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Cyber security: Improvements in healthcare!

Cyber security & healthcare

Has cyber security become the top priority in the healthcare industry?

Cyber-attacks are now a constant threat to healthcare data and are on the intensifying side. For an alarming stat, ransomware attacks produced a hike of 62 % in comparison with the previous year. Similarly, data losses have shown a spike of 20 %in contrast with the previous stat. There is a massive hike in cyberattacks, and more and more threats are evolving in cyberspace, equating, and targeting the healthcare industry.

Attack patterns have changed with newer technology integrations, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to track, prevent and mitigate cyber-attacks. One possible reason reflected through the breaches is the underinvestment of healthcare entities in the cyber security zone. A recorded fact connecting the statement is the organization’s inability to identify/detect the breaches even after the collision. Here is where the need for effective cyber security practice sprouts and matters the most.

Challenges in the healthcare industry

Cyber security challenges in the healthcare zone are deeper involved with data and money. Healthcare data is the prime target for attackers as these records carry personally identifiable information, which can reach lumpsum amounts in the black market. Those entities holding medical records and information are high on alert when it comes to cyber challenges. Some of the common threats in the healthcare segment revolve around;

Spyware and ransomware

Spyware points to a category of malware devised to collect personal information, and ransomware typically blocks particular system access until a ransom amount gets paid to the creator. They could suspend specific devices, servers and even the entire network form normal functioning. The average ransom payment in 2021 has grown by 82 %.

  • Phishing attacks

The absence of tight security protection has resulted in the spike of phishing attacks in the healthcare industry. One wrong click from the intended target is all that matters for the creator to take down the entire network, encrypt files and

put patient data at risk. For a count, 69 % of the incidents in the healthcare domain circle around phishing challenges.

  • Employee weakness & errors

A recent survey on healthcare data breaches has pictured 55 % of companies have undergone breaches due to employee errors and weaknesses. The survey also points employees were the biggest weakness while developing security posture in the healthcare domain. Weak passwords, encryption negligence, malicious and unencrypted devices host a broad concern to healthcare data and safety.

  • Cloud threats

In today’s fast-paced technology era, cloud services are a part of almost every organization, and without proper care, the challenges are on the rise. More or more healthcare data get stored in the cloud without sticking to the encryption needs. Improper encryptions in cloud data have proved to be the weak spot of healthcare organizations. Regulatory compliance, security controls, storage reliability often get tested here.

  • DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service or DDOS attacks is the techniques used by cybercriminals to submerge networks. These attacks are a continuous challenge faced by healthcare providers who need access to different networks. The healthcare requirement may be for the transfer of various documents, patient reports and other information. Identifying DDoS attack types and requirements is significant while tackling them.

  • Encryption blind spots

Encryption techniques can protect your data to a large extent, but they can also leave certain blind spots where attackers can hide from the tools aimed for breach detection. The attackers could skip through these spots surpassing security defences, going undetected and making it hard for the health care entities. These spots are hard to identify without the aid of an expert cyber security consulting service by your side.

Developing cyber security in healthcare

  • Establishing a security culture

Establishing a security culture is a way of practising cyber security at its optimum levels. The vital thing here is awareness about the threats, approaching risks, ways of implementing security policies and deploying strategies as required. To enhance the cyberculture, organizations can leverage cyber security training and advisories from expert cyber consulting firms. The training focuses on the responsibility of every member of the organization towards developing a security culture. From top level employees to the front end, everyone has a cyber responsibility for protecting healthcare information.

  • Keeping safe computer habits

Like you have a doctor to treat the diseases and correct weaknesses, who is responsible for the flaws of IT systems? Are they safe and keeping a good healthy state? IT systems need proper nurturing and safety practices to function as required without compromising security from the initial implementation. Here are some of the basic practices you could keep an eye on towards healthcare systems and their safety;

  • Deploy a secure configuration practice for software packages
  • Periodic software updation as a part of software maintenance
  • Regular operating system (OS) maintenance and check-up
  • Perform frequent security audits against system vulnerabilities
  • A dedicated task approach to system safety and protection

 

  • Securing mobile devices

Mobile devices can extend from handhelds, smartphones, laptop computers to portable storage. These devices have enhanced transmission ‘to the point’ in healthcare industries but, at the same time, widens the verge of vulnerabilities on the other end. Challenges that get associated are device vulnerability, interference, unauthorized access, authentication problems and device interceptions. Some of the ways to ensure mobile device protection are;

  • Effective guidance on risk and mitigation measures with remote medical information access
  • Usage of encryption techniques for data transmission
  • Encrypting laptop hardware drive when moving out of the security scope
  • Following good privacy policies involving transmission of patient data

 

  • Exerting firewall protection

Intrusions can happen anytime with weak protection policies deployed in your system architecture and network. While anti-virus software detects and destroys malicious content, a firewall shields the same content from entering. Firewalls rely on the verse that it is always better to get protected than to treat after getting infected. The hardware or software product inspects every incoming message to the network or system and decides whether to allow or deny the entrance according to various deployed rules and criteria. Firewall configuration could be complex at times. It requires the aid of a technical advisory or expert to configure hardware firewalls, whereas software firewalls often come pre-configured.

  • Enabling anti-virus software

Setting up anti-virus software is a prior requirement to all systems, no matter what domain they belong. When it comes to EHR systems, anti-virus programs that detect and destroy viruses and malicious content play a huge role. Anti-virus software requires frequent updates and enhancements to keep track of the latest versions and protect against the newly emerging viruses and malware. Almost every anti-virus program generates notifications on updates, and it is the requirement of the supporting personnel to carry the required action promptly. By having active and live anti-virus protection to your EHR systems and devices, healthcare information is by half under tight monitoring and inspection eyes.

  • Planning the upcoming

When we live in a world of uncertainty, planning is a crucial part to mitigate challenges. A single vulnerability is more than enough for an attacker to shoot the bullet and end in data compromises and thefts. Sooner or later, one should pre-empt and plan for occurrences such as floods, pandemics, hurricanes and many more. A proper backup and recovery hold the essential part of the process.

  • Create and maintain reliable and routine backup strategies
  • Conduct regular testing of backup sources or media
  • Generate efficient and safe storage of backup data
  • Leverage cloud storage facilities that require little technical expertise
  • Storage protection in terms of access control and policies

 

  • Limiting access to healthcare data

Limiting or maintaining access to electronic healthcare data is one way of protecting it from unauthorized vision. While setting up the EHR systems, healthcare entities need to develop a proper plan for access control and policies. Usernames and passwords are a part of access control systems and require proper assignment without flaws. The basic instinct here is to share credentials with only those who have a genuine requirement. Access control lists aid organizations in manually setting file access permissions and privileges. Additionally, role-based access controls help to determine which staff members could have the right to access specific information according to their roles and designations.

  • Building strong password protection

Building strong passwords and policies are a part of access control measures. Strong passwords are the forefront wall to any access intrusions and require a bit more attention for the build. Strong passwords for your system, folders, and storage won’t be just enough to cease an attack, but they are possibly a barrier that can slow down an attacking process. Build a password that can stay solid for zero guesses and free from identifiable combinations. Avoid using personal information and traits for the healthcare systems. Generate passwords that are not lesser than 8 characters in length. Additionally, use combinations of patterns, including upper case, lower case, special characters, and a number to the strength. Adding multi-factor authentication techniques with password protection gleams an additional security layer to healthcare data. Also, peer applications must be reviewed and checked before granting installation permissions.

  • Maintaining network access

While electronic healthcare information must flow from one point to another, maintaining and limiting network access to safety is vital. Intruders can gain access and disrupt the flow of data if network access isn’t well maintained. Since the healthcare data is crucial and need protection by law, wireless network and signals require protection from unauthorized access. Organizations must ensure that wireless routers are getting used in encrypted mode and restrict visiting devices to connect your network. Strict permission access policies are to be deployed, leveraging cyber security service offerings to the value and worth.

  • Controlling physical access

Healthcare information security not only depends on protecting files and storage. Controlling unauthorized physical access to systems and devices are keen. Data theft can be a by-product of weak physical access controls implemented with healthcare systems and devices. Loss of the device could occur accidentally as well as through intentional thefts. Organizations need to take care of data theft by limiting the chances of devices getting stolen and compromised to data loss. Put solid access control policies barricading intrusions as a part of physical protection to servers, and at the same time, enable safe environment protection measures against any natural or intended degradations.