Healthcare Cybersecurity: 5 Ways to Help Keep Confidential Medical Data Safe

Technology has been seamlessly integrated into our daily routines, from smart home security, communication, and social interaction to modern healthcare. Intertwining healthcare with technology has resulted in the modernization of healthcare.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

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For example, patients’ records are no longer limited to paper files. A significant proportion of health records are in digital format and are stored in the cloud. Therefore, your medical records can be easily accessed by and shared among authorized users, such as your physician and other specialists. Another application of technology in the healthcare sector is the use of medical devices incorporating robots and artificial intelligence to help diagnose, monitor, and treat different diseases.

Today, it’s almost impossible to successfully run a healthcare institution without integrating technology. Although using technology in healthcare brings considerable advantages, healthcare modernization also comes with challenges. One of these challenges is cybersecurity.

This article will look at some cybersecurity risks associated with healthcare. It will also highlight several ways to improve healthcare cybersecurity, such as using a platform like Tausight to ensure the confidentiality and availability of protected health information (PHI).

Cybersecurity Challenges In Healthcare

Unfortunately, technology integration into healthcare has also made it easier for unauthorized people to access health records. Studies have shown that healthcare is among the most targeted sectors by cyberattacks.

One of the most common cyberattacks is the hacking of health records, which contain highly sensitive information including the following:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Insurance provider
  • Healthcare provider
  • Health records
  • Diagnosis
  • Blood type

This information can be used to conduct criminal activities, such as identity theft, insurance fraud, extortion, and fraudulent billing.

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A significant danger when it comes to healthcare data is that you can’t readily change this information, unlike credit card data. Therefore, once your information is compromised, the damage caused can be extensive before the situation is contained.

Aside from data breaches, other common cyberattacks and risks plaguing the healthcare sector are as follows:

  • Malware: Short for malicious software, malware may be a virus, spyware, or adware designed to disrupt or harm a computer, network, or server.
  • Ransomware: It’s a type of malware that blocks access through encryption and demands payment for the return of access.
  • Compromised Medical Devices: Hackers may be able to access patient data when medical devices linked to each other have unsecured connections.
  • DDoS Attack: A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack overwhelms the network with internet traffic to disrupt its availability.
  • Insider Threats: Disgruntled employees with privileged access may disrupt the network or steal confidential patient data.
  • Vulnerability Of Legacy Systems: Legacy systems are at risk of cyberattacks as they’re not protected against malware.

How To Improve Healthcare Cybersecurity

Now that you know the common cyber threats in healthcare, here are ways to fortify cybersecurity.

  1. Use Validated Cybersecurity Technology

With the increased demand for modern healthcare technology, there’s a current influx of devices, software, and other technologies needed to modernize healthcare. However, there are counterfeits among these technologies on the market.

You automatically compromise your system if you implement counterfeit cybersecurity technology in your system. It’s therefore recommended to adopt technology that has been validated as legitimate and reliable.

Aside from avoiding counterfeits, using validated technology gives you more robust features. Hence, it’s safer to buy from trusted brands or suppliers.

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  1. Update Your Software Promptly

The caveat about technology is that it constantly needs to be updated for it to remain efficient. For example, the software you’re currently using to facilitate communication between staff in your healthcare facility may require an update every two months.

While you can continue using outdated software, doing so increases the risks of cybersecurity attacks. Outdated technologies make your system vulnerable to data breaches and other attacks. When hackers notice loopholes in your system, they will exploit them and launch cybersecurity attacks. To avoid such loopholes, you may take advantage of security and general updates released by software developers. It’s wise not to delay in applying patches to fix gaps or weak points in the system.

Therefore, if you’re looking to improve healthcare cybersecurity, you may need to promptly update your software.

  1. Manage Connected Devices And Accounts

The Internet of Things (IoT) is instrumental in ensuring the seamless connection of devices and networks belonging to patients, physicians, and suppliers. However, this connectivity has to be managed to ensure there are no cybersecurity loopholes. This is because endpoints, especially those with privileged access, are often a target of cybersecurity attacks.

Here are some of the ways you can manage connected devices, networks, and accounts:

  • Implement strong multi-factor authentication (MFA) across all networks.
  • Keep IoT devices on a separate network without internet access.
  • Remove or disable non-essential services from devices before using them.
  • Closely monitor the IoT devices so that you can identify any unusual or suspicious activity that may signal a data breach and act promptly.
  • Ensure all linked devices are updated to avoid cybersecurity loopholes.
  1. Train Your Staff On Cybersecurity Matters

Even if you implement all the pointers discussed above, but have an untrained team, all your work will have gone to waste. This is because the people using the technology are often the weakest link.

For example, if your team can’t identify signs of malware infection or unusual activity from new devices, they won’t be able to tell when a cyberattack is being launched, and your system will probably succumb to the attack.

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Therefore, to avoid such issues, it’s highly advisable to conduct mandatory cybersecurity training for your team. This will enable them to be familiar with pertinent regulations on healthcare data integrity and confidentiality, so they can safeguard sensitive information and secure the ecosystem. You may also need to conduct new training every time a complex update is installed.

In addition, it would be beneficial for your team to implement best practices, such as using strong user IDs and unique passwords, updating passwords regularly, and verifying the source before clicking on any link.

  1. Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

Another way to improve healthcare cybersecurity is by conducting regular risk assessments. These assessments help to prevent the occurrence of cybersecurity attacks. It also helps to identify vulnerable areas early enough and work on them to avoid attacks.

Over time, even after implementing reliable technology, vulnerable points and loopholes develop. This is normal. Therefore, it’s recommended to conduct risk assessments periodically without fail. It helps to keep the system healthy. Also, regular assessment reduces the cost of repair after a cybersecurity attack happens since you can identify it early enough.

Furthermore, regular risk assessments help to ensure that your healthcare organization complies with data privacy and security laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Final thoughts

The modernization of healthcare through technology has major benefits, like using sophisticated medical devices to help with the management and treatment of different health conditions. Modernization has also enabled a healthcare system that uses electronic medical records for quick access to patient data and better coordination of care.

However, healthcare modernization has also come with its share of challenges, like cybersecurity attacks. Health records contain sensitive information, making them a target for data breaches. Luckily, there are ways to help you mitigate such threats and improve cybersecurity in your healthcare organization.

Some of the surefire ways to strengthen cybersecurity measures include using validated technology, updating your software on time, managing linked devices, educating your team, and undertaking routine risk assessments. Consider implementing these pointers to fortify your defenses against cyberattacks.

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References

https://online.maryville.edu/blog/healthcare-cybersecurity/

https://venturebeat.com/business/how-health-care-organizations-can-improve-their-cybersecurity-in-2021/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8059789/

https://digitalguardian.com/blog/healthcare-cybersecurity-tips-securing-private-health-data

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