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Improve Healthcare Cybersecurity Without Burning Out

What healthcare IT professionals can realistically do to improve cybersecurity.

December 29, 2020

Healthcare cybersecurity has been a critical topic for many years, but it's also been the source of a secondary, digitally-driven pandemic in 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Breach Portal, healthcare breaching is a fast-spreading digital pandemic that's increased seven-fold in the last eight months. The cost of healthcare cybersecurity breaches is very steep, as there's an average of 69,000 available protected health information (PHI) records on each. Compromised patient records and healthcare breaches cost an average of $7.13 million and destroy patients' trust. 

Healthcare data is highly sensitive and sought-after, which has lead to growing rates of cybersecurity breaches. As a healthcare professional, you must protect your patients' critical data, employees, and finances, and doing so requires some critical cybersecurity steps. 

In this post, we'll describe the actions you can take to efficiently protect yourself from data breaches and what healthcare IT professionals can do to improve cybersecurity. 

Critical Steps

When it comes to cybersecurity, an unlimited budget would allow you to implement every measure possible. However, hospitals face varying constraints. In this first section, we'll lay out the tech "needs" that you must prioritize. 

Firewalls 

A firewall is your first step of defense against a cyber-attack. Firewalls inspect every message from the local network into the system and choose which to let in. Installing firewalls on the devices in your healthcare company will thwart any entry of most viruses. You should also install firewalls on personal devices used for business, including for any employees working from home. 

Endpoint Security 

Healthcare providers must secure their endpoints. By securing and locking lost devices, you can prevent the thief from getting sensitive data. To do so, you need an unbreakable two-way connection with each endpoint. The connection must deliver full visibility into each laptop's application and data. Then, you must create an adaptive defense layer that notifies IT of each device's location and the corruption of security applications. Combined with geofencing, this allows you to keep track of laptops and devices to ensure they are with authorized parties. If they are not, you can immediately freeze them to secure PHI records. 

Employee Education 

To implement any other cybersecurity measure effectively, you need to educate employees on security practices. Educated, trained employees will be better able to follow the security protocol and recognize anything suspicious. BLM Technology's Security Awareness Training will ensure your employees become the strength of your organization's network security. Train your users with this proven system to get the most out of all of your cybersecurity measures. 

Strong Passwords

Passwords are another specific area where cybersecurity fails. Choosing a strong password will help slow and thwart many attackers. However, very few businesses of any kind enforce a firm password policy. Enforce a strict password policy, and educate employees on the importance of it. Require a password change every 60 to 90 days for your employees. Strong passwords include at least eight characters, combine lower and upper case letters, feature at least one number, and include a special character. 

Next Level Steps

The steps listed above are the first you should focus on, but we'll explore secondary options in this section. Fortunately, many of these steps are cost-effective and easy to implement with proper employee training. 

Control Access to Electronic and Physical Health Information

Strong passwords help, but you'll also want to restrict unauthorized access to electronic health information. Limit access to necessary medical staff. Only provide access to those who need it, and do not share it with everyone. Additionally, limit the physical access to health information by securing machines in locked rooms and restrict unauthorized access to the server.

Regular Data Backups 

Instead of waiting for a crash or data loss incident, back up data regularly. Everything should be securely backed up, including human resource files, electronic spreadsheets, payable accounts, processing documents, financial records, and more. Store your backup data in a secure location, like cloud computing. No matter which method you choose, ensure the original files remain intact. 

Anti-Virus 

Antivirus protection is vital for healthcare organizations of any size. There are several ways attackers infect your system, and antivirus software will help keep these viruses out of your system. Once you install antivirus software, you'll need to update it regularly to ensure it's up to date. The software will alert you if your device is infected based on warning signs like unwanted ads, abnormal start, repeated crashes, and browser lead to unwanted pages. 

Wish List Cybersecurity Changes

Over time, there's even more that you can do to bolster your healthcare cybersecurity. While you should prioritize the above steps for budget and time resources, these additional measures will protect you even more if you have the bandwidth. 

Computer Hygiene Maintenance 

Once you've got the basics of cybersecurity set up, it's crucial to maintain good cyber hygiene. To do this, your team must follow good computer habits. Deactivate user accounts for former employees, uninstall unused software, monitor critical patches/updates, configure and audit security features, don't accept default configuration settings, and disable remote sharing/printers. 

Refine Your BYOD Policy 

If you allow employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) or work from home, you should have a well-documented policy. Use security checks and precautionary measures with laptops, mobile phones, and anything else with wireless access capabilities in BYOD. While BYOD is helpful, it can also have drawbacks for cybersecurity. 

Prepare for More Aggressive Ransomware

Ransomware and cyberattacks are continually evolving, which is why it can be so hard to safeguard data from them. Your healthcare company should monitor ransomware and be on the lookout for more aggressive attacks in the upcoming future. 

Customize Your Strategy 

Some basic cybersecurity methods are universally sound, but endpoint security is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Instead of just imitating the approach from other healthcare providers, define your unique approach, and strengthen the areas most relevant to your organization. 

Educate Patients 

Patients should also understand privacy and security policies. Educate them on how they can keep their information secure and what you will do to help protect their information. Patients must know how they can securely communicate with healthcare providers. 

Strengthen Your Healthcare Cybersecurity Today 

Healthcare cybersecurity is always essential, but it's become even more critical during the cyberattack boom. Several strategies will help strengthen your cybersecurity and protect vital information, but they all require time and monetary resources to implement. Realistically, your healthcare organization will need to implement changes in fazes, focusing on the most crucial changes first and working through to the wishlist strategies. Your employees are a considerable part of cybersecurity, which is why it's so essential to offer Security Awareness Training and get everyone on the same page with preventing, identifying, and handling threats. Learn more about our Security Awareness Training program or request your free demo today.

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