While most industries are exposed to cyber crime, the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable and has the additional burden and promise by law of protecting patient information. For that reason, cybersecurity for medical practices takes on additional urgency and responsibility.
The cyber weapon of choice these days is ransomware, which is a type of malicious software that encrypts a user’s files, making them impossible to access without a digital key. In exchange for that key, a user must pay a ransom to release the data and/or systems that are being held hostage.
In 2020, ransomware attacks cost the healthcare industry $20.8 billion in downtime, a 100% increase from the prior year, according to the Comparitech report. There were a total of 92 ransomware attacks at healthcare organizations that affected more than 600 clinics, hospitals and allied organizations, and more than 18 million patient records were affected, a 470% increase from 2019, according to the report.
Healthcare organizations are often targeted by bad actors – especially during the pandemic – because they cannot operate safely without patient records and information.
Fending Off Bad Actors
First and foremost, cybercriminals look for easy prey - companies and organizations that have legacy technology infrastructures and outdated cybersecurity systems. If that describes your practice, the time is now to invest in a system upgrade.
But the very nature of cybercrime requires that organizations remain vigilant at all times to different and innovative ways bad actors conduct successful breaches. Here are four additional ways to stay ahead of ransomware and create a layered defense system:
Although cloud-based EHRs are a relatively new technology, experts say the data is more difficult to destroy because of the multiple, redundant backups kept in multiple distant locations. Storage of data on local networks typically is not recommended unless a practice employs IT professionals to monitor security, server integrity and employee practices.
Cybersecurity is a broad and complex challenge that all healthcare providers are facing in the digital age. Your best protection is to mitigate risk with a multi-faceted cybersecurity protection plan.
Luckily, you do not have to face this challenge alone. Work with your current service providers to craft a strong cybersecurity strategy, and even consider hiring an IT provider to assist. At the very least, be sure to evaluate and grade the cybersecurity of your practice so that it is never breached and your patient data held hostage.