Healthcare organizations are incredibly vulnerable to cyberattacks, and that presents a major risk factor for healthcare organizations. From large hospitals to small dental practices, each organization is susceptible to attack. Smaller healthcare organizations often have limited budgets to spend on cybersecurity, and large hospital networks can struggle to manage the complexity and volume of devices on their networks. Threats have increased for healthcare organizations over the past few years, and these organizations have struggled to keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape. Large scale data breaches, ransomware attacks, malware infections, and phishing attacks have become more common for the healthcare industry.

The day-to-day business of a healthcare organization often includes the electronic transmission of patient information, including sensitive data like a patient’s social security number, address, financial information, healthcare data, and more. Personal health information like this is incredibly enticing to cybercriminals because they can easily sell it on the dark web for a high price. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was designed to provide safeguards and regulations around this type of protected health information (PHI). However, it is a vast law with complex rules that can be very confusing. Many private practice doctors and healthcare organizations feel overwhelmed with issues related to HIPAA Compliance.

This guide will give you 10 tips to help protect patient data and increase your organization’s cybersecurity. Please note that this is not enough to be compliant with HIPAA. 

Here are 10 Critical Healthcare Cybersecurity Tips

  1. Install and update antivirus software on all devices connected to your network.

    • Antivirus software protects your devices from common security threats like malware, trojan horses, and viruses. Ensure you or your IT Services team have automatic updates enabled for your anti-virus software. If the software runs out of date and does not receive the proper patches against the latest viruses, your devices will not be protected.
  2. Enable two-factor authentication for all accounts.

    • Two-factor authentication is a must for all employee accounts and services. By implementing two-factor authentication, you add an extra step — and extra security — to the login process. Two-factor authentication requires that users enter an additional code or token sent to their phone, email, or another device before being allowed to log in. This means that, for example, a hacker would need to have access to your employee’s password and their mobile device to gain access to their account. The additional layer of security provided by multi-factor authentication adds important restrictions and access control to accounts with sensitive data like PHI.
  3. Engage in employee security awareness training.

    • Your employees are your best first line of defense when it comes to healthcare cybersecurity. Employees should complete annual security awareness training for their performance reviews, and new hire training should include best practices for protecting sensitive information stored in electronic health records. Employees should receive information about what the common cyber threats that can infect their software and operating systems are and how to report an incident if one occurs.
  4. Employ advanced endpoint protection.

    • An advanced endpoint protection system is critical when working in a healthcare organization with thousands of IoT and medical devices connected to the network. Your IT Services team should be aware of the health of all devices connected to your network and install proper endpoint monitoring and protection software to mitigate the risk of a health data breach. An outside specialist in healthcare data protection or your internal IT department can carry out these security measures under the guidance of an experienced Chief Security Officer.
  5. Continuously monitor the network.

    • Continuous network monitoring is very important when dealing with patient records and personal information stored on the computer systems of a healthcare provider. A continuous monitoring program allows your organization to oversee the security state of an information system on a continuous basis and helps maintain the security authorization for the system over time. Continuous monitoring helps your IT department spot cybersecurity threats in real time and allows security engineers to respond quickly before data loss occurs.
  6. Control access to PHI.

    • Controlling access to PHI is important for HIPAA compliance and helps you ensure that you are protecting patient records against possible cybercrime attempts. You need to do more than set up a simple password for your electronic health record (EHR) system. As we mentioned earlier, employing multiple layers of security is the best approach when dealing with patient information. An added layer of security is necessary to protect unauthorized access to electronic health information. You can do this by limiting information access to only necessary healthcare professionals.
  7. Limit network access.

    • Limiting network access is another important aspect of healthcare IT and cybersecurity. As technology advances, so do threats. Wireless technology makes networking easier, but it presents threats to healthcare information systems and poses risks to network security. Only authorized personnel should be able to access your network. Wireless routers should be protected with encryption codes and proper passwords. Your healthcare organization must ensure that your wireless network is secured from unauthorized users for patient safety and data security purposes.
  8. Maintain visibility and control of physical access.

    • Cybersecurity is also physical security. Data breaches can occur when devices like smartphones containing sensitive information are lost or stolen. Devices that contain sensitive PHI should be kept in locked areas with check out logs to ensure accountability from staff. Installing cameras, locks, and other physical security devices is just as important as properly installing your firewall.
  9. Implement and follow your device policy closely.

    • Unless your policy forbids it, your staff are most likely bringing their mobile devices to work and using them while on the corporate network. Without proper monitoring, training, and encryption, these devices can become vulnerable to cyber attacks. Implement and closely follow a mobile device policy with your employees. If a device cannot be secured, it should not be accessed at your healthcare facility.
  10. Ensure employees use smart passwords.

    • 63% of data security breaches involved hackers taking advantage of default, weak, and stolen passwords, according to a report from Verizon. Your employees should be aware of the dangers of weak passwords and know how to create smarter, stronger passwords. Smart, strong passwords include pass phrases with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. These smart passwords are much harder to crack than traditional passwords.

Cybersecurity in Healthcare doesn’t have to be hard. Touchstone Security can help.

Cybersecurity is difficult for many organizations to maintain, especially for healthcare professionals. However, implementing these 10 tips for cybersecurity in healthcare can help ensure your organization will be ready to face the cybersecurity threats of 2020. If your organization needs help managing and protecting PHI, we strongly recommend you contact a cybersecurity professional with experience in the healthcare field. Touchstone Security has decades of experience working with healthcare professionals to improve their security quickly and affordably. Contact Touchstone Security today to protect your organization’s healthcare data.

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