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Jun 18, 2024

Simple Ways to Prevent Data Breaches in Healthcare

Simple Ways to Prevent Data Breaches in Healthcare

Protecting sensitive patient information is paramount in the healthcare industry, as data breaches can have severe ramifications. Healthcare organizations are frequent targets for cybercriminals, underscoring the importance of implementing robust security measures. Thankfully, there are numerous simple ways to safeguard your organization and protect against catastrophic data breaches.

Types of Data Breaches in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations are a common target of data breaches. The most common methods cybercriminals use to target them include:

  • Phishing: Deceptive emails that trick employees into revealing sensitive information.
  • Ransomware: Malicious software that locks data until a ransom is paid.
  • Malware: Software designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to systems.
  • Insider threats: Employees or contractors who intentionally or unintentionally cause data breaches.
  • Lost or stolen devices: Unsecured devices containing sensitive data that are lost or stolen.
  • Network hacking: Unauthorized access to healthcare networks and systems.

Largest Healthcare Data Breaches

Many massive healthcare organizations have fallen victim to data breaches, including:

  • HCA Healthcare data breach, which affected millions of patients
  • Change Healthcare breach, which may have affected one-third of Americans and in which the organization admitted to paying hackers $22 million to recover stolen data
  • NextGen Healthcare Inc. breach, which compromised the personal data of over 1 million patients
  • United Healthcare data breach, which affected more than 78 million people
  • Norton Healthcare data breach, which affected approximately 2.5 million patients
  • Shields Healthcare Group breach, which affected more than 2 million patients

These are but a few of the many cybersecurity breaches that affect healthcare organizations.

Consequences of Healthcare Data Breaches

Healthcare companies handle an immense amount of sensitive patient data, so the repercussions are often severe and far-reaching:

Financial losses: Data breaches can lead to significant financial losses, including costs associated with breach mitigation, legal fees, settlements, and potential fines from regulatory bodies.
Increased insurance premiums: After data breaches, organizations may face higher insurance premiums for cybersecurity coverage due to increased risk.
Loss of patient trust: Data leaks can erode patient trust, potentially leading to a poor public view of the organization, reputation damage, and loss of patients.
Operational disruptions: These leaks may also disrupt healthcare operations, leading to delays in patient care and additional administrative burdens as staff works to find a solution.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires covered entities that experience a breach affecting more than 500 people to report it. These breaches are made public on the HHS website.

How to Prevent Data Breaches in Healthcare

Proper security measures are vital in the healthcare industry, given the fallout that can occur after a data breach. Best practices for preventing data breaches include:

  • Airtight BYOD policies: Personal devices are often less secure than corporate devices, so it’s important to implement strict BYOD policies to ensure the devices comply with organizational policies.
  • Secure IoT devices: IoT devices in healthcare, such as pacemakers and infusion pumps, can be targeted by hackers. Taking measures to protect these devices can help prevent unauthorized access that could lead to patient harm or data breaches.
  • Authenticate remote patients: With the rise of telehealth, ensuring that remote patients are properly authenticated using robust identification methods can help prevent unauthorized access to patient records and ensure that the individual receiving care is the intended patient.
  • Regular training for staff: Human error often plays a significant role in data breaches. Regular training to educate staff on cybersecurity awareness and best practices can help employees recognize and respond to potential threats, such as phishing emails, reducing the likelihood of successful attacks.
  • Data encryption: Encryption protects sensitive data, even if it’s intercepted or accessed without authorization, as it can’t be read or used by attackers.
  • Regular audits: Routine audits help organizations identify and fix security weaknesses before attackers can exploit them, ensuring continuous improvement of security measures.
  • Access controls: By implementing strict access controls to sensitive information, organizations can reduce the risk of insider threats and unauthorized access.
  • Backup data: Routinely backing up data ensures that organizations can quickly recover from ransomware attacks, minimizing downtime and data loss.
  • Develop an incident response plan: An effective incident response plan allows organizations to respond rapidly to data breaches, minimizing their impact and helping to restore normal operations faster.
  • Update and patch systems: Regular updates to software and systems help protect against known vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit, eliminating common entry points for cyber threats.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Implementing multi-factor authentication makes it significantly harder to compromise accounts, even if they obtain login credentials.
  • Network segmentation: By dividing networks into segments, organizations can contain potential breaches and limit their spread, preventing attackers from moving laterally and accessing more critical systems and data.

Each of these practices is part of a well-rounded cybersecurity strategy, but putting the pieces together can be overwhelming. That’s where our experienced team at Infiniwiz comes in. We provide tailored IT healthcare support to keep your systems secure and compliant, ensuring you can focus on providing excellent care to your patients. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization.

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