The issue of cybersecurity is becoming increasingly crucial for healthcare organizations. A recent article published on TechTarget.com reported official US government data, which indicate how healthcare data breaches recorded in the first half of 2022 were almost twice those that occurred in the same period in 2021. The article also highlights how said data breaches increased by a staggering 86% from 2018 to 2021. According to Statista.com, the average cost of an individual data breach is 10.1 million US dollars, and the largest breach ever recorded in US history (the Anthem Inc. breach) compromised 78.8 million private data records and was fined $ 39.5 million for violating HIPAA compliance.
These data clearly show that addressing cybersecurity threats is something hospitals, health insurance companies, and other businesses operating in this industry must give extreme attention to if they want to avoid serious economic, managerial and reputational damages.
Preventing Data Breaches and Phishing Attacks
Unfortunately, the surge in cybercrime is a reality, and it’s not just going to go away overnight. Stealing private healthcare data allows criminals to profit in many ways, including reselling them on the black market and blackmailing those involved. On top of that, healthcare organizations are subject to severe fines in many countries when data breaches happen.
Putting in place a series of actions aimed at significantly lowering the chance of said breaches happening to your organization is now a necessity and not just a choice.
The first step is to undergo an in-depth assessment of the state of your IT infrastructure (to repeat on a regular basis). Every component of the infrastructure should be taken into account, including workers’ personal devices and smart technologies. Updating outdated systems is paramount, as these can be an easier target for cyber attacks as well as less efficient and often more expensive to manage.
Needless to say, all cybersecurity systems purposefully designed to ensure the safety of private data (such as anti-virus software, firewall, traffic monitoring, data encryption, and VPN) should all be installed and regularly updated.
Another crucial action is to carefully determine which workers should have access to different sets of data and enforce this decision as tightly as possible. Using the latest commercial security monitoring solutions (such as access control systems, video surveillance, and alarm systems) can help you achieve this goal more effectively.
Educating your employees about the risk of data breaches (and cyber threats in general) is another fundamental step in reducing their occurrence. After all, the second most common reported cause of data breaches is human error. Using weak passwords (or writing down on a piece of paper) and leaving devices unattended are all behaviors that your personnel should avoid. However, the most important lesson you can give your personnel is how to detect phishing, the most common way through which cybercriminals try to steal data in the healthcare industry. Teach your personnel how to recognize suspicious emails and SMS in order to prevent this occurrence.
Using Cloud-Based Technology to Boost Security
Among the reasons why cloud-based systems are becoming increasingly popular, we also find the benefits they can provide in terms of both cyber and physical security.
When you use on-prem security systems, all your servers (and therefore data) are located in your building, and typically in one specific location. While it’s true that this gives you a high degree of customization, guaranteeing the maximum level of security for the servers’ location involves very high costs that your organization may not be able to sustain. In contrast, cloud storage centers can usually benefit from economies of scale, allowing them to afford 24/7 security personnel and all the latest physical security technologies.
The same goes for the level of digital security that cloud storage providers are able to put in place. Few healthcare institutions can mimic their expertise in this field and their ability to proactively scan for internet threats and neutralize them in advance.
Cloud systems are also designed with a lot of attention to access management, giving IT managers the tools to monitor logs and data sharing. Moreover, features like multi-factor authentication and time-restricted access can be configured way more easily on cloud-based security systems compared to on-prem ones.
Complying with Government Acts on Protected Health Information
Organizations that deal with PHI (Protected Health Information) must also comply with specific regulations, such as the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This measure aims to ensure the privacy of patients and health insurance plan members is protected. Organizations that must comply with these privacy standards include health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and certain healthcare providers. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology provides a detailed checklist for those who want to know if they currently comply with the HIPAA or not.