The US government is seeking to play a more active role in protecting the private health-care sector from a deluge of cyberattacks that have disrupted patient care and left providers unpaid.

US health officials unveiled on Monday a new program to create tools that defend internet-connected hospital equipment from cyberattacks that could take them offline or leave them incapacitated. The effort could shore up protections for imaging devices used to detect cancer or assist with surgeries, EKGs that monitor heartbeats and systems that allow doctors to prescribe drugs to patients.

A Department of Health and Human Services agency will deploy more than $50 million to organizations that create tools to ensure these devices are kept safe and functional. The agency, known as ARPA-H, is soliciting proposals that can help hospitals spot weaknesses in their software and then automatically deploy custom fixes within days of an attack.

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