Data security is one of the biggest areas of growth and change in the medical field. As more patient data goes digital, there is more opportunity than ever for hackers to target healthcare systems in an effort to steal protected health information (PHI). In 2019 there were a record number of security breaches, almost triple the number from the previous year, and in 2020 they don’t appear to be slowing down. Hackers are also getting more creative in the ways that they target organizations, which makes it harder to stay ahead of the curve. We’ll discuss three common challenges your organization faces when it comes to data security.
Some of the biggest breaches today occur as a result of human error, with hackers using phishing attacks and social engineering to target employees and steal passwords and other login information that provides access to your database. Often it’s in the form of a very legitimate-looking email that urges someone to click a link to reset a password or enter other sensitive information. Busy employees who are quickly scanning their email, or those who are less tech-savvy, may not realize that they were a victim of an attack until it’s too late and the hacker has been able to access your EHR or practice management software.
Hackers may get into your system and lock you out, threatening to delete all your files unless you pay to get it back (these ransomware attacks are on the rise). Or they may simply steal information from your database and sell it to bad actors on the dark web for a profit. Either way, you will have to report the breach to the federal government (and possibly face fines), inform your patients, take a lot of expensive retroactive steps to reclaim files or data, and put better future protections in place.
Mobility & Collaboration
Another challenge for many healthcare organizations is the amount of online collaboration and mobility that today’s electronic world allows. More organizations are using cloud-based services that allow them to collaborate and share information with other healthcare organizations, patients, and vendors. These collaborations can provide significant value to the patient and the providers, but also come with more risk. It’s important to conduct regular security risk analysis on these channels and have appropriate business associate agreements in place to protect your clinic from data breaches.
Hackers are targeting healthcare organizations for two main reasons:
- They store a high volume of valuable data about patients
- They tend to lag behind on data security compared to other industries
If you think that because you’re a small practice you won’t be targeted, think again. Hackers know that small clinics are often less likely to use sophisticated security tools, which makes them an inviting target. It’s important to have a data security partner that can regularly review your risks and put the right tools in place to keep you from being a victim of an attack.