How to Protect Hospital Workers from Cyber Attacks

Updated on January 2, 2021

Can you imagine a robber coming in-person to hold up a hospital? Who would do such a thing? While this is fortunately not too common in the physical world, hospitals are frequently attacked in the digital one. 

Each year, hospitals around the world suffer major data breaches, ransomware attacks, and other damages resulting in billions in losses annually. More often than not, it’s not just patients but also hospital workers who are victims of these attacks. That’s why it’s more important than ever to talk about cybersecurity and what we can do to stop the attacks.

As healthcare becomes increasingly reliant on digital technologies like EHRs, monitoring devices, and telehealth, it’s crucial to start implementing proper security to protect patients and healthcare workers. 

Here are five proven cybersecurity tools and strategies to start using now. 

1. Password Generators/Managers 

Hospitals have so many vulnerabilities. One of the most frequent entry points is through employee accounts, network logins, and other connected credentials. 

Unfortunately, most people use simple passwords that can be cracked in just seconds. Worse yet, over 50% of internet users rotate the same five or fewer passwords. That means if just a healthcare worker’s account is breached elsewhere in the digital world, a hacker could reuse that password to get into hospital systems. 

A password generator can create complex combinations that are so difficult that even supercomputers can crack them. That’s because instead of something like “dog321” as a password, they’ll create “s1&^SgU9!mQU” that is virtually unbreakable. 

At the same time, the best password generators come bundled inside password managers that help you manage and store these secure credentials in one secure and convenient digital vault. 

Do yourself a favor and get everybody you work with on a password manager now. 

2. VPNs 

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have grown increasingly popular across industries. By encrypting internet connections and anonymizing IP addresses, they both enhance security and privacy. 

This makes them great for preventing man-in-the-middle attacks, reducing hackers’ ability to track you, and more. 

Nowadays, so much hospital work is actually done away from the facilities. Remote coding, clinical documentation, and other staff do all this work in less than safe personal environments making them major targets for cybercriminals. 

By using an enterprise-grade VPN, these vital employees can perform their jobs safely. 

3. Create Secure Regular Backups 

Ransomware attacks grow every year in the healthcare world. They are quite possibly the single largest digital threat to hospitals. 

Despite growing awareness of the dangers they pose, however, many hospitals are ill-equipped to deter them. While you definitely want to make sure hackers don’t get their hands-on data in the first place, having secure backups truly reduces the amount of harm these types of attacks can. 

That’s because ransomware works by targeting key files and locking users out of them. By following the “rule of three” and having three different backups on different media, you’ll never lose access. 

4. Encrypt Everything 

Encryption is the biggest thing you should take away from reading this. In fact, password managers use encryption to keep your passwords safe. Likewise, VPNs use encryption to safeguard your connection. 

From here, all important files must be encrypted regardless of whether they are in-storage or something you use often. 

The best rule is anything that has value to you should be encrypted because hackers can and will exploit. Surprisingly this even applies to personal data, even the videos you might watch during break time. 

Don’t ever forget to encrypt your backups too. Some hospitals actually do backups in place, but ransomware attacks find them and delete them to enhance the efficacy of their attack. 

5. Embrace Cyber Hygiene 

Cyber hygiene is the set of best practices that everybody, from the CEO to the newest intern, must follow. They not only include using the security tools described above but also applying these essential strategies: 

  • Updating all software and operating systems on devices 
  • Restricting permission to only those who must have it 
  • Never allowing guests on the main network. Instead, use guest networks if necessary
  • Recognizing suspicious emails and website
  • Scanning all files and links before clicking on them
  • Using antimalware and antivirus software 
  • Enabling two-factor authentication for all accounts 
  • Reporting suspicious activity immediately 

Finally, cyber hygiene is about creating an open culture. Even cybersecurity experts make mistakes. Hackers are clever and find many different ways to trick people. 

Create a culture where it’s okay for people to admit these mistakes because it’s better to address them to solve the issue rather than getting hidden and causing more problems over time. Likewise, take some time to make sure everybody is up to date on the latest threats going on. 

Protect Front Line Workers For Hackers 

Front line workers have done so much for the rest of us this year. The last thing they deserve is to be hacked. So, talk to your team and help them understand the importance of the steps. 

They are really not that difficult, and when you learn to apply them both in your professional and personal lives, they radically improve your security. Stay safe and start implementing these tips now! 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.