Take Proper Precautions: How to Prevent a Data Breach at Your Healthcare Center

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It’s a safe bet there isn’t a single IT manager left in the healthcare world that isn’t worried about a data breach. That’s because hacker attacks are the number one threat in the industry today. One study showed that IT departments in hospitals, healthcare systems, and ambulatory clinics are all at risk; five years of data shows a different kind of epidemic in healthcare today, potentially costing these organizations $6 billion annually. Is there any way to decrease this threat?

Rising Data Breaches Mean Stepping up Security Protocols

Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations have increased by 125% since 2010. Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries when it comes to patient data, so it may come as a shock to realize that, according to RSA Conference, “it seems that healthcare continues to lag behind most other industries in securing its data.” Yet, current regulations state that if a data breach occurs and more than 500 patients are affected, the provider organization could be subject to fines of up to $1.5 million.

Healthcare organizations must work to reduce the risk and avoid the fines and reputation damage that come with a data breach. Here are three tips healthcare organizations can take to mitigate the risk of a cyber terrorism incident:

1. Conduct periodic risk assessments of your IT network to determine weak points.

Not only is this a solid best practice, CMS meaningful use requires it. Still, many organizations in the healthcare field fail to conduct this process. Reviewing security policies and end-user practices at all points of your IT network will help uncover system vulnerabilities. This is the only way you can develop a strategic approach to mitigating your risk.

2. Conduct regular system upgrades and backups.

Hospitals have been the victims of ransomware attacks, like the notorious WannaCry from a few years ago, simply because they failed to upgrade their Windows servers. Ransomware attacks lock down computers, encrypting the data inside so no one can use it – that is until a ransom is paid to hackers. Fierce Healthcare recently warned the healthcare industry they are again at risk of these attacks if they’ve failed to upgrade their systems. Many providers, including community health centers, use Microsoft products on the administrative backend. If these organizations fail to fix security flaws by upgrading and patching systems, they are at risk of a data breach.

3. Create a culture of cybersecurity at your healthcare organization.

Malicious software is often spread through an organization simply because an employee clicked on a phishing email. Phishing emails look very much like a professional email, appearing to come from a trusted vendor or other easily recognizable company. But if the end-user opens the attachment or follows a link in the email, a virus could be unleashed within your network. Many of these attacks seek to capture corporate login information from employees, which allows the hacker to poke around at will within healthcare architectures. Creating a culture of cybersecurity means IT teams work to constantly make end users aware of the risks of data breach, teaching them simple steps like changing passwords frequently. This will lessen the risk that user error could serve as the backdoor for hacker encroachment.

FierceHealthcare reported in May 2019 that 40% of healthcare organizations had been hit with a malicious software attack in the last six months. Healthcare organizations must step up their game to ensure the safety of their organizational data and protect their patients’ private information.

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