Protecting Patient Data: 3 Cybersecurity Best Practices for Healthcare Providers

The healthcare industry has always been a key target for cybercriminals for one main reason: there’s so much sensitive data to be mined. The number of cyber attacks exploded during the pandemic, when healthcare systems were under strain and medical professionals shifted to new methods of communication.

With strong healthcare cybersecurity in place, you’ll be able to protect data, stay compliant and provide safe, continuous care to your patients.


Cyberthreats for the healthcare industry

Some of the most common healthcare cybersecurity threats include:

  • Social engineering attacks. Email scams are a well-known form of social engineering. Cybercriminals often pose as medical experts or government officials, and send phishing emails to healthcare workers who are eager to learn more about certain viruses or order equipment. Hackers often also pose as healthcare providers asking for sensitive information from patients.
  • Data breaches. Patient data is incredibly valuable to hackers, as they can use it to commit ransomware, malware or identity theft-based attacks. This problem is compounded by the fact that many hospitals and doctor’s offices use outdated storage systems, leaving them vulnerable.
  • Cyber attacks on connected devices. On the flip side, healthcare systems are often part of the Internet of Things (IoT), meaning if hackers can access one port of entry, they can hack several devices at once. 

3 ways to protect patient data and medical records

Knowledge is power. Here’s how to safeguard patient data against ever-evolving cyber threats while complying with regulatory guidelines.

#1 Do an inventory of your systems

Depending on the size of your clinic or hospital, there might be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of devices connected to your network. Chances are, these devices are all essential to patient care — so they need to be properly monitored.

The first step is completing an inventory of your systems. Once you’ve created a list of the assets in your network, identify potential vulnerabilities and security risks. Work with patient data protection specialists to set up a plan for addressing those in order of priority, as well as proactively monitoring new and emerging threats. You can also enlist software to help with those tasks.

#2 Focus on access controls

A connected network can be convenient, and having strong access controls in place will go a long way in preventing data breaches. This is especially important within healthcare, where organisations often use outdated systems and hardware and/or don’t train their staff on best cybersecurity practices.

Work through this checklist:

  • Restrict access based on necessity. Let’s say you have an intranet at the hospital. Consider limiting access to specific files or sections to those needing that information to do their jobs. Eliminating unauthorised access will strengthen overall cybersecurity, and give hackers fewer pathways to breach the system and tap into patient data.
  • Practice healthcare cybersecurity hygiene. Activate multi-factor authentication across devices with the help of security software like ESET. Then, teach your staff to create complex passwords and avoid using their work devices for personal purposes (and vice versa) Explain how to spot a phishing email and how to report suspicious medical device communications.

Top tip: Along with instructing employees to respond to red flags, create a good response plan. Have a team in place to handle security breaches, contain any damage and mitigate the effect on your healthcare operations. If you do fall victim to a cyber threat, that team should also be responsible for post-attack procedures that describe the lessons learned and how these can be applied in the future.

#3 Back up and encrypt your data

Being the victim of a healthcare cyber attack is devastating, but having backups means you’ll be able to recover lost data and patient records faster. Ideally, keep two backups in separate locations: one on a hard drive, and another on a cloud-based system. 

All data should be end-to-end encrypted, too. It’s worth investing in a third-party, premium encryption software like ESET Protect Complete. Suitable for healthcare facilities of all sizes, this program offers full encryption for disks and devices to help prevent data breaches. It provides a multi-layered defence against a range of healthcare cyber attacks, including identity theft and phishing emails, and has a remote management feature to secure devices employees may be using while working from home.

Fortify your healthcare cybersecurity 

With so many possible cyberthreats and so much sensitive data at stake, healthcare providers need to upskill in cybersecurity now more than ever. With good patient data protection, you’ll be able to prepare for, respond to and recover from cyber threats as they come up.

Hanzla Gul

My name is Muhammad Hanzla Gul and I'm the person behind the scenes. I hold a degree in Economics with a minor in Data Science, both of which have been instrumental in my research. Economics provided me with a deep understanding of how wealth is generated and distributed, while Data Science taught me how to analyze and interpret complex data sets - a crucial skill when estimating net worth. My passion for research and curiosity about successful individuals led me to create this website. As an author, I'm committed to delivering a unique perspective on the wealth of those who shape our world.

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