More than 60 percent of healthcare organizations were hit by a cyber attack within the past year, and the cost of a data breach can run into the millions of dollars. But there are effective, affordable ways for healthcare practices to safeguard themselves and minimize the threats posed by cyber criminals.
The vulnerabilities that are often the easiest to exploit are caused by human error or lack of awareness and training, and every organization is susceptible. Provide workshops, seminars, training sessions, and policy guidelines regarding cyber security. All employees should avoid using unsecured thumb drives or apps developed by unreliable sources. They also need to know how to spot suspicious emails and phishing attacks, as well as fraudulent websites. Use unique, super-strong passwords that are changed at regular intervals, and take advantage of multifactor authentication whenever possible.
Take Advantage of Cyber Defense Training
Take advantage of resources like the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance and the Cyber Health Working Group, which hosts webinars about cyber security best practices within the healthcare industry. Also, staff members who are knowledgeable about HIPAA best practices may know tips and strategies that can be repurposed as cyber defense guidelines. They will be aware of how to restrict sharing of sensitive data, for instance, and how to avoid unauthorized access.
Digital Device Security
According to the HIPAA Journal, many healthcare providers use software, medical devices, and web applications that are vulnerable to hacking. Restrict network and device data access to authorized users, keep software programs updated, and don’t use the same passwords for multiple programs or devices. Store sensitive data on secure private networks, use PCI-compliant and encrypted payment systems, and when devices are not in use keep them locked-down or turned off.
Cloud protection offers multiple benefits when it comes to safeguarding healthcare data, patient records, and financial information. The data is backed-up off-site, and can be easily recovered in the event of a natural calamity such as a flood, fire, or loss of power. There are robust options for controlling access, and storage capacity is scalable. Cloud-based systems also offer healthcare practices HIPAA compliant storage that can be acquired without additional infrastructure, equipment, or IT expertise.
A key aspect of security is to ensure that all vendors are also serious about safeguards to protect practices and their patients. The Healthcare Industry Cybersecurity Task Force has cautioned healthcare practices about cyber attacks carried out through vendors that leave themselves vulnerable to hacking. That includes insurance companies, business partners, IT providers, and payment processing platforms. Avoid doing business with those who cannot verify their best practices and procedures, or who rely on third parties who are similarly noncompliant.
Develop an Emergency Response Protocol
Develop an internal response plan that can be implemented in case of a cyber crime event. Put together and distribute a checklist of emergency contacts, too, to reach key decision makers even on weekends and holidays. Cultivate working relationships with external cyber crime authorities, including agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security. A fast, prepared response can be the difference between a cyber disaster and a proactive, successful thwarting of an attempted cyber crime.