Healthcare companies are trusted with an immense amount of highly personal information about their customers. That data is increasingly being stored and accessed digitally, making it more accessible to the professionals who need it — but also leaving it vulnerable to cyberattacks that have potentially devastating and wide-reaching consequences.
The rate of digital healthcare data breaches is growing rapidly. The personal medical information of over 25% of consumers in the U.S. has been stolen from a technology system at least once. In 2016, roughly 16 million people had their information compromised; this was an increase of more than 300% from 2015.
It’s not enough for a healthcare company’s IT professionals to be knowledgeable in cybersecurity — those in leadership, human resources, financial and legal departments, and patient care must all understand the severe dangers posed by a data breach, and be well-versed in best practices to keep patient data secure.
Here are some strategies every healthcare company can employ to keep patient information safe, as cybersecurity risks in the healthcare industry continue to rise.
Protecting Against Ransomware
Ransomware has quickly become one of the most popular ways for hackers to access patient’s personal healthcare information — by limiting access to data (or locking it entirely) unless a ransom is paid. These attacks are especially harmful to hospitals because not only is private information seized, but the delay in access to patient data can interrupt crucial patient care. Because of this, hospitals are often willing to pay the ransom.
One of the largest attacks in the world to date occurred in May in the U.K., when a worldwide ransomware attack hit the National Health Service. Public information and medical records at some of the U.K.’s largest hospitals were exposed. Users were blocked from their own computers and asked to pay a minimum of $300 to regain access.
To prevent ransomware attacks, healthcare companies must be extremely vigilant about controlling their networks. This means whitelisting company devices, and only allowing approved software to run on company computers — consider using security tools that prevent users from running unknown programs. Healthcare companies should backup all data on a regular basis; storing your data in one place with no backups makes it far more dangerous if someone were to hold your data hostage.
Leverage the latest in anti-ransomware software, and don’t let your cybersecurity get stagnant. Healthcare companies should be conducting penetration testing on a regular basis, to quickly identify and resolve any vulnerabilities or gaps in existing security systems. Preventative measures are key to making sure hackers cannot gain access to your data.
Ensuring Cybersecurity in the Cloud
The healthcare industry is embracing cloud-based solutions, and with the added convenience and efficiency the cloud brings also comes new risks for patient data. With the right security measures, the cloud can be an extremely safe place for your data. Here are a few ways to put security first when implementing a cloud solution.
Choose a Trusted Provider
Before you sign on to a new technology implementation, do your research to find a trustworthy and reliable provider for your cloud-based solution. Your choice of provider can make all the difference, as they will be primarily responsible for ensuring strong cybersecurity measures to protect your data in the cloud. Ensure that your cloud provider has a positive reputation in the industry, a proven track record of success and safety, and that they provide regular cybersecurity training and updates to keep your technology up to par with the latest security features.
Understand Exactly What Data is Stored in the Cloud
Before you begin moving any data to a cloud-based solution, get a comprehensive understanding of exactly what information will be stored in the cloud. This sounds like a basic concept, but with the staggering amount of data that healthcare companies hold, it’s crucial to know precisely what information is kept and where. Talk with your trusted provider about backing up your data on a consistent schedule.
Decide Exactly Who Can Access That Data
Once there is a firm idea of what’s going in the cloud, implement a plan for who will need access to what information. No one should have access to information they do not need. Your company’s map of information access should be constantly monitored and updated as needed.
Use Strong Encryption
Another important part of keeping data safe in the cloud is encryption. The stronger the encryption on your data, the better protected it is when moving from your site to the cloud. For example, if data is substituted for an encrypted value or token as it’s sent into the cloud, then the data is worthless to any hackers that gets their hands on it as it’s en route or outside the cloud.
Keeping Employees Informed
No matter how much the digital landscape changes, one of the best ways you can keep your company safe is to educate your employees. The unfortunate reality is, your own staff can be your biggest threat. When employees are unaware of what phishing attacks look like, how to identify and react to malware and ransomware, and best practices for safety online, it puts your entire operation at risk.
Create a detailed company-wide policy and provide regular cybersecurity training for your employees on how to keep patient data safe. For example, your employees should know to never download software unless recommended or mandated by an IT professional. They should also know best practices for setting secure passwords and updating them regularly. Every person on staff should be armed with a set of best cybersecurity practices that aligns with your company’s protocols.
Sentek Helps Keep Your Healthcare Business Protected
Keeping your healthcare company’s patient data safe and secure requires attention to detail and an understanding of cybersecurity from your entire organization.
At Sentek Cyber, our cybersecurity experts can provide you with the highest level of security for your patients’ personal health data, whether you’re operating in the cloud or on-premise. Our team will conduct rigorous penetration testing to uncover any vulnerabilities in your existing system, and employ advanced solutions to eliminate those vulnerabilities before cybercriminals have a chance to exploit your data. We also provide cybersecurity training, to keep everyone on your staff informed and knowledgeable about security risks and best practices for accessing your company’s data.
Sentek Cyber is a trusted firm with a wealth of experience spanning multiple industries. We are proud to offer personalized cybersecurity solutions and would love to find out more about your company and your specific needs. Contact us today to start a conversation.