In a world where mass data technology is now a staple instead of cutting-edge, health organizations are housing more sensitive data than ever. As Britain’s national health service learned firsthand just a few years ago, even well-respected companies and organizations can find their databases compromised.
Technology is an essential part of daily life. There are no arguments about it providing both convenience and opportunity as it opens doors all over the world, particularly in the healthcare sector. However, this progress comes with a price — data vulnerability.
Cybersecurity issues in long-cerm care
Online security is something that’s often taken for granted. It’s something that’s assumed to be in place in established businesses and can seem impenetrable. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Many internet users, both private and public, are willing to be lulled into a sense of security, dropping their guard and lowering security measures.
Cyber attacks can take place from multiple angles, which means a weak point anywhere in a provider’s system can quickly lead to compromised information. As technology becomes more advanced, so do hackers who use that same technology against others.
United States health providers have also reported major incidents, PIH Health and the Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health were both targeted this year. The result of such data breaches and ransomware often leaves patients the victims and providers financially liable, both of which can be devastating.
Apart from data breaches, another cyber threat often seen in long-term care facilities is identity theft. Hackers target the personally identifiable data of the recently deceased to obtain services or to apply for credit card accounts. Since it can take up to six months for authorities to procedure death records, the hacking can often go undiscovered.
Hackers are usually at the forefront of new advancements and techniques, always looking for ways to adapt their approach and see greater gains. Large hospitals and national health services aren’t the only potential victims either, small businesses are equally targeted.
Anyone using online platforms, including health care providers, should look to the future of technology as well; diligence and preparation will help prevent client data from becoming compromised.
Why are healthcare providers targets of cyberattacks?
A Leading Age report suggests that health care providers are vulnerable to cyberattacks due to two major reasons. Firstly, their data is lucrative, including personal, financial, and health data of patients. Secondly, security in these organizations is often weaker compared to other industries. It is crucial for organizations to take measures to secure the client data they obtain.
Taking security measures
Keeping sensitive health data safe online can be a fulltime job, but a series of simple steps make the odds more favorable.
- Remind your staff to only visit reputable websites equipped with encryption. This is especially important when transmitting health data, but is relevant across the board.
- Even account information that isn’t health-based in nature may harbor personal information that can be used to establish new accounts or acquire access to others. Working only with safe websites ensures at least basic protection in place.
- Ask staff to limit their interactions with your online systems to in the workplace, while it’s one thing to secure your business’ network it’s quite another to make sure your care staff is using properly secured networks at home or on lunchbreaks—keep digital paperwork in the office.
- Additionally, staff passwords need to follow some basic rules: remind staff to change their login credentials frequently and never repeat them from one account or part of the overall system to another. In the event of a breach, using the same password across multiple sites can easily lead to more data loss.
- Opting to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is another easy way to add a layer of protection. VPNs can serve as a proxy and encrypt sensitive information. While VPN technology is more closely associated with personal devices, it can be applied to your practice’s whole network through dedicated VPN routers.
- Large care providers should consider hiring a third-party security expert to conduct an audit of their systems and patch any issues found.
The future of cybersecurity
New technology has been developing at an incredible rate — and shows no sign of slowing down. As our lives, health data, and even embedded medical devices become increasingly detailed and controlled in online databases, our need for quality cybersecurity will only continue to increase.
Taking the appropriate actions now for existing data banks can reduce the risk of data loss in the future — without compromising the convenience and opportunity that comes with e-health.
Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a nonprofit promoting a safe, secure and censor-free internet. He writes about his dream for a free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs.