On Monday, Microsoft Corp. launched a new cybersecurity initiative aimed at supporting hospitals that serve over 60 million people in rural America. In 2023, the healthcare sector experienced more ransomware attacks than any other critical infrastructure sector, with incidents rising nearly 130%. These cyberattacks disrupt healthcare operations nationwide, posing direct threats to patient care and essential hospital functions. For rural communities, such attacks can be especially devastating, impacting smaller, independent Critical Access and Rural Emergency hospitals that often have limited resources to defend against and respond to security threats.

The National Rural Health Association reports that rural health clinics are among the top targets for cyberattacks. Microsoft’s new Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals is tailored to meet these organizations’ unique needs, providing free and low-cost technology services, along with complimentary training and support.

“Healthcare should be accessible no matter where you live, and the rise in cyberattacks threatens the viability of rural hospitals, impacting communities across the U.S.,” said Justin Spelhaug, corporate vice president of Microsoft Philanthropies. “Microsoft is dedicated to delivering essential technology security and support at a time when rural hospitals need them most.”

For independent Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Emergency Hospitals, Microsoft will offer nonprofit pricing and discounts on its security products, with discounts reaching up to 75%. Larger rural hospitals already using eligible Microsoft solutions will receive the company’s most advanced security suite free for one year. Additionally, participating rural hospitals will receive Windows 10 security updates at no extra cost for at least one year. Microsoft will also conduct free cybersecurity assessments through its partners to identify risks and gaps, and provide free cybersecurity training to rural hospital staff to improve daily security management.

This initiative was announced in collaboration with The White House, the American Hospital Association, and the National Rural Health Association. Microsoft will work with these institutions to ensure the program’s successful rollout, adoption, and effectiveness.

“Cyberattacks against U.S. healthcare systems rose 130% in 2023, causing hospitals to cancel procedures and affecting Americans’ access to critical care. Rural hospitals are particularly vulnerable as they often lack trained cyber staff and modern defenses. President Biden is committed to ensuring every American has access to necessary care, which includes effective cybersecurity. We’re excited to partner with Microsoft to launch programs providing training, advice, and technology to help safeguard America’s rural hospitals,” said Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies.

Microsoft’s announcement is part of its broader efforts to enhance healthcare in rural areas globally. Through the AI for Health program, Microsoft collaborates with nonprofits, researchers, and organizations tackling global health challenges, advancing telemedicine, and improving clinical decision-making. The company is also working with rural hospital leaders to develop AI solutions tailored to their specific needs.

“Hospitals and health systems have invested heavily in cybersecurity, but they can’t do it alone. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and these investments from Microsoft help reinforce that,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “Rural hospitals are often the main source of healthcare in their communities, so keeping them operational and secure from cyberattacks is crucial. We appreciate Microsoft stepping up to offer its expertise and resources to help secure part of America’s healthcare safety net.”

“Rural hospitals face unique cybersecurity challenges, balancing limited resources with increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, which endanger patient data and critical infrastructure,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of NRHA. “This partnership with Microsoft is vital to ensure rural hospitals are prepared to meet these rising threats.”

In addition to this security program, Microsoft is working with community colleges on the Cybersecurity Skills Initiative and, through the TechSpark program, driving technology and cybersecurity job creation with local organizations. The Microsoft Airband initiative collaborates with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to provide high-speed internet to rural communities across America, building the necessary digital infrastructure for internet access and adoption.

The Microsoft Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals in the United States is now available. To learn more and register for the program, visit Microsoft Cybersecurity Program for Rural Hospitals.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) develops AI-powered platforms and tools to deliver innovative solutions that meet evolving customer needs. The company is committed to making AI broadly accessible and doing so responsibly, with a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.