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How to Enhance Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Cybersecurity protection in healthcare is becoming increasingly important. When cybercriminals hack into a hospital system, they expose thousands of patients’ sensitive information, and they can put a ransom on the hospital, shutting down its system until they pay. Hackers can also encrypt electronic health records (EHRs) and make them useless, ultimately demanding a ransom in exchange for the encryption key. Moreover, sensitive healthcare data can be sold globally.

HIPAA and Cybersecurity

For your healthcare facility to remain compliant with the requirements and guidelines set forth by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), you must safeguard your clients’ and patients’ personal information. HIPAA is an integral policy of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and aims to protect sensitive healthcare information from disclosure without the patient’s knowledge or consent. With the prevalent use of computers and networks, patient data must be protected from hackers, spammers, identity thieves, and other bad actors.

Due to this growing threat, healthcare organizations must up their cybersecurity game by hiring professional IT service providers with experience and expertise in cybersecurity. These security specialists often keep vast amounts of patient information safe and only accessible to authorized staff and affiliates.

Cybersecurity Assets in Healthcare

Many healthcare organizations have different specialized information systems such as radiology information systems, EHR systems, practice management support systems, e-prescribing systems, computerized physician order entry systems, and clinical decision support systems. Additionally, thousands of devices integrate with the Internet of Things (IoT), which must all be protected. Examples include smart heating, smart elevators, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, remote patient monitoring devices, infusion pumps, and more.

The following are some examples of assets that healthcare organizations have:

1: Email

Email is the primary means of communication within most healthcare organizations. A lot of sensitive information is created, received, transacted, sent, and maintained within email systems. With users storing all kinds of valuable information, mailbox storage capacities often grow quickly. Such information includes intellectual property, patient information, financial information, and others. Email security is, therefore, an essential part of cybersecurity in healthcare.

The most significant security threats are propagated by phishing. Unwitting users can unknowingly click on malicious links or open malicious attachments within a phishing email, infecting their computer system with malware. More often, the malware may spread through the computer network to the rest of the computers in the organization. Phishing emails may also elicit proprietary or sensitive information from recipients. Regular security awareness training is key to thwarting phishing attempts.

2: Physical Security

Unauthorized physical access to your computer systems or devices may also compromise security. For example, hackers can use physical techniques to access a device and collect sensitive data stored in the hard drives. Physical exploitation of computer systems often defeats technical controls put in place.

Other than stealing computing devices such as laptops and extracting data, cybercriminals may alter your devices in an undetectable way and later access your sensitive data remotely. For instance, hackers may install a keylogger in your device to record sensitive information, including user credentials.

3: Legacy Systems

Legacy systems are systems no longer supported by the manufacturer. They may include applications or operating systems. One huge cybersecurity challenge in healthcare is that many organizations have significant legacy system footprints. Since legacy systems are no longer supported by the manufacturer, there is a lack of security patches and other essential updates. More often, legacy systems exist within organizations because upgrades are unavailable or they are too costly to upgrade.

How to Enhance Cybersecurity in Healthcare

Having understood the assets that healthcare organizations typically protect, here are some proven ways to enhance cybersecurity for your healthcare facility:

Establish a Culture of IT Security

Healthcare leaders must emphasize data security as a corporate value to ensure that sensitive healthcare data remains secure. Documenting your corporate commitment to cybersecurity via appropriate procedures is an excellent first step. To always stay ahead of potential threats, be sure to rally for adequate funding and professional support. Security should be part and parcel of your strategic plan and budgeting process.

Protect Mobile Devices

The healthcare industry is continuously embracing mobile devices. In a recent survey of healthcare leaders, 90% agreed that their healthcare organizations were implementing or planning to implement mobile device initiatives. Although mobile devices have been linked with improved staff productivity and patient satisfaction, they come with a whole new concern. HIPAA compliance and data encryption issues are at the top of the list.

If your organization uses mobile devices, be sure to establish a solid mobile device management system (MDMS) to ensure administration and compliance. To mitigate risks further, consider using an add-on system to manage mobile content. It ensures secure file-sharing while at the same time acting as an authentication tool. Alternatively, you can explore all-in-one enterprise mobility management systems.

Regularly Update Software and Operating Systems

Failure to do software updates and security patches can expose your organization to unnecessary threats. Whenever manufacturers release software updates, they send a notification to everyone, including users and hackers, that certain vulnerabilities within the previous version can be exploited.

Running outdated operating systems on your medical equipment can impair your system’s ability to deliver quality care. For instance, an MRI machine infected with a virus can cause delayed diagnoses. Besides, if the compromised device is network-enabled, cybercriminals may use it as a gateway into your entire system.

Always have a proactive plan for software updates for every applicable system, including laptops, mobile devices, desktops, and IoT devices.

Periodic Staff Training

All entities associated with your healthcare system—staff, providers, vendors, and volunteers—should undergo periodic cybersecurity awareness training. It’s advisable to use real-life hacking and phishing examples. In fact, you can actively phish your employees as a training tool. Additionally, train your staff to understand the process of reporting any suspect behavior.

Use a Trusted Partner Who Prioritizes Healthcare IT Security

A trusted IT service provider can support your organization’s commitment to protecting PHI and other confidential information. Schilling IT is committed to securing healthcare data with sophisticated security solutions. Our cybersecurity solutions meet or even exceed HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule requirements. Contact us today to learn how our cybersecurity consulting team can mitigate your IT security risks.

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