It is crucial that you look after patient data as if it were your own when you are a healthcare provider. This is some of, if not the most sensitive data an individual possesses. With that in mind, below are 6 important data security tips for healthcare providers.
Educate your employees on how to identify suspicious emails and links
Prevention is key, whether you are preventing operational failures or data breaches. Your employees represent one of, if not your biggest, cybersecurity threats.
They might not realize it, but if they’re opening up malicious emails, following links in suspicious messages or accessing unsecured websites with their work devices, they could be exposing your entire organization to security threats that put the confidentiality and availability of both customer data and intellectual property at risk.
Explain to them what phishing is and how they can protect your organization by spotting and reporting suspicious emails. And why not educate them about other types of data security attacks, like ransomware? Everyone should know what to do in case they come across a message asking for a bitcoin payment in exchange for the recovery of their files.
Understand the different types of data security attacks
Security threats come in a variety of flavors – from malware, viruses, and ransomware attacks – to data breaches perpetrated by cybercriminals. But whatever form they take, today’s security risks have an impact that goes beyond the obvious financial costs associated with stealing business data or disrupting networks. In fact, according to a recent study*, there are at least three other key areas where data security is having a significant impact on global businesses: Employee productivity, reputation, and regulatory compliance.
Healthcare is particularly vulnerable. For example, a study that was done in 2016, showed that almost 40% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach in the past two years. Even more worrying is the fact that there was a 25 per cent increase in healthcare data breaches in 2020.
Use strong passwords and change them often
Passwords and PINs can be weak and easily guessed. That’s why attackers love them – it makes breached accounts even easier to access. Furthermore, many employees use the same password for all their online accounts – which further increases the risk of having business data stolen or hacked.
The best way to protect your systems is through strong authentication mechanisms, like multi-factor authentication. You can also use things like password managers and random password generators, as well as security keys and authentication apps (e.g., Google Authenticator, Duo Security).
Back up your data regularly and store it in a secure location
You should constantly be backing up data (and storing it in a secured location) to hedge against cyberattacks and data loss. The objective is to be able to restore processing capabilities and information as quickly as possible in the event of a data breach or ransomware attack.
However, just putting files on an external hard drive is not enough anymore. Cybercriminals are now targeting backup devices with malware such as ransomware when they gain access to a network – whether through phishing or other methods. They are also targeting cloud storage platforms, making it even more important to have a well-thought-out data security strategy.
Install antivirus software on all of your devices
All of your company or institution’s devices should have antivirus software installed on it that is regularly updated.
Antivirus software can help detect and protect against known viruses, Trojans, worms, rootkits, and other malicious files that may be used to infect or damage data on your computer. If you are running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise Edition, the built-in antivirus called Windows Defender will work fine. But if you need more advanced protection, you can use third-party antivirus software, such as McAfee Total Protection.
Regularly scan your network for vulnerabilities
As part of your security strategy, you should ensure that all computers, ports, and services are scanned for vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scans help you find weaknesses in the configuration of your network devices (e.g., firewalls, routers), which can be exploited by hackers to gain access to sensitive data.
Make sure that the vulnerability scans you use are up to date because attackers can use them to figure out what vulnerabilities exist in your network. As such, they could target those vulnerabilities and exploit them much faster than your security team can close them.
The data you store as a healthcare provider is extremely sensitive, and there are both legal and ethical implications for failing to treat it as such. It’s important to take the time to implement good practices for data security, even if you’re managing a small practice. Keep the above data security considerations in mind and ensure that your clients’ data is well looked after.