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6 Ways to Prevent Cyber Threats in Healthcare

Preventing Cyber Threats in Healthcare
Chris Adams
Chris Adams
May 22, 2023

The volume of data retained in electronic health records makes them a massive repository of valuable information for cybercriminals. Social security numbers, pedigree information, bank or credit card accounts, intellectual property, and health data all command a hefty price on the dark web. This is more than sufficient motivation for attackers to breach systems and steal data. In fact, the healthcare industry holds the unfortunate distinction of being the highest-cost sector for data breaches.

Ransomware Attack

That doesn't begin to consider the ransomware aspect of cybercrime. Healthcare organizations are so interconnected and rely so heavily on internet-connected devices and systems to operate that an attacker can cause operations to grind to a halt by launching a ransomware attack. The fear of negative patient care outcomes can lead healthcare organizations to consider ransom payments on a much faster timeline than other industries. The downside to paying a ransom is twofold: you have no guarantees that the attackers will actually release control of your network back to you. Even if they do release your systems, they may have left a backdoor open or copied all of your files before doing so.

Before even counting the reputational damage, liability for failing to secure stolen health records, or regulatory fines for inadequate cybersecurity, healthcare organizations must consider the health costs their patients may incur if cyber attackers gain access to their networks. In this industry, cybersecurity is directly related to patient safety. There are not many other sectors where failures in cybersecurity practices can directly cause someone's death. You can see why preventing cyber threats in the healthcare industry is so critical.

Cybersecurity Tips for Healthcare Organizations

We've compiled a list of 6 ways to prevent most cyber threats in healthcare organizations. Much like these time management tips for vendor risk managers focus on the most time-consuming tasks, our cybersecurity tips help to target your efforts on areas that will have the greatest impact on the most common cyber threats. While these are not magic pills, implementing these best practices will harden your security posture and allow you to combat the rising number of cyber-attacks facing the industry.

Only Implement Enforceable Policies

Cybersecurity truly is a mindset that needs to be embraced from the top down. This empowers your IT staff to ensure the best protections are in place while optimizing these threat defenses to avoid making impractical changes to operations. Focusing on embedding security as a central tenet of your business model will show your personnel that it is a critical part of their daily tasks. Making a point of only developing and implementing enforceable policies allows them to have a benchmark by which they are fairly measured. Whether we're speaking of password security, device management, or any other topics we are about to cover, it's key that any and all policies put into place can be and will be strictly enforced.

Secure All Connected Devices

Laptop and Mobile phone secured

Device security is paramount in a technology-dependent field. This applies equally to mobile devices like cell phones or tablets and connected medical devices. All should be secured with a password, and consider using a mobile device management program. This helps to verify that updates and patches are installed promptly, operating systems are up to date, and you keep track of the health of all of your devices. Connections to the network should always be encrypted, and device security should be set so that only the right user on the right device is able to access your secured systems. Focusing on zero trust at this level helps to thwart bad actors who may try to gain access using a stolen or misplaced device.

Practice Good Password Hygiene

This is a good cybersecurity practice for anyone in any field or your personal life. Unique login credentials for each employee in every healthcare system should be mandated, as should strong passwords or passphrases with strict length and character requirements. Multi-factor authentication should be standard, and it may be worth providing a password manager application to your employees to ensure that they are storing these passwords safely.

Provide Frequent Training and Testing

Training your staff on your cybersecurity practices is something that many places take for granted. Investing in a more substantial training program than a monthly email newsletter is a requirement. Ideally, this training should be role-based, and realistic, and expose employees to behaviors and signs associated with the most common security threats they would face in their position within your organization. Contracting with a third-party vendor to conduct live penetration testing is the capstone to putting your training regimen and security protocols to the test. All the planning in the world to prevent cyber threats in a healthcare organization may only succeed if it is put to the test after facing an actual cyber attack.

Deploy Intrusion Detection Programs

Computer Scanning for Viruses

Adding an intrusion detection program to your suite of security applications is one of the best additions you can make. This software scans for programs trying to connect to an IP address that they should not or other malicious actions by benign software. As opposed to traditional antivirus or malware programs that look for malicious programs, this application looks specifically for suspicious behavior like attempting to access a registry or capture login credentials.

Plan for a Breach

A well-thought-out and detailed incident response plan is the final piece of the puzzle. While it may not outright prevent cyber threats in the healthcare industry, mitigating the damage through early recognition and quick and decisive action is the next best thing. Treating a data breach as an eventuality adds a layer of protection against the unknown. A zero-day attack or unknown vulnerability may be impossible to detect. Still, a thorough and well-drilled incident response plan provides the framework for a coordinated and effective response and recovery effort.

At Venture Lynk Risk Management, we employ a talented crew of professionals, from vendor risk management specialists to cyber security and intelligence experts. We provide a wide range of services to meet your needs in the area of intellectual property management, cyber security, or third-party vendor risk management. Our staff can even develop a custom package to accommodate the specific risks your enterprise is facing. See what we can offer for your unique situation today.