Cybercriminals often infiltrate organizations and retrieve confidential data which they sell or expose to the general public. Hospitals collect and store a lot of personal and valuable information, making them a significant target to cybercriminals. Compared to other years, 2020 saw the number of breaches in hospitals soar to record levels. In the United States alone, almost 20% of Americans have witnessed a healthcare provider fall victim to a data breach.
Now more than ever, there is a strong need to safeguard medical records and other sensitive data in Hospitals. Here are some methods of preventing data breaches.
- Subnet Networks
Subnetting generally involves partitioning a computer network. Subnetting has several benefits, one of which is improving a network’s security. Subnets allow easier control over who can gain access to what in an organization. For example, in a hospital, subnetting does not allow those in one department to access critical information in other departments. In networks divided into subnets, one can set commands to regulate traffic in each subnet. By doing so, you can limit the information hackers can access easily.
- Create Different Levels of Access
One mistake many institutions make is that they allow almost all their employees to have access to all their data. The biggest risk associated with allowing information access to everyone in the organization is increasing the chances of being hacked. An employee can quickly become a victim of phishing in an institution where all employees have access to its computer network, which poses a huge risk. Phishing occurs when a user unknowingly clicks on a harmful link that will give unauthorized access to a hacker. After multiple data breaches, healthcare institutions have learned the hard way only to allow only a few employees direct access to sensitive data. Healthcare institutions should only let specific employees access EHR/EMR systems.
- Analyze and Diagnose Security Risks
When dealing with security matters, analyzing the existing system and assessing its vulnerabilities is good practice. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules direct healthcare institutions to carry out periodic system security tests monthly or annually. After conducting a security audit, there are multiple things you can do to beef up your system’s security. Network security mechanisms such as firewalls and EPPs, encryption and password policies, and log monitoring setups can help a hospital steer clear of data breaches.
- Create A Breach Response Plan
Having an incident response plan in a hospital cannot be emphasized enough. In the event of a data breach, having a plan will help you mitigate a potentially deadly situation faster than without any plan at all. An incident response plan is generally put in place for contingency purposes. In such a plan, its framework aids in pinning down and assessing various incidents. This process further goes ahead to determine the nature and magnitude of the response. The most important thing to do when creating an incident response plan is to have a competent response team.
- Store Evidence
As hackers continue to wreak havoc on hospitals and other healthcare institutions, it is wise to prepare well for such attacks. If a data breach occurs in a hospital, stay calm and do not panic or make any hasty decisions without consulting an expert. Even without an incident response plan in place, wiping and re-installing a hospital system are options that should not be taken immediately. After a breach or an attempted hack, evidence ought to be preserved so investigators can understand how and when the breach occurred. Without preserved evidence, it would be difficult to recommend solutions to potential future breaches.
- Create Awareness Amongst Employees
Unfortunately, employees often tend to be the weak link in an organization’s security. Like many other institutions, hospitals rely on the internet to perform day-to-day tasks. While the internet can be beneficial, it can also be equally disadvantageous. Hackers are becoming more intelligent, and employees need to be innovative as well. Hackers relish targeting unaware victims because they are the easiest to get to.
In a bid to curb data breaches, hospitals ought to educate their employees on data breaching to improve their awareness. As phishing becomes rampant, employees should consider using Nuwber and confirm the identity of the person sending them an uninvited email or text message.
- Upgrade IT Infrastructure
Hospitals ought to use current technology if they are to prevent cyber attacks successfully. Manufacturers pay less attention to old hardware and software, and as a result, they are more vulnerable to data breaches and being exploited by third parties. A surefire way of ensuring a hospital is safe from data breaches is by consistently updating hardware and software.
- Regular Software Updates
There is a good reason why software keeps getting patched from time to time. Whenever software is patched, it means that vulnerable points that hackers could access have been sealed. Hospitals should stay updated with the latest software patches to minimize attacks. Old and obsolete software in a hospital leaves sensitive patient records at the mercy of hackers who can easily steal them.
- Data Encryption
Data encryption is among the many surefire techniques for safeguarding sensitive information. This technique involves using unique codes to make data unreadable. This means that even if hackers make it past a hospital’s network firewall, sensitive data will still be safe since all plaintext data will be translated into cipher text.
- Generate Unique Passwords
With cases of data breaches now at an all-time high, there is a need to take all the necessary precautions. Hackers have had an easy time accessing institutions’ networks in the past because of weak passwords. These days, hackers have many tools to help them decipher passwords. For hospital employees, it is wise to remember to use special characters and lower and upper case letters when creating passwords.
Hospitals contain massive amounts of sensitive data, and a data breach could prove costly to any healthcare institution. As data breaches continue to increase, hospitals need to take necessary precautions. With the techniques listed above, hospitals can significantly prevent data breaches.