5 Steps to Prevent Cyber Threats in Healthcare IT


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When organizations in different business fields are seriously damaged by the relentless group of successful cyber attacks and need heavy payments to overcome the loss, what usually gets neglected is the fact that a few of the industries are more damaged than others—occasionally to an extreme level. Most often it’s the healthcare industry that draws the attention as the top victim of cyber attacks, and the hackers tampering with the healthcare IT industries not only costs a lot of money, time and operational layoff but endangers the lives of the patients.

The healthcare providers themselves are to blame to some extent. In an apparently worthy pursuit of increasing the quality of patient care, it is blindside that small compensation is allocated to other healthcare aspects, particularly cybersecurity. Collectively, the healthcare providers normally expend just the half on cybersecurity as compared to other industries. Considering this and many other reasons, like the unexpectedly high costs for the stolen patient records on the black market, tempting more and large groups of hackers, healthcare organizations particularly get themselves stuck in an ongoing cyberwar cycle. According to a leading security protection agency’s report, the healthcare sector experienced an average of approximately 32,000 breach attacks per day per organization in 2017, which are comparatively more than 14,300 attacks per organization in other business fields.

Though the healthcare organizations can use many simple and easy ways to maintain their cybersecuirty, yet it is not necessary that all the hospitals and health systems will follow these procedures constantly. It is disturbing that a few of the high-profile healthcare providers had to face data security breaches in which their protected health information (PHI) had been exposed.

Even though the electronic systems are not totally invincible, here are five effective measures that healthcare organizations can take to reduce the chances of a possible breach attack:

Recognize the Potential Threat

Although it’s not difficult to identify somebody with reprehensible plans of targeting a bank, a credit cards company or retail business to illicitly retrieve the money, social security data or other finance-related information or items, most often it is quite difficult to anticipate what would be the purpose of somebody to hack the healthcare organizations’ systems.

Nonetheless, the healthcare providers are highly prone to be a target for the cybercriminals, particularly to a ransomware — a type of malignant and harmful software that accesses and retains the patients’ PHI and financial information captive until the hackers who installed it get the ransom. The federal agencies, considering how valid threat the ransomware is, have regulated strict warnings and the dangers it has for the healthcare organizations. Therefore, it is vital for the healthcare institutions to identify that, devoid of strong security protocols; they are putting the institution and patients in danger. To aid in lessening such threat, they need to make sure they have developed and are following an inclusive and complete cybersecurity program.

Re-examine and Revise the Cybersecurity Practices

Having specified security protocols is a must for the organizations in order to determine how the staff can reach out and connect with the technology in their services. It is very common for the staff members to use a pin or multi-character password to open the software that stores PHI. At any point, if it’s feasible, apply a two-factor combination of the passwords to make sure that privacy is protected increasing the data protection level. When you are determining criteria for the pins and passwords, make it certain that they are significantly strong. For instance, the pin must be based on six to eight digits rather than four or less, and passwords must contain alphanumeric characters and symbols too. Staff members must be asked to modify their passwords between every 30 to 60 days. If they don’t comply with your security requirements, then block their access to the systems. It is essentially important to individually impose these policies throughout the institution, from the senior management staff to the front-line employees—there shouldn’t be any exceptions made.

Educate and Routinely Update Employees on the Threats and Liabilities

The success of an institution’s procedures is directly related to the factor of staff being persistent in complying with those procedures. On these grounds, it is necessary for the organizations to impart extensive training regarding cybersecurity measures and the threats the organizations are prone to if the employees are not attentive to these efforts. Such as, the staff members must be prepared enough to identify dubious email communications and avoid opening anything that appears to be evidently threatening. Besides, they must be trained to interact with the IT staff given they have doubts regarding an email’s accuracy and validity. Both introductory and revision training must be provided to the staff to make sure that they are updated on regular basis about the new threats and protection measures.

Get a Third-Party Assessment

It is very common that majority of the organization may believe that they are doing everything it takes to maintain the privacy and protection of their technology; however, it is possible that some important aspects might be overlooked. Yet, all organizations can gain from a new point of view. For example, get an external and impartial individual or organization to carry out a comprehensive assessment. The third party can perform a complete audit, analyze the weak points, evaluate staff training, and can suggest effective development strategies in order to make the organization best protected.

Confirm the Software is completely Protected

Every time the healthcare organizations acquire a new part of the software, particularly the one which houses or traffics healthcare financial data or PHI, the organizations must make sure that the solution providers are pledged to the highest levels of security. Such as, the software companies must perform a standard evaluation of their solutions as well as breach testing to find out and tackle the possible weaknesses. Furthermore, they need to encrypt all of the protected data in case if the software is infringed, the data will remain indecipherable.

If you are using a cloud-based solution, make sure that its setup is based on a highly protected platform which complies with the most forceful FedRAMP standards (the Federal Government’s access and security requirements for cloud-based computing). If the vendors are providing a mobile app, verify that it doesn’t accumulate healthcare data on the mobile device instead utilizes flash memory to let such information be available temporarily. With this, it can be made certain that in case the mobile device is accessed by an outsider or is misplaced; no one will be able to access the data without a password or any other authorization tool.

Prevention is better than Remedies

Healthcare providers can sustain their data security by continuously practicing the above mentioned basic steps. Along with these strategies, Virtelligence offers effective healthcare IT consulting and has a committed and expert team of data and security consultants to help healthcare organizations to improve their information security policies and practices.

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