The healthcare industry is relatively more vulnerable than any other when it comes to cyber threats. With millions of critical data being circulated every day, healthcare organizations struggle to combat security breaches and prevent the loss of valuable patient data. One of the primary reasons for the same is the lack of awareness on how to optimize digital technologies and gadgets to protect the internal data.
As the healthcare security breaches keep on haunting the industry, here are six tips to look forward to that can help companies leverage electronic devices without compromising on their data security.
Access to Network Should be Limited
All are aware of what a wireless router is and how it helps in networking. A router helps to provide internet access via a shared private network within an organization. This mainly helps in an office environment where the same system is being used by employees to share files and do instant messaging with other colleagues. However, a similar practice can be dangerous in the healthcare industry. Medical data is very sensitive, and if an outsider gets access to the shared network of the hospital or clinic or healthcare organization, they get access to information as well. If it happens, then the threat of security breaches increases.
So, using networking tools with caution and awareness is essential. If you own a medical business or clinic, make sure that the wireless router you use is adequately secured. It should not be accessible to anyone. The network access should be restricted to legitimate devices and no one else. Programs should be installed that helps to secure sharing of data within the network and prevent unauthorized device access.
Install Powerful Anti-Virus Software
Security breaches through virus attack are the most common of all. Hackers keep on developing advanced viruses that are difficult to fight back even for big names who are known for developing anti-virus software or security systems. Especially in case of small healthcare offices who don’t have well-equipped systems to prevent virus attack, cybersecurity risks are higher for them. Not only software, even outside sources like web downloads, flash drives, CDS, email, etc. are often the medium used by hackers to infect devices and steal data stored in it. Hence, healthcare organizations must give significance to installing powerful anti-virus software with advanced protection that can be updated from time to time.
Healthcare facilities must use antivirus software like Kaspersky that is reliable and not heavy on the budget. Remember that new malware and viruses keep on surfacing. Hence, make sure that the antivirus protection you have gets regular updates on all devices.
Protect Using Strong Passwords
Even while creating a social media profile, the platform asks the user to set a strong password so that any security leaks don’t take place. The reason we put password is to prevent unauthorized access to our devices. Hence, if you are in the healthcare industry dealing with valuable patient data, then protecting your device and network with a strong password is a must. It will help to prevent cyber attacks and illegitimate access to data that attackers may use for the wrong purpose. While setting up your device password, remember the following:
- Your password should be of at least eight characters and the longer the password, the better protection you get.
- Your password should consist of letters in upper and lower case, at least one number and a unique character like punctuation marks, and so.
- Don’t keep the same password for ages. You must regularly change them and if not at least once every month.
Make Use of Firewall
In the computing language, a firewall is basically a network protection system. Like the way, a password protects your device, similarly firewall protects your network from outside intrusions. A firewall can be hardware or software. Today, the use of electronic health record (EHR) is widespread throughout the healthcare industry. And as the EHR is connected with the internet and is accessible through the shared network within the organization, it becomes vulnerable to intrusions. That is why using a firewall to prevent intruders from stealing internal data and misusing it becomes essential. It will act as a protective covering and destroy malicious software and virus attacks to penetrate the network and cause damage.
Firewall protection helps to inspect incoming messages and sort them out on the basis of significance. But often understanding those signals are not easy. Hence, healthcare companies must take professional assistance in monitoring and maintaining the software or the hardware.
Control Data Access Based on User Identity
When we talk about protecting EHR with a password, though it is effective, but the success rate has been up to 50%. Hence, alone passwords may not be efficient in preventing breaches. So, the next step to implement for complete protection is leveraging user’s identity to protect patient data from security threats. By using in-built access control option available within your operating system or application, you can give access to the data only to those who need it.
Especially if you have a small clinic or health office, then you can assign roles on who can access data manually. You can make a control list and give system authorization to those persons who may require them to perform job responsibilities. So, before granting access, identify employees and based on their need provide them the right to control. Don’t let anyone access EHR without permission as it may make it easier for attackers to find loops and attack your database for stealing information. Based on the roles physicians, nurses, technicians, accountants, and other professionals perform within your healthcare organization, you can define their access limits and distribute access permission.
Limit Physical Access
Controlling access to the network is essential. Also, equally important is controlling physical access to computers and other devices. With antivirus software and hardware, one can protect the loss of EHR data, but what if the device that stores EHR information is stolen? Yes, there have been many cases where similar things happen; it gives attackers unauthorized access to critical patient details. According to reports, out of all the healthcare security breaches that take place, half of them are due to loss of devices and portable storage media like DVD, CDs, etc. Hence, along with network security, companies also need to pay attention to protecting physical device access. This can be achieved by keeping the device in locked rooms with adequate protection and restricted entry to such offices. Also, you must ensure that you put the server that holds all the confidential data in a secured place. And while selecting where to set your server, you need to think about both the physical as well as environmental protection factors also.
All the practices mentioned above can help ensure a protective environment for the healthcare companies who deal with highly sensitive data. However, often it has been seen that small medical practices ignore the security part, making them vulnerable to cyber attacks and data loss. Also, they hardly have any arrangement for data backup. Hence, when any breach occurs, they end up losing all the information.
Such an approach is a big no. No matter what the size of your healthcare facility is, everyone should create a proper data backup and keep it updated on a regular basis. Hence, along with data collection paying attention to restoring it to maintain accuracy is equally vital.
Healthcare companies can opt for cloud computing services to have effective data backup in place without having to make huge investments.