While the rapid advancements in telehealth and digital healthcare that have been spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic promise to deliver more care to more people more affordably, they have also opened up new avenues for bad actors to access sensitive information like patient data. It’s no secret that the healthcare industry faces a myriad of cybersecurity threats every day. And while other sectors also must contend with things like ransomware and DDoS attacks, the nature of healthcare means that such attacks are quite literally a matter of life and death in many cases. Fortunately, though the threats are complex and constantly evolving, some solutions are as simple as choosing the right Medical Computer

What’s at Stake

As mentioned above, healthcare data breaches are not like data breaches in other sectors because Protected Health Information (PHI) is far more valuable to bad actors than mere Personally Identifiable Information (PII). While PII, such as a person’s address, credit card, and even social security number, can be changed, a person’s health history cannot. Accordingly, a Center for Internet Security analysis found that credit card information and other PII can cost around $1-2 per person on the black market. At the same time, PHI can fetch as much as $363. 

Armed with illegally obtained PHI, a criminal can:

  • answer security questions about people’s personal histories
  • determine who would be vulnerable to scams due to mental illness or an otherwise compromised mental state
  • create fake insurance claims
  • purchase medical equipment
  • fill fraudulent prescriptions to resell illegally

The threat here shouldn’t be understated – Becker’s Hospital Review found that 5.6 million patient records were compromised in 2017 alone. Moreover, as healthcare becomes increasingly digital, such attacks will become harder to prevent and harder to recover from. 

Beyond the financial impact, however, is the operational headache. While some security breaches simply involve PHI being stolen quietly in the background, some attacks, like DDoS and Ransomware attacks, can cripple a facility’s day-to-day operations. DDoS attacks can crash a facility’s online patient portal. Ransomware attacks, meanwhile, can lock an entire facility out of its computer system. Of course, it goes without saying how destructive such attacks could be if they hit a major hospital.

It is incumbent on healthcare organizations to develop robust security protocols to prevent such data breaches and instill a security culture among their staff, so the entire organization is prepared for a cyber-attack.

Types of Attacks/Data Breaches

Cyber threats come in all different forms. However, since most bad actors in the cyber realm are ultimately interested in money, they tend to rely on a series of tried and true methods to breach healthcare data. These methods combine ease of execution with a high probability of success and a low likelihood of ultimately getting caught.

Some of the most common cybersecurity threats to PHI are:

  • Malware: Malware takes the form of a malicious piece of software that can shut down a device or network. Malware can then send PHI data to whatever server its creator wants it to. Malware can enter your system from fraudulent emails and websites designed to look legitimate or through malicious online ads (malvertising)
    • Ransomware is a form of malware that locks the victim out of their device, network, or server and requires that they pay a hefty ransom to regain access to the system.
  • Phishing: Phishing attacks come in the form of seemingly reputable emails that get the recipient to divulge sensitive information like passwords 
  • In-person/Insider Attacks: With this strategy, the hacker doesn’t access your system remotely. Instead, they access your system directly from the machines inside your facility. In some cases, an outsider conducts this kind of attack by sneaking into the facility. In others, an insider who already has access to the system conducts the attack.
  • Employee error: Employees can leave health care organizations susceptible to attack through weak passwords, unencrypted devices, and other compliance failures.

How to Improve Healthcare Cybersecurity

The need to secure people’s PHI is paramount, and set-it-and-forget-it solutions will not cut it. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to ensure your facility’s healthcare information is as secure as possible: 

Establish a Cybersecurity Culture 

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You can invest piles of money in the latest cybersecurity software and data encryption, but if your staff uses passwords like “Password” or their name and birthday, it’s all for nothing. In addition, it is essential for staff to know how to spot things like fraudulent emails, malicious websites, and potential insider threats. Therefore, ongoing and robust cybersecurity training is a must for all healthcare workers and professionals.

Protect Mobile Devices

As more and more people rely on mobile devices to access the internet, more and more people use mobile devices for medical purposes. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your online/mobile patient portals are secure and all connections encrypted. Additionally, as more facilities look to the portability of medical tablets to free up their staff from bulky wired computers and provide care to people in more remote locations, wireless/mobile encryption becomes more critical. Additionally, rugged medical tablets come with features like RFID and front-facing cameras for facial recognition. They are Imprivata single sign-on certified, meaning any PHI data you access will be as secure as possible.

Use a Firewall and Antivirus/Antimalware Software

Stopping bad actors from gaining access to your clinic or hospital’s local area network is crucial if you want to keep your facility’s PHI safe. First, make sure every internet-connected device in your facility either has its own firewall or your network has its own firewall. Further, you can make sure those connected devices are not inviting malware and viruses into your server by using robust antimalware software and making sure it is updated and scans your system frequently.

Get Rid of Passwords

One of the best ways to make sure healthcare workers don’t compromise sensitive patient data with lax practices like weak easy to guess passwords is to use alternative authentication methods. Medical Panel PCs can be equipped with built-in RFID scanners, which can be used in conjunction with security software like Imprivata for secure Single Sign-On. 

In addition to RFID, medical computers/medical tablets frequently feature high-quality front-facing cameras, meaning you can use facial recognition instead of passwords. Or you could customize your medical computers with biometric scanners that use fingerprints to authenticate users. Together, these alternative authentication methods increase cybersecurity, but they make life easier for staff and don’t need to remember constantly changing complex passwords.

Final Thoughts

While the threats to healthcare data are numerous and constantly evolving, proper hardware and practices can go a long way to keeping patient data safe and secure. If you’re interested in how medical computers and tablets can help in the fight to protect patient data, contact the experts at Cybernet today.