Network security and cyber attacks continue to plague healthcare organizations of every size and scope across the US. A recently report,released by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), showed that over 15 million patient records were compromised in 2018 – a number that’s only expected to grow with the surge of connected medical devices, relaxed internal protocol, and ever-evolving hacker sophistication. As a result, medical professionals are carefully reevaluating their existing IT environments to strengthen data loss prevention efforts, protect patient data, and avoid potentially significant fines due to a HIPAA compromise.
Seven Ways To Reduce Cybersecurity Risk Across Your Healthcare Organization
Is your healthcare organization susceptible to a data breach? Without a proactive, comprehensive security program, your internal systems and platforms may be more vulnerable than you know. Your digital networks may be at risk if you don’t:
Perform Consistent Risk Assessments
HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules mandate that all healthcare organizations run consistent risk assessments. Not only does routine system analysis help maintain HIPAA compliance, but it also allows an IT/security department to systematically evaluate its current cybersecurity policies, pinpoint potential threats, and identify possible digital vulnerabilities.
Evaluate Data Gathering Practices
Healthcare IT systems often serve as a data repository, storing a wide range of necessary digital intelligence. Additionally, many organizations also store information across multiple platforms and often lose track of where data is stored as well as who (and what) can access it. Reevaluate the type of information you’re retaining and eliminating data gathering practices that aren’t relevant or critical is an important step in reducing the data footprint of your organization. You should also create a detailed inventory of how many different systems your organization is currently utilizing and document a security baseline for future security spot checks.
Secure All Connecting Devices
Most healthcare organizations utilize password protection on internal computers and laptops. However, many medical facilities overlook the multiple mobile devices accessing their systems at any given moment. Implementing strong password protection and auditing these systems to ensure they are compliant with organizational policies and procedures can help increase cybersecurity within your organization in the event an item is lost or stolen.
Update Cybersecurity Software
When was the last time your IT department deployed security patches? Not only Windows patches but also 3rd party patches like Adobe and Oracle (Java), and patches to network and security systems? Allowing your software to lapse or become obsolete makes you vulnerable to a cyber attack. Make patch management a consistent part of your technology practices to keep your systems protected at all times. Organizations should routinely review and update workstation and server images to ensure that new machines are deployed with the latest security updates and internal security controls.
Encrypt Data Transmissions
Unencrypted transmissions across your organizations can make it easier for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive internal and patient information. Mandating encryption of all information transfers can increase network security and lower the risk of a successful cyber attack.
Restrict User Access
Most healthcare IT environments have countless users, including non-employeed physicians, accessing internal systems for a multitude of reasons, making it crucial to carefully identify each user as well as pinpoint necessary permission levels for every person or connecting device. Once you’ve designated potential users, develop a standard that only allows access to relevant data based on role, task, or responsibility. Additionally, mandating log on/off policies on shared machines can help enforce permission restrictions and create a more readily available paper trail in the event of any data breaches.
Utilize Fortified Health Security for Automatic Threat and Vulnerability Detection
No matter how well you guard against cybersecurity breaches, malicious actors may still find ways into your system. Automated threat and vulnerability assessment protocols discover and report on these potential problems as they occur so nothing slips through the cracks. Fortified Health’s vulnerability threat management (VTM) solutions allow organizations to free up resources so less time is spent identifying problems and more time is spent fixing them.
Many healthcare organizations don’t realize that the biggest risk for data breach often comes from within the organization. The OCR report also reveals internal protocol lapses accounted for 28.09% of all cybersecurity events. The biggest insider-related HIPAA breach? Internal personnel snooping on family members. Insufficient employee training can exponentially increase the chances that your staff will inadvertently blur regulatory lines. Be sure to develop an organization-wide, consistent internal training program that covers essential factors such as patient data access and secure email policies to reduce the chance of an internal breach.Are you concerned about network security at your healthcare organization? Fortified Health Security can help. Contact our team of cybersecurity specialists to discuss potential risk and compromise across your facility today.