Advances in technology have introduced many benefits to the world of medicine. Unfortunately, the growing prevalence of technology in the healthcare industry has also created more opportunities for cybersecurity threats. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities who fail to take precautions are extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks that disclose confidential patient information.
For this reason, we challenge healthcare facilities to evaluate their cybersecurity and look for opportunities for improvement. In this article, we will discuss the most common cyber threats in the healthcare industry, as well as tips and strategies for preventing these attacks. By implementing protective measures, you can ensure the safety of your patients’ personal information.
Common Cyber Threats to Healthcare Information
To keep your patients’ information safe, you need to understand the various cyber threats that can infiltrate healthcare technology and gain access. Healthcare professionals should identify those threats and take precautions to prevent them. Some of the most common types of cybersecurity attacks in the healthcare industry include:
- Phishing – Phishing scams are often disguised as emails sent from credible sources that encourage individuals to click a link that leads to harmful software.
- Malware or Ransomware – Malware and ransomware typically target an entire server or network. This software collects sensitive data and sends it back to the perpetrator, or locks employees out of the server. Ransomware takes this process a step further and demands monetary compensation for an encryption key, so the healthcare facility can regain access to their network.
- Improper Encryption – Healthcare data has the most protection when properly encrypted. However, hackers often search for weaknesses in encryption codes, and will exploit those weaknesses to gain access to information.
- Employee Errors – Unfortunately, employees are sometimes a source of the cybersecurity problem. Human error can result in the disclosure of a patient’s private information if proper precautions are not in place.
Tips for Improving Cybersecurity in Healthcare
Properly protecting patient information appears to be a daunting task, especially in a healthcare facility or hospital where hundreds of patients are treated every single day. By encouraging customary practices and implementing technological safeguards, many healthcare facilities can successfully thwart cyber threats. Here are some of the key measures for keeping confidential data protected:
- Install Anti-Virus Software – Anti-virus software is one of the best methods of protecting against cyberattacks in healthcare by detecting malware that may go unnoticed, and initiate measures to remove it. Anti-virus software can also notify individuals when a threat has been detected, which allows the facility to take other actions to mitigate the damage.
- Use a Firewall – A firewall is a mechanism that prevents unauthorized access into a server that contains private information. Any device, server or network connected to the Internet should contain a firewall to prevent outside access. While anti-virus software removes malware once it has entered a system, a firewall prevents malware from entering the system in the first place.
- Require the Use of Strong Passwords – Hackers are often able to exploit weak or auto-generated passwords and gain access to personal information. Healthcare facilities should require employees to use creative, strong passwords that include numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters. The more complicated the passwords are, the more difficult they are to guess. Healthcare facilities should also require passwords to be changed regularly.
- Control Access to Sensitive Information – The more individuals with access to a patient’s personal information, the more opportunities for hackers to infiltrate a system. Limiting access to personal information reduces potential mistakes that could lead to a disclosure. Only those people who need to reference a patient’s information to perform their job duties should have access.
- Ensure Mobile and Personal Devices Are Protected – Mobile devices and personal computers are often overlooked when it comes to healthcare cybersecurity. Devices that are not encrypted or equipped with adequate anti-virus software are extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks. Since the risk of these devices becoming lost or stolen is greater, the risk of an unauthorized individual gaining access to private patient information is also greater. Hospitals and healthcare facilities must ensure that mobile and personal devices are as protected as the technology kept in those facilities.
- Educate Employees about Cybersecurity and Good Computer Habits – Employees with a wide understanding of the various threats out there play a greater role in ensuring that patient information is protected. Hospitals should encourage a culture within their facilities that promotes cybersecurity and send regular reminders about computer safety.
We encourage healthcare facilities to evaluate the implementation of these measures to improve cybersecurity. The more protective measures in place, the more protected a facility will be against cyber threats.