The healthcare sector has become increasingly data-driven as providers embrace analytics to find better solutions and improve people’s quality of life. However, this data can be a significant point of vulnerability and a tempting prize for cybercriminals to steal. 

Data security, the process of protecting data from loss, corruption, or outside intrusion, has become critical to healthcare organizations. In addition to their obligation to protect the private health information of their patients, healthcare companies must also meet HIPAA regulations for data security, such as access control, transmission security, and more. 

In today’s article, we’ll break down the basics of the subject, the top risks, and best practices for ensuring data security in healthcare. 

Data Security vs. Data Privacy vs. Cybersecurity

Given their proximity, there is often confusion between data security, data privacy, and cyber security. While the three subjects share some overlap, and the practices meant to protect one also benefit the others, they are distinct categories. 

Data Security vs. Data Privacy

Data privacy focuses on keeping data confidential, while data security focuses on protecting it from malicious activity. Data can be confidential but still corrupted or destroyed, such as in a ransomware attack on a company’s database. 

Data Security vs. Cybersecurity

Data security is a subset of cybersecurity, which focuses on protecting computer systems, networks, and devices along with data. Data security’s purview is ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, while cybersecurity is concerned with protecting the entire digital ecosystem. 

Data Security Risks and Threats

Private health data is a highly tempting target for cybercriminals, given the value stored within. These are some of the most common threats to data security in healthcare. 

  • Accidental exposure: Human error can lead to data being shared with unauthorized groups or individuals. This could include sending an email to the wrong address or losing a data storage device. 
  • Phishing and social engineering: The most common attack on a group’s data security relies on tricking people into providing private information. A phishing scheme will try to fool healthcare workers into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or login credentials. The hacker can then use this information to compromise the entire network. 
  • SQL Injection: Standard Query Language requests are the standard form of communication with an application’s database. An SQL will include a set of parameters that instruct the database on what records it should bring up. For example, a healthcare provider could search the database for every patient with a heart condition, over the age of sixty, or has an appointment scheduled for this week. An SQL injection adds malicious code to a query to access or delete information on the database. 
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that infects devices and encrypts the stored data, making it useless without the matching decryption keys. The attackers will then issue a ransom, demanding payment for the keys. If unchecked, ransomware can rapidly spread and infect a network, leaving organizations without their irreplaceable data. 

Data Security Solutions and Best Practices

With the threat of cybercrimes targeting their data growing increasingly prevalent, healthcare groups must take certain precautions. Fortunately, there are techniques and best practices that groups can embrace to ensure data security. 

  • Access control: The first step towards data security is controlling who can access it and what they can access it from. This includes both physical and digital access. For example, healthcare facilities often require workers to carry RFID tags that let them log into their medical-grade computers before accessing patient records. This ensures that only authorized employees can access the facility’s network and data. 
  • Data encryption: A major requirement under HIPAA is that private health data is encrypted while in storage. This means the data has been converted from a readable to an unreadable format and can only be decrypted with the correct key. Even if criminals can access or steal the data, they cannot read or interact with it. 
  • Data loss prevention: Physical and digital redundancies help ensure that if data is compromised or destroyed, there are backups to rely on. Storing data off-site or in multiple servers ensures that backups will be available even if a cyberattack or a natural disaster damages the primary copy. 
  • Incident response: Incident response plans are the preparations for a data breach. This means having a team of professionals with multiple skill sets, including IT, legal, PR, and more equipped with the right tools. This will let them detect, analyze, contain, and destroy data intrusions and communicate with other stakeholders throughout the process. 
  • Vulnerability assessments: Often, the best way to identify vulnerabilities in a security system is to put it through a simulated attack. This can include intrusion attempts by “whitehat” hackers looking for weaknesses, response drills that test how employees react to a data outage, and consulting with third-party specialists. 

Data Security with Cybernet Manufacturing

As more and more companies embrace data to deliver better care and improve patient outcomes, data security in healthcare will only become more and more critical. Fortunately, adopting the right tools and techniques can help ensure security and prevent breaches from occurring. 

If you need medical-grade tablets and computers with powerful data security features, contact the team at Cybernet Manufacturing. Our products come with RFID readers, Imprivata encryption, and other data security measures that help protect your group and your patients. 

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