How Are IT Risks Different For A Company That Handles Protected Health Information?

Medical record under a computer keyboard

As cybersecurity threats and attacks continue to evolve, hackers are consistently turning their attention to the United States healthcare industry. A 2017 report released by the Identity Theft Resource Center showed that, of the total number of data breaches tracked for the year by the organization, the Medical/Healthcare industry came in second place with a whopping 23.7% of all recorded security gaps.

Cybersecurity and data loss prevention are critical IT components at any organization. However, for companies that handle protected health information, ramping up network security to prevent a cybersecurity attack requires a heightened sense of urgency. A corporate online security breach can reveal consumer data such as credit card numbers, bank accounts, and mailing information. However, a healthcare security gap digs deeper, potentially exposing deeply personal information such as medical conditions, treatments, social security numbers, billing information, clinical trial participation, and response to care, making it vital to sustain proactive preventative network security methods at all times. An of course, HIPAA regulation creates its own set of requirements and penalties for failures to comply.

What to Know About Healthcare IT Security Threats

At its core, a healthcare organization is a business. However, hospitals, medical facilities, ambulatory care centers, and practitioner groups operate differently than other companies and face different cyber threats than their corporate counterparts. Understanding some of the healthcare industry’s unique IT security risks can help administrators and executives successfully and proactively prevent an online attack. Some of healthcare’s most prominent security gaps include the following:

Connect Medical Devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) has put the production and integration of new, wireless healthcare devices on hyper speed. Cutting edge technology and increased connectivity empowers nurses and physicians with real time data for around-the-clock patient assessment and evaluation. However, the rising volume of stored patient data also increases the opportunity for a data breach, making it essential to establish an on-going connected medical device security program and monitor the connectivity of these devices 24/7.

Mobile Access

Cloud-based medical applications and software solutions also pose a potential risk to healthcare organizations across every vertical. While granting employees mobile access to patient data can enhance service levels and improve patient satisfaction, it can also quickly and easily pose a threat to network security measures, especially when employees are unfamiliar with existing security protocols. The best way to counteract IT risks with a cloud-based system is to implement an extensive employee-training program to ensure staff members follow defined best practices at all times.

Phishing Emails

Believe it or not, fake emails that lure unsuspecting readers into clicking still pose a significant threat to healthcare organizations. A 2018 article posted in the HIPAA Journal entitled “Most Common Healthcare Phishing Emails Identified” listed the industry’s biggest email threats as:

1)    Fake payment notifications (58%)

2)    New mailbox messages alert (25.5%)

3)    False invoices (16.5%)

Once again, employee education is key to prevention. Every staff member should receive extensive training on how to identify a secure email as well as know how to recognize indicators of phishing or ransomware to reduce the chance of accidentally opening an infected link or document. Conducting simulated phishing campaigns at your organization is an effective way to manage and change employee behavior.

Corrupted Encryption

Encryption – the process of scrambling communication to prevent anyone other than the intended recipient from reading data – can prove a formidable force that protects both on-premise networks as well as cloud-based systems and devices. However, some high-level hackers have developed malware that successfully infiltrates encrypted systems. To prevent a gap in encryption performance, IT staff should fortify the system with added security layers designed to pinpoint and decrypt suspicious online indicators as soon as they occur.

Partner With a Third Party IT Security Provider to Minimize Cybersecurity Risk

One of the best ways to prevent a cyber attack at a healthcare organization is to partner with a managed security provider that specializes in healthcare cybersecurity solutions. An agile and experienced firm provides a dedicated team of resources, proactively conducting HIPAA risk analysis, running vulnerability scans, managing data loss prevention, and securing connected medical devices across every level of your facility to protect both your patients and your organization. Most importantly, the right partner will become an extension of your team and through collaboration will train your employees with the very latest data security best practices for sustainable cybersecurity results. Want to learn more about specific digital threats at your medical facility? Contact Fortified Health Security today.