While we like to think that healthcare organizations always have our best interests at heart, they are treasure troves of private patient data. That information is alluring to hackers and cybercriminals. When not protected, the theft of patent data can be incredibly damaging to the patients and the organization itself. So, it is within the best interest of all healthcare entities to do what they can to keep that data secure.
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Luckily, while hackers continue to create new ways of stealing information, the tech industry has been keeping up as well. Due to these advancements, there are now methods that organizations can use to make data security a priority once again. Let’s look at the common threats and how healthcare administrators can defend their systems and protect their patients.
Why is Healthcare at Risk?
The healthcare industry is at constant risk of a cyberattack, and the reason for this is simple. Every time a new patient comes in for care, they fill out forms and provide a wide breadth of information to the administrator, which often includes anything from birth dates and social security numbers to places of employment and pre-existing conditions. Any of this information can be used for malicious means. Emails and names can be used to send phishing emails. Hackers can use social security numbers to take out fraudulent loans. And any of this information can also be sold on the dark web for other criminals to use for their own unsavory practices.
Another reason that hackers intentionally target medical practices is that they know that many doctors, nurses, and administrative professionals don’t take cybersecurity as seriously as they should. Recent studies show that four out of five physicians have been the victim of cyberattacks and phishing emails, and only 20% of small medical practices have any form of cybersecurity protection at all. This is often because doctors hold the physical health of their patients as the priority and fail to see data breaches and cybercrime as the dangerous threats they can truly become.
All medical establishments need to understand the risks of cybercrime. It is essential not only for the protection of their clients but also to comply with the guidelines required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Along with the act, the HIPAA security rule states that healthcare organizations must put protections in place to ensure that patient data is not stolen or lost due to faulty systems or employee negligence.
As you can see, there are many reasons to protect patient data, and employee training and technology are the answers.
Tech to the Rescue
The tech used to diminish potential cybersecurity risks has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. As a start, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a major tool for protecting healthcare companies and other industries because when hackers repeatedly attempt the same tactics, AI can catch the pattern and block the intrusion. On the other side of the coin, if a threat goes against the usual pattern, AI can also catch that. While it is a great tool, hospitals first need to put the technology into effect to benefit.
Recently, ransomware has become a larger threat to healthcare systems. This is a tactic used by hackers to access your system and then prevent usage of the machines and data until a sum of money is paid to the criminals. This can be especially dangerous when surgeries and other operations are being conducted, as the inability to help the patient could result in their death. While it won’t solve the entire issue, having operational backup systems could be lifesavers. If all data is backed up on a separate server, it could allow the hospital to access the data from there instead of giving in to the hacker’s demands. After that, the authorities should be contacted.
A common cybersecurity threat that affects many industries is the phishing attack, which often occurs in email. This strategy creates a communication that looks to be legitimate but instead contains a link or attachment, that when clicked or opened, creates a doorway between the victim and the hacker, and from there, they can cause damage to the system. It can be easy for admins and doctors to fall for phishing scams at a busy hospital, so put tech to use via email filtering tools. These programs, such as SpamTitan and Spam Bully, will block unwanted messages while also scanning any attachments for threats. It is simple and easy to install these programs, but their protection cannot be underestimated.
Common Sense Tech Solutions
Even if a healthcare organization installs some of these tech solutions, they are powerless unless they are also protected, keeping them secure with smart passwords and two-factor authentication. To provide the best protection, passwords should include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. They should also be changed routinely every couple of months. On top of a good passcode, two-factor authentication will provide an extra layer of security, with an additional randomly generated code that is also entered, which hackers will not be able to identify.
The implementation of basic security software can go a long way to protecting your data. This includes putting a firewall in place and encrypting all new data that is entered into the system. Antivirus software can protect hospital computers against a myriad of cyber threats, from malware to ransomware scams. Keep in mind that antivirus software can only be truly effective if it is updated whenever a new version becomes available as it will detect the newest threats.
To be truly protected, a healthcare organization must secure all of its devices, not just the mainframe computers. That means also protecting mobile devices at all costs. If possible, phones and tablets should not be used outside of the hospital, and if they are, they must also be password protected. A good way to have all-around security is by installing a virtual private network (VPN), which will disguise the location of all devices and encrypt the data within automatically so it cannot be used even if stolen.
The need to protect our healthcare industry against cyberthreats is of utmost importance, and with smart tech and streamlined security practices, it can be accomplished. Give your patients peace of mind when they use your services by implementing these strategies today.
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Last Updated on June 29, 2021.