Exploring the Cyber Vulnerabilities in Digitized Healthcare Space & Finding the Ways to Fix Them

By Anubhuti Shrivastava, Content Crafter, Arkenea

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and it boils down to this: in cybersecurity, the more systems we secure, the more secure we all are.  We are all connected online and a vulnerability in one place can cause a problem in many other places.

– Jeh Jhonson American Lawyer & Ex Govt.Official

Digitization has made the healthcare industry much more streamlined and organized. But data security and digital safety are still two major concerns for the medical sector. As per Cybersecurityventures, ransomware harassments on medical organizations will increase fourfold by 2020.

This is an alarming revelation which has to be addressed immediately by the healthcare sector. But safeguarding confidential health-related data of the patients and keeping IT systems intact isn’t easy for medical enterprises.

What Can Be The Biggest Data Breach For The Clinical Industry?

Hospitals and medical organizations deal with Protected Health Information (PHI) and health insurance data of the patients. Any incidence such as unauthorized account access, malicious hacking, system bugs, etc. which cause a loss of this data can be considered as the major data breach for that healthcare entity.

Who Can Be Held Responsible For Medical Cyber Attacks?

Hackers are the criminal behind the majority of healthcare cyber assaults. Moreover, insiders from a particular clinical organization also fulfill their malicious purposes by illegally accessing restricted accounts and data.

What’s The Current & Future State Of Cybersecurity In The Healthcare Sphere? Is it getting vulnerable?

As per the data offered by the Impact of Cyber Insecurity on Healthcare Organizations study (2018) showcased on helpnetsecurity revealed that clinical enterprises experienced multiple data breaches in the past years. Also, they have compiled a few key trends predicting the major reasons why the security stakes of PHI are high.

Image Source:

https://www.helpnetsecurity.com/images/posts2018/ponemon-032018-1.jpg

Clearly, this isn’t acceptable and the main reasons why the clinical industry is getting even more vulnerable to cyber-attacks can be:

  1. Slow approach and ignorance to maintaining and strengthening cybersecurity.
  2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is on the rise.

III. Internet-based consultations, IoT clinical devices, and integration with multi-cloud SaaS or IaaS environments.

  1. IT systems that are decentralized and proliferation of remote care services.
  2. Amplified M&A activities in the medical setup.

As there is a consequence to every incident, healthcare organizations have to bear hefty costs for coping up with these violations. Also, there are rules where the government can penalize such setups and ban their license. So, what should be done with this problem which is getting even more difficult to fix? Let’s find out.

What Are The 7 Cybersecurity Practices In Health IT Domain With Which Data Breaches Can Be Stopped?

After familiarizing with the state of cybersecurity in the medical industry along with the major reasons and effects, let’s explore how medical enterprises and healthcare providers can get rid of these attacks. Here are eight best practices to help you avoid healthcare data loss and cyber-attacks.

  1. Deploy Secure Software Solutions & Ensure Data Protection with Encryption & Automated Updating

The tech-driven landscape has made healthcare organizations aware of tips to hire developers who can build custom-fit software products. These tech platforms streamline complex clinical workflow and automate mundane processes. Electronic Health Records (EHR), practice management suites, medical billing solution, tools for automating scheduling and booking of appointments, etc. are a few of such digital systems.

These platforms deal with confidential health-related details of the patients as well as their personal info such as names, contact numbers, and email addresses. For keeping the data intact it’s mandatory to ensure end-to-end encryption with integrating industry standard algorithms.

But be careful to maintain a backup plan to retrieve data safely in case you decide to cease using a particular software. Also, automate the process of patching and configuring these software solutions so that there are no loopholes which can become a boon to cybercriminals.

  1. Make Sure To Train Your Staff Properly

In the words of James Scott who is a Sr. Fellow from Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, “Hackers find more success with organizations where employees are underappreciated, overworked and underpaid. Why would anyone in an organization like that care enough to think twice before clicking on a phishing email?”

It’s a bare truth as your clinical staff is the biggest asset to your healthcare business. In addition to offering lucrative packages, you have to train each one of them so that they can learn how to work in sync with security protocols.

Organize a cybersecurity education program for contractors as well as your employees. Apart from offering primary training, the program must also make them aware of the latest trends in the cybersecurity landscape.

  1. Restricted Access to Medical Systems

You should not keep all your clinical solutions accessible to everyone. Limit their usage by giving access to only authorized people for whom the platform is absolutely necessary. Also, keep all the sensitive data at a centralized repository and incorporate a role-based access method.

This will allow your employees to access only those details which are mandatory for them to perform a particular task. Keep track of data access and be cautious about strange or suspicious activities.

Moreover, leverage advanced technologies such as threat intelligence powered by AI and ML in healthcare systems in order to spot irregularities and share it quickly with the entire network. Also, keep track of all IoT medical devices within your organization. Such devices are vulnerable to hackers and a multitude of malware can easily make your confidential data public. So, it’s better to monitor the usage of these devices at regular intervals of time.

  1. Be Vigilant Towards Your Telemedicine Platforms

Telemedicine is entirely dependent on technology where your medical practitioners use tech-driven communication platforms and digital tools for storing and retrieving of PHI for remote consultations.

Telehealth systems are very convenient for patients located at distant places where it’s almost impossible to get medical aid. But at the same time, these platforms provide cybercriminals with a gateway for entering your private setup and crack the code to fulfill their malicious purposes.

  1. Do Not Ignore Common Identity & Access Management Practices

Passwords created by your staff to access medical systems can be vulnerable to allow hackers peep into your restricted network. To prevent hackers from cracking the code integrating a single factor authentication strategy is not a good idea.

This will make difficult for your staff to remember numerous passwords. So, train your staff to keep strong passwords which are tricky to guess. Also, allow them to keep them changing at regular intervals of time.

  1. Leverage Mobile Application Management (MAM) Solution to Fight against Cyber Threats

Employees use their own smartphones for accessing multiple apps related to their work. In such a case it’s good to implement a BYOD policy. But make sure to use a Mobile App Management (MAM) system to help you in keeping these apps secure. Moreover, keep an eye on healthcare mobility trends and incorporate a robust enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution which can let you stay ahead of the latest tech trends in the clinical industry.

  1. Maintain Compliance with HIPAA Technical Safeguards

HIPAA has specified rules which healthcare organizations have to follow for keeping PHI safe and sound. This is why you must be aware of HIPAA standards and necessary digital certificates to keep data secure.

You take help of HIPAA in building an incidence recovery plan. OnPage is a messaging platform built in compliance with HIPAA rules. It can be used to let employees exchange messages containing PHI securely. The plan can help you in recuperating as well as maintaining security in case of an emergency. It can help you in structuring your response and coming out of the crisis easily.

  1. Get Rid Of Unwanted Systems & Limit Access to External Platforms

In order to protect your medical data, it’s important for you to remove unwanted accounts, software solutions, and browser plug-ins. Also, you must restrict your staff from accessing chat platforms and social media channels on their work machines. Moreover, limit access to doubtful online platforms and external ports such as USBs.

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest priorities for medical organizations. But with keeping the above factors in mind you can develop a secure environment with necessary tech tools to keep PHI safe. Don’t rush but consult with an industry expert who can help you in creating and implementing an effective security strategy.

About the Author

Anubhuti Shrivastava, Content Crafter, Arkenea. Anubhuti Shrivastava is a content crafter at Arkenea and Benchpoint. She is passionate about writing articles on topics related to design and the software development industry. Anubhuti can be reached online at anubhuti@arkenea.com and at our company website https://arkenea.com/