Despite the healthcare industry’s continuous efforts to minimize cybercriminal activity, cyber attacks continue to make their tumultuous presence known throughout the industry. As a result, medical facilities, providers, and payers have prioritized protecting their digital infrastructure against a data breach. Healthcare organizations are consistently implementing preventative measures such as update patches, firewalls, antivirus and malware software, and employee training to reinforce protection of their private and sensitive patient data.

Data Breach Prevention is Not Enough: Know How to Respond to a Cyber Attack

Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant a healthcare company’s IT department may be with HIPAA compliance and electronic transmissions, a cyber attack can (and often does) still happen. Healthcare executives and administrators have realized that it’s not enough to allocate resources to prevent a data breach event. Instead, healthcare organizations across the U.S. must also know how to recover quickly and effectively from a network security event. Some mission-critical steps to take after a data breach include:

Confirm The Event

The first step in responding to a cybersecurity incident is to confirm that an event has actually occurred. Sometimes, cybercriminals will send out an email telling the recipient about an event, hoping to lure the receiver into clicking on a malicious link. Avoid letting a fake email trigger an unnecessary (and costly) response from your team. An incident response plan is a requirement for any organization and will outline the different types of adverse security events for your team to look for. Quickly confirm as much information as possible in order to align resources accordingly. 

Isolate Impact

Once you’ve identified the type of cybersecurity incident that has occurred, it’s crucial to pinpoint affected servers and endpoints within your digital systems to isolate the overall impact. Disconnect only those devices that have been affected and avoid shutting down any critical information systems until after your organization’s IT security experts have carefully assessed the platform. Systematically evaluating what’s being impacted can help you develop the right approach to mitigate both the potential threat as well as the ultimate internal digital damage. 

Document The Cybersecurity Event

Once you learn of a network security lapse, it’s essential to document the incident, both for your own records and for any external entities that may require insight into the breach. The information that you document should include:

  • How you confirmed the cyber attack
  • Date and time of confirmation
  • What information you gathered about the network security lapse
  • All actions taken from start of notification to incident end
  • Date and time of any system disconnections
  • Details of changed passwords or system credentials

Keeping a thoroughly documented outline of the cyber attack offers easy reference to anyone who comes into managing the incident at any time. 

Notify Relevant Authorities

It’s vital to alert the relevant authorities, no matter what the scale of the data breach episode. Start with your local police force to officially log a paper trail on the cyber attack. You’ll also want to contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, as well as the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security. Notifying the proper channels quickly can help them spring into action to pursue the cybercriminals perpetrating the crime within your electronic environments. Part of your Incident Response Plan should be to have a ready list of authorities to contact, and the appropriate contact information.

Pinpoint and Resolve Vulnerabilities

Knowing about possible compromises in your internal systems can play a key role in your organization’s ability to make a full recovery from a healthcare cyber breach. The ever-increasing sophistication of cyber attacks means that no infrastructure is impenetrable. Recognizing and deploying customized solutions on possible digital weaknesses and vulnerabilities can restore performance within your platforms as well as boost future system protection.