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6 IT Security Risks Hospitals Face: A Primer for Healthcare Professionals

IT Security Risks Hospitals Face

The modern hospital is more wired and linked than ever. In ways we never could have predicted a few decades ago, incredible new technologies have improved health outcomes. These technical advancements do, however, have a negative side in that they may lead to new vulnerabilities.

Because of the numerous new technologies in the healthcare industry, cybercriminals now have a whole new set of tools at their disposal and the incentive to utilise them. Many medical organizations are still reluctant to make the necessary expenditures in cybersecurity because they simply don’t comprehend the nature and seriousness of the threats. Stolen medical records sometimes fetch high prices on the black market.

The following six are some of the most frequent—and dangerous—forms in which these threats to medical data might manifest themselves. Failure to resolve them may result in HIPAA violations, a decline in patient confidence, the vulnerability of life-saving devices, and other problems.

1. Malware and phishing

Malware and phishing assaults are two of the most difficult to defend against when targeting healthcare IT systems. This is due to the facts that they are “one and done”—all it takes is for a single employee to click a link or attachment to infiltrate your system with malicious code.

The majority of popular email clients now automatically mark some messages as suspicious, but a determined and skilled attacker may frequently circumvent these. Your employees should receive training on how to spot typical phishing techniques and how to avoid them, including:

  • Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) for delicate accounts.
  • Opening questionable documents with Google Drive (if they must be opened at all)
  • Using a password manager tool with auto-fill that can identify phoney websites.
  • Refraining from using personal email on work devices with network access

2. Security Breaches in IoT

If you follow up with technology security news, you might recall the 2017 incident in which hackers stole the visitor information database of a Vegas casino. The starting point of their attack? a thermostat in the casino’s fish tank with unprotected WiFi. That incident is an excellent illustration of how hackers can quickly break into a network and access information using the new generation of digital devices. To make matters worse, hackers who manage to breach a hospital’s network may be able to access vital medical equipment, thereby putting the lives of patients at peril.

Therefore, medical providers must make IoT security a top priority. A research from 2017 portrayed a sombre picture: 53% of medical companies didn’t routinely assess the security of their devices. Hospitals should make implementing one basic initial step for healthcare IoT device security right away: a rotating schedule of device audits to ensure you’re not utilising default or simple-to-guess passwords. Make a plan with your IT department from there to ensure cybercriminals from using your IoT devices as entry points. Additionally, you should make sure that any new IoT devices you buy are housed in sturdy electronics enclosures that are safe and difficult for unauthorized people to physically access.

3. Mobile Device Security

When a mobile device has access to private networks that contain critical information, a lost or stolen device can quickly become a security nightmare. Through a mobile app with a security flaw, hackers can also gain access to a device and exploit that access to infiltrate your system.

It’s crucial to set up strong guidelines for how employees can use their personal and company mobile devices. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) rules are common in many companies, but when staff employees are unaware of the risks, they can lead to significant vulnerabilities. Make sure your staff employees are using security precautions like two-factor authentication, fingerprint scanners, and app updates to protect their devices.

4. Hardware Elimination

What happens to your old hard drives and other technology after they reach the end of their useful lives? There comes a point when IT equipment needs to be replaced. Too many hospitals either don’t know how to prevent their outdated data storage devices from ending up in the wrong hands or don’t take the proper precautions.

Finding a method to ensure that the data is truly deleted is necessary when getting rid of outdated computers, server equipment, or any other device that saves data. Sometimes, simply reformatting or wiping it is insufficient. Many of these data can be recovered by someone with the necessary abilities, according to studies. There are several options, including using a specialised data destruction firm or physically destroying the drive by removing it from its instrument enclosure. Making sure that it doesn’t resurface in public while there is still an chance that the drive’s contents contain intact data is crucial.

5. Old software

For IT security, keeping software updated and patched is crucial. Software patches are released by software developers or IT infrastructure experts to address vulnerabilities in their systems; nevertheless, these fixes are frequently not deployed. This could attack your system to known vulnerabilities, especially if you’re utilising software that is available for purchase.

Yes, those pop-ups reminding you that your software needs to be updated are bothersome, but they are vital, therefore they must be endured. You might need to employ the following techniques to persuade your team to diligently apply software updates:

  • Make installing the update as quick and simple as feasible.
  • Use client software that prevents the use of out-of-date versions
  • Push updates to employee accounts automatically

6. Vendors Security

Vendors may present issues with regard to health IT security. Even if your company has strict internal security procedures, it’s possible that your vendors don’t. Any IT provider who has access to your data infrastructure, especially your sensitive medical records and medical equipment, must undergo a rigorous vetting process. The following are some essential criteria to consider:

  • Effective data encryption.
  • A promised turnaround time for responses to queries or emergencies
  • No support services outsourcing to foreign countries
  • Knowledge of the particular difficulties faced by healthcare clients
  • Secure device disposal and physical data access procedures

Don’t forget about non-IT vendors either, as they can still have access to your system. Cleaning services, food and beverage services, and other services are frequently disregarded but can still present a serious concern if not thoroughly screened.

Every day, medical technology advances, opening up fascinating new spheres of care and wellbeing. But healthcare professionals must take their time, be cautious, and adhere to best practises in order to protect patient privacy. They owe this to both their patients and their staff. It’s frequently easy to follow once you become used to it. Simple habits like always changing default passwords are quite helpful. The most crucial steps are to create a plan, adhere to it regularly, and keep in touch with all pertinent parties.

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