Healthcare Cybersecurity: 5 Ways It Can Be Improved

Healthcare industry has seen a drastic difference in the way data is stored, managed, and accessed across the organization. The processes are largely digitalized and personal information of patients and professionals is stored online. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, the healthcare industry is more prone to cyber attacks, and therefore, must abide by stringent rules and regulations.

According to a report, the healthcare sector reported around 32,000 daily intrusion attacks per organization in 2017. This is around twice the number of attacks reported on organizations in other sectors. The same report reveals that despite the higher than average risk, healthcare industry spends only half as much on security as other industries.

While the state is alarming, appropriate actions can prevent attacks and limit the losses. This post discusses five ways in which healthcare organizations can improve cybersecurity and curtail the likelihood of cyber-attacks.

 

1.   Take Security Seriously

Despite the alarming number of attacks on healthcare databases, organizations in this sector take security less seriously than they should. Many organizations are unaware of the need to improve their security unless they face a real threat. Unfortunately, for many organizations, it is often too late to avoid hefty damage. The damage is not limited to financial loss. Attacks and breaches can destroy the reputation of the organization and may even put them in a legal battle.

There is a need to understand that the patient data collected is sensitive. It may not be of any direct financial benefit to the attackers, but they may hold it hostage for the sake of money. Here are a few stats that prove that cybersecurity is a serious concern in healthcare:

  • Around 72 percent of cyber attacks in healthcare are ransomware related
  • 45 percent of all ransomware attacks in 2017 involved healthcare organizations
  • 70 percent of the victim entities paid to get their data back
  • Cost of cyber attacks on healthcare organizations reaches up to 10 million dollars

77 percent of the victim organizations suffered due to lackluster cybersecurity that allowed for easy intrusion and exploitation. The stats would have been much different if those organizations had taken data security as a serious concern.

 

2.   Start With Security Protocols

One of the basic, yet the most crucial step in improving security across the organization involves redefining the access protocol. Organizations must ensure that the data is not easily accessible to anyone, even within the organization. There must be strict security procedures and protocols to define data access and interaction. A simple password or pin is no longer enough. There has to be at least one more layer of protection.

A two-factor identification process is better than a simple password or pin-based access process. However, each layer must be refined to provide a robust protection on its own. For instance, a six-digit pin will be more secure than a three or four digit pin. A password with alphanumeric characters is stronger than a simple alphabetical one. Security protocols must also require the passwords to be changed every two to three months.

Smarter verification tools based on biometric input can also fortify the security shield across the organization. These security policies and protocol must unilaterally apply on every level across the organization.

 

3.  Train the Staff

In a recent study, human negligence was reported to be one of the major cybersecurity concerns in the healthcare sector. No matter how strong the security infrastructure, a careless and negligent employee can serve as a vulnerability in the system. Nearly half of the organizations taking part in a security survey revealed that they had suffered a breach due to human error or negligence.

Human error can range from leaving the system unlocked to sharing passwords or pins with unauthorized personnel. Accidental loss or deletion of an important file is also a cause of concern. Sometimes a single employee has compromised an entire organization by clicking an infected link.

It is important to offer comprehensive cybersecurity training to all the staff members. They must be informed about the risks and consequences of sharing their passwords and pin codes. They must be strictly prohibited from accessing and opening irrelevant links and email on their systems. Employees, on every level, should realize the risks and responsibilities.

Healthcare organization must not just invest in orientation training but also in refresher training to prevent employee triggered risks and vulnerabilities.

 

4.   Invest in Security

Since security breaches can cost millions of dollars, it is one area where healthcare organization must invest money and time. When opting for security solutions, low-cost options often bring higher risks. The risk is not limited to vulnerabilities, but also compliance issues. Due to the rise in security risk in the healthcare sector, the government has introduced several rules and regulations. Cloud-based healthcare systems must comply with HIPPA and FedRAMP standards in the USA.

Organizations must invest in solutions that come with complete vendor support. The vendor must be committed to maintaining the highest level of data protection and security. The commitment should include regular audits, penetration testing, and necessary updates required to maintain compliance in case of a change in regulatory policies.

 

5.   Third-Party Audits

Third-party audits are conducted by entities that are not related to any of the two parties i.e. the vendor or the user. These entities conduct independent and unbiased audits that cover every aspect of organizations security landscape. This includes an assessment of the software or platform as well as the security protocols and training. They test and review every aspect pertaining to data security and offer recommendations to further improve the security strategy.

 

Conclusion

The security situation in the healthcare sector might be alarming but with appropriate measures, prevention is possible. The key is to understand that the threat is real and make security the foremost priority.

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