9 Key Strategies for Securing Healthcare Data

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Health care data is one of the most vulnerable types of data because of its sensitivity and requirements for its protection. Malicious actors understand this fact all too well and have identified a potential goldmine in hacking healthcare data. Medical records are highly personal and sensitive, and cyber attackers believe planting ransomware in a healthcare organization can lead to financial gain.

An infamous data breach is that of the health insurance company Anthem where personal details of more than 78.8 million current and former members and employees were compromised. Details such as social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and names of all those people fell into the wrong hands. Any operator in the healthcare industry needs to beef up data security. You also need to comply fully with laws such as HIPAA and GDPR.

9 Tips to Secure Healthcare Data

1. Educate employees on data security best practices
As much as we may rush to blame faulty systems for data breaches, it is important to note that human error is the leading cause of cyberattacks. It is very easy for unsuspecting employees to fall victim to phishing emails, for instance, where they end up providing the sensitive information to malicious actors. It would help if you educated your employees on safety tips like the use of strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and avoiding public wi-fi when accessing work servers.

2. Use SSL certificates on your website
As a healthcare organization, your official website will contain sensitive information like new members signing up for a health insurance cover or patients booking appointments online. This data must not be allowed to land into the wrong hands because that would cause a major breach in privacy and attract fines from HIPAA and other compliance institutions. To avoid this, ensure that all data being exchanged between your web server and client browsers is encrypted by installing comodo essential SSL certificate. For small sites, this basic SSL is very useful. For a website having multiple sub domains, wildcard SSL is best. You can choose any as per your site requirements from trusted SSL certificate providers like CHEAPSSLSHOP.

3. Enforce comprehensive access control management
You should ensure every employee only has access to the information and resources that they need to execute their jobs. To do this, you need to enforce proper access controls where, for instance, only the designated employees can access sensitive information. The physical layout of your organization should also be set up in a way that certain regions like the server room are not accessible to non-essential personnel.

4. Secure mobile devices
Your staff will utilize mobile devices like smartphones and tablets during their operations. You need to ensure that these devices have proper settings and configurations to ensure security. You can, for instance, use mobile device management software and application data encryption. Employees should also use strong passwords and monitor things like email so that malware does not slip in that way. You should also have a setting to allow you to wipe data remotely like when devices are lost or stolen.

5. Back up your data off-site
Data is sensitive and can be easily lost or damaged, like when an employee accidentally wipes a hard drive containing sensitive info or when an earthquake hits your main building, and all physical items like computers are destroyed. That is why it is important to have off-site backups like utilizing cloud storage. You can form a habit of saving your most important data in the cloud with proper encryption and security settings such that even if one employee were to go rogue, they would not access it.

6. Conduct risk assessments regularly
Healthcare professionals should understand better than anyone else that prevention is better than cure. Although you may be employing security best practices in your organization, it is important to conduct regular risk assessments to test vulnerabilities. For instance, you could conduct penetration testing on your website to see if you can withstand attacks. Random trainings can also give you a clue about deficiencies in employee education.

7. Patch electronic medical devices
The internet of things has made its way to medical devices, and so healthcare professionals need not only worry about the data stored inside the organization; they also need to keep a keen eye on medical devices like pacemakers and monitoring devices. Malicious actors are always trying to hijack medical equipment, and so it is important to ensure that they are still up to date. Install patches as regularly as possible to block vulnerabilities.

8. Have a response plan in case of a data breach
No matter how much effort we put into locking out the bad guys, it is important to be prepared for doomsday in case it finds us. You need to have measures in place about how to respond fast and effectively if a data breach happens in your organization. You could have a ‘code red’ mode in place that your IT team can put into effect immediately a data breach is detected to avoid any further damages and sail your organization through the storm.

9. Vet the security of third-party business associates
Your healthcare organization is going to be liaising with other business associates like when facilitating payments or when taking a cloud computing plan from a cloud-based organization. It is important to note that some security deficiencies on their end can affect your organization directly and therefore, it is wise to conduct proper vetting of security protocols before deciding to work with a third-party.

Conclusion
The healthcare industry is a ripe berry to hackers who know the extent healthcare organizations can go to ensure compromised PHI (protected health information) does not leak to the public. Usually, they will plant ransomware on your data and demand a payout or access your files and threaten to reveal them if you do not pay. Any data breach can bring hefty fines from HIPAA and related bodies and make prospective clients avoid your organization like the plague. It would be best to take all necessary measures to secure your data.

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Arnov Rahman

Arnov Rahman

Arnov is a Marketing Manager at SqueezeCMM, a B2B content marketing and analytics start up. He is fascinated by the intersection of technology, marketing, and people in the development of awesome products. He's into life-hacking, psychology, and data-science.