Healthcare organizations are impacted the most by cybersecurity attacks than any other domain. Healthcare organizations suffered 32,000 security attacks per day in comparison to 14,300 attacks faced by businesses of other industry verticals.
Hackers are more interested in personal health information as it could be 10 times more worthy than credit card or bank account information. Hackers leverage this data to produce fake IDs for medical equipment or drug shopping and attach the patient’s number with a false provider number to file fake medical insurance claims. Ironically, unlike normal financial frauds, the victim is not instantly aware of the theft of their medical information.
Here are other reasons why healthcare organizations are more vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks:
- Longer detection of medical identity frauds
- Cybersecurity maturity is at a nascent stage in the healthcare sector
- Healthcare data is richer in terms of volume
- Cybercriminals are leveraging malware and more sophisticated attack vectors
#1 Cyber security training
Negligence is one of the leading sources of data leaks and even cyber security testing can’t stop that. To minimize cyber security threats, it is crucial to exercise robust technical control to make it difficult for an unauthorized person to gain access to the system. But ironically, your security is as reliable as your weakest link i.e., the end-user. Phishing and spoofing often take advantage of minimal security awareness to gain access to the system.
For instance, electronic medical records (EMRs) stored on USB drives and hard drives have resulted in the loss of approximately 23 million data records. The data stored on portable storage devices is rarely encrypted. Healthcare organizations need to encrypt every data set transferred or stored to such portable devices.
It is also crucial to periodically update security policies and procedures.
Hence, it is crucial to give mandatory cyber security training to all the employees of the healthcare organization to make them aware of the criticality of their role in ensuring organizational cybersecurity.
#2 Regular Software Updates
Cyber security threats are constantly becoming more sophisticated and capable of penetrating your system. No system is always foolproof. The majority of hacks occur due to security loopholes. Hackers normally check out recent vulnerability lists, scan the web for systems where security patches are absent, and initiate the attacks accordingly.
This is the reason developers regularly release application updates to ensure robust security. Delay in applying security updates means leaving the entire system vulnerable to such threats. Systems administrators should allow the system to check and apply updates automatically. In case automatic updates are not feasible, set up a calendar reminder to make sure updates are done on a regular basis.
#3 Leverage Tried and Tested Methods
While developing the security layer, it is crucial to rely on tried and tested solutions designed by cybersecurity experts. It will help in eliminating critical errors while expediting time-to-market.
- Identify the e-PHI including the one you have created, received, maintained, or transmitted
- Find out the external sources of e-PHI
- Run a security risk analysis as per 45 Code of Federal Regulations 164.308(a)(1) described by certified electronic health record (EHR) technology
- Implement security updates and rectify identified security gaps
- Study HIPAA security gap assessments thoroughly
- Stricter enforcement of IT and operational policies
- Only use HIPAA and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act-enabled applications
- Ensure penetration testing of web applications, external facing systems, and internal key systems to identify and fix breach risks
- Ensure third-party applications have security codes and design
Advanced cyber security measures help in the instant implementation of the security layer in medical devices and applications by simply adding a security library.
#4 System Access Control
Many treacherous cybersecurity attacks happen through the front door. Cybercriminals gain the credential information of an authorized user to enter the system. Hence, it is crucial to have a tight grip on system access control.
Healthcare should define the specific role of every employee and based on that; system privileges should be granted. For instance, an employee working in a pharmacy doesn’t require access to the patient’s illness history. And system access of employees who leave the organization should be revoked immediately.
#5 Discourage One Password for All Systems
Today people are using multiple platforms for different uses. People tend to keep the same passwords for their social media accounts, banking accounts, and official systems. Hackers can easily hack the password of social media accounts and gain access to personal data like the name of the company they are working in and their location.
This creates a massive security threat for healthcare organizations as hackers can easily gain access to the system by using the same password. To avoid this, healthcare organizations should compel employees to change passwords periodically.
#6 In-Depth Security
Healthcare organizations need to constantly evolve to keep track of continuous changes happening in the security environment. Several layers of security are required to prevent attackers from gaining unauthorized access to your data. Efficient implementation of network access point defenses can prevent cyber intruders from entering a payer or provider’s system.
However, some intrusion attempts will penetrate through defense mechanisms. Hence, it is crucial to have other lines of defense capable of protecting each form of sensitive data. Healthcare organizations need to chalk out a process to identify data that needs to be secured. Data security at this level can be implemented through strengthened encryption methods, selective network aggregation, access, and port restrictions among others.
Healthcare organizations also need to leverage analytics to identify anomalously
behavior indicating a cyberattack or an intruder wandering into the system. It should be able to instantly raise an alert to ensure immediate counteraction. Security analytics tools monitor security logs, infrastructure logs, network data packets, database logs, configuration changes, domain name system (DNS) transactions, and social chatter. These tools are equipped to identify unusual activity and keep a special track of actions that involves access to sensitive data.
For instance, an antivirus, a firewall, and a whitelist of approved apps play a crucial role in keeping cyber intruders at bay.
#7 Data Recovery
Data loss is considered more treacherous than unauthorized access to cyber intruders. Apart from ruining the reputation of a healthcare organization, it can cripple its operations completely. However, DDoS or malware infection may not be able to steal the information, but they can corrupt the data and make it unusable.
Hence, it is essential to have a capable data recovery mechanism in place to make sure data stays safe and secure even when the entire information in the production system gets corrupted permanently. The backup of the most crucial systems should be done daily and kept at a remote location.
Conduct thorough data loss prevention (DLP) analysis of the system and ensure efficient implementation of data loss prevention tools.
#8 Protection of Mobile Devices
Health records can now be collected, transmitted, and retrieved from multiple mobile devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and portable storage devices among others. However, this convenience is a bane to the security of healthcare records. Bring your own device (BYOD) culture and ever-increasing pervasiveness of the organization’s network connectivity with greater sensitive information stored and distributed on the network. The widening adoption of social and mobile applications has added another vulnerable point.
Increasing mobility and the rising capacity of mobile devices have increased the possibility of device theft manifolds. For instance, now most smartphones normally have 64 GB of storage; making it possible to store a gigantic amount of healthcare data. The best practice should be to keep away mobile devices from any kind of sensitive data. In case it is crucial to have access to healthcare data on mobile devices, it should be delivered in an encrypted form.
Keeping healthcare data secure requires deep business knowledge, elaborate planning, and advanced technical expertise. Cyber security testing companies need to leverage advanced methodologies including AI in software testing to mitigate risks and keep the data safe. Following the above-mentioned tips can help healthcare organizations minimize data theft and data loss threats.
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