Microsoft and Google are set to offer cybersecurity services to bolster the digital defences of rural hospitals in the US against heightened cyber threats.

To be delivered for free or at discounted prices, these services will cater to nearly 60 million people in rural America.

The move aligns with the efforts of The White House, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), and the American Hospital Association.

Together, these organisations will support the roll-out and adoption of the cybersecurity initiative.  

The “Microsoft Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals” is now available to support the specific cybersecurity requirements of rural health clinics, which as per NRHA are among the top targets for cyberattacks.

The technology company will offer a range of free and low-cost technological services, including free training and support, to combat cyber risks at rural health facilities.

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For smaller organisations such as independent critical access hospitals and rural emergency hospitals, Microsoft is extending non-profit pricing with discounts reaching up to 75% on its security products.

Larger rural hospitals already utilising eligible Microsoft solutions will gain access to the company’s advanced security suite free of charge for one year.

Additionally, Microsoft said it will provide free Windows 10 security updates for at least one year to participating hospitals.

The company’s programme also includes complimentary cybersecurity assessments and training for hospital staff, conducted by Microsoft and its trusted partners, to identify risks and improve daily security management.

This cybersecurity initiative is part of Microsoft’s commitment to improving healthcare in rural communities.

Through the AI for Health programme, Microsoft collaborates with various stakeholders to advance telemedicine and clinical decision-making using AI-driven solutions tailored for rural hospitals.

Microsoft is also fostering technology and cybersecurity job growth by partnering with community colleges and organisations under its Cybersecurity Skills Initiative and TechSpark programme and providing high-speed internet access to rural areas under the Microsoft Airband initiative.

US National Security Council Cyber and Emerging Technologies deputy advisor Anne Neuberger said: “Cyberattacks against US healthcare systems rose 130% in 2023, forcing hospitals to cancel procedures and impacting Americans’ access to critical care. Rural hospitals are particularly hard hit as they’re often the sole source of care for communities they serve and lack trained cyber staff and cyber defences.  

“So, we’re excited to work with Microsoft to launch cybersecurity programmes that will provide training, advice and technology to help America’s rural hospitals be safe online.”

Meanwhile, Google will offer free endpoint security advice to rural hospitals and non-profit organisations, as well as provide a funding pool to aid software migration.

The company will also conduct a pilot programme with rural hospitals to build a packaging of tailored security capabilities.