the traditional datacenter do not directly translate to the public cloud. Due to concerns over compliance and security, as well as the complexity involved in migrating legacy systems, many companies have approached public cloud adoption tentatively. However, competitive pressures are driving others to innovate in the cloud or risk being left behind. 

Health and life organizations need to innovate at the speed of cloud and without creating risk for themselves, their customers, or their stakeholders. To take full advantage of the opportunities public cloud offers, they must define their cloud governance standards clearly; have real-time, automated enforcement of security and governance, risk management, and compliance policies; and can present evidence of compliance to assessors and auditors. 

This is an achievable objective, and this guide explores how health and life sciences organizations can approach the cloud with a roadmap for continuous security and compliance and how Rapid7 cloud security can help.


Moving to and thriving in the cloud is fraught with challenges for any health and life sciences organizations.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

For health and life sciences organizations, achieving, maintaining, and substantiating legal and regulatory compliance is of critical importance. Depending on the type of information or data and other factors, organizations could be subject to comply with:

  • Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • HITRUST Common Security Framework
  • General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union

This list is not exhaustive. Health data and information protection requirements are abundant and are likely to evolve for the foreseeable future.

HIPAA Compliance and Protected Health Information

HIPAA provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding Protected Health Information (PHI). It addresses the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information and requires that sensitive information be governed with strict data security and confidentiality, while obligating organizations to provide PHI to patients upon request.

A growing number of healthcare providers, payers, and other organizations are using cloud service providers (CSPs) to process, store, and transmit PHI. When using AWS, Azure, GCP, or any other CSP, compliance is a shared responsibility between the CSP and the customer. Customers, not CSPs, are responsible for configuring and using cloud services in a way that complies with laws and regulations, including HIPAA. 

To ensure HIPAA compliance, healthcare providers must securely store sensitive data. As an organization’s cloud environment grows or becomes more complex, so does ensuring its security. What’s needed is a centralized approach to protecting sensitive data. 

InsightCloudSec allows you to automate compliance with HIPAA. Through our HIPAA Compliance Pack, InsightCloudSec provides dozens of out-of-the-box policies that map back to specific HIPAA requirements. For example, InsightCloudSec's policy “Snapshot With PHI Unencrypted” supports compliance with HIPAA §164.312(a)(2)(iv), Encryption Controls. 

Data Security, Accessibility, and Interoperability 

In addition to protecting extremely sensitive medical records, patient data, proprietary research, and patent information, organizations involved in health and life sciences must assure secure connections between medical devices and other clinical systems. Without secure interconnectiv$ity, medical devices are vulnerable to security breaches.

Making data and information accessible securely to the right people at the right time for the right reasons is a significant challenge for organizations of all sizes in the health and life sciences industry. Many nations, organizations, and private companies see incredible value in making medical research data available to other researchers to fuel more research, reduce the cost of such research, and discover innovative treatments or cures for medical conditions and diseases that ultimately improve length and quality of life. But if this information isn’t secured adequately, the costs will far outweigh the potential benefits of innovation. 

InsightCloudSec automates cloud and container environments so that health and life sciences organizations can focus on research, development, and innovation. By identifying security risks in real time and taking automatic, user-defined action to fix problems before they’re exploited, InsightCloudSec offers continuous security 

Useful Features

We’ve provided an overview of how cloud security and compliance is relevant to enterprises in the health and life sciences industry. Let’s now focus on what features or capabilities you should look for and leverage in a cloud security tool to support growth and innovation.

There are five key areas that will help ensure successful management of your cloud security:   

  • Visibility
  • Unified Posture
  • Efficiency and Automation
  • Scalability and Adaptability


Visibility into cloud environments allows organizations to identify, assess, prioritize, and remediate risk (and automate this entire chain). It is the cornerstone on which strong cloud governance and continuous security and compliance are built. Having a complete picture of every cloud service is one of the only ways you can safely identify all security considerations. InsightCloudSec includes capabilities for automated discovery and inventory assessment across CSPs and containers including:

  • Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Serverless/Function as a Service support  
    • AWS, including AWS GovCloud and AWS China 
    • Microsoft Azure, including Azure GovCloud and Azure China
    • GCP
    • Alibaba Cloud   
  • Containers as a Service
    • Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes
    • Azure Kubernetes Service
    • Google Kubernetes Engine 
  • Private Cloud  
    • Kubernetes
    • OpenStack   

With support for a range of platforms, InsightCloudSec can help identify gaps and issues across all assets. Armed with this information, companies can ensure the right policies are in place to establish and maintain continuous security and compliance. 

Unified Posture

Establishing a unified posture has a number of significant advantages. It’s a great way to cut down on the time spent cataloging resources, and more importantly, it ensures a complete and accurate picture of the assets that need to be evaluated. With a tool like InsightCloudSec, an organization has a single interface to view data and make decisions based on a complete understanding of the IT systems, resources, and configurations, regardless of CSP or resource type. Having a consistent, unified approach will also allow you to understand the security and compliance posture across the entire scope of cloud and containers through a standardized asset inventory.

For example, InsightCloudSec has developed standard terminology to describe cloud services across cloud environments. In InsightCloudSec, you will not see provider-specific resource names like S3 Bucket (AWS), Blob Storage Container (Azure), Cloud Storage (Azure), or Swift (OpenStack). Instead, InsightCloudSec uses the normalized terminology “Storage Container” for all of these. By offering this standardized asset inventory, an organization can apply a unified policy and automated, real-time remediation across all of the environments, both existing and future. Unified visibility and monitoring is particularly useful for health and life sciences organizations, which often have diverse business units that use different tools, systems, and different CSPs.

Efficiency and Automation

Another critical element to evaluate for any tool that you may select to handle your cloud security is the ability to provide efficiency and automation so that you can easily manage your cloud environment and direct your attention to the handful of issues that require manual intervention. In the cloud, communication requirements are far more diverse because of the scope of user and user ability. Most tools are accessible to users regardless of their skill level. Having the correct cloud tools, particularly when dealing with security, can help empower task owners, regardless of their skill level. 

With a tool like InsightCloudSec you can provide guardrails for cloud environments, ensuring that your teams can provision within the limits of the policies you’ve defined. In addition, with automation, you can achieve both security and speed at scale. With API polling and an event-driven data harvesting approach to identify risk and trigger remediation, InsightCloudSec provides fast detection of changes that enables automated remediation to occur in real time. 

Scalability and Adaptability

Scalable cloud security solutions that can adapt to new and updated requirements, now and in the future, are essential for those in the health and life sciences industry. With the quantity of cloud resources that most organizations have, it is often difficult to maintain continuous visibility—let alone security—without the appropriate tools. Failure to have the ability to change and adapt to new requirements can result in noncompliance, misconfigurations, and a host of other problems. In any of these situations, the worst case scenario is always the looming threat of a security breach.

By investing in an enterprise cloud security tool like InsightCloudSec, a company can protect themselves through the challenges around transitions, integrations, and adapt to the future challenges of cloud security in an evolving organization. Features like:

  • An extensible platform with API integration capabilities for third-party tools
  • Support for hybrid-cloud, multi-cloud, and containers
  • Reporting capabilities
  • Visibility based on a variety of user types ranging from view-only monitoring to complex administration
  • Built-in policies and compliance tools along with limitless customization capabilities
  • Proof of compliance for numerous compliance standards  

The ability to leverage smart, adaptable enterprise capabilities can help organizations face all of the challenges we’ve outlined throughout this paper. Efficient, scalable tools will serve organizations now and into the future as laws, regulations, and standards evolve, regardless of which CSPs they use or their organizational size. 


Staying continuously secure and compliant in the cloud can be daunting, particularly for those responsible for sensitive medical, patient, and research data. Protecting this information is paramount across the health and life sciences industry. With the right tools to support continuous security and compliance through visibility, unified posture, efficiency and automation, and scalability and adaptability, this responsibility becomes manageable–even easy. 

Get in touch with us to learn more about how InsightCloudSec can help your health and life sciences organization stay secure and compliant.