Data Breaches in the Healthcare Industry: Causes & Preventive Measures

With data breaches getting reported from every corner of the world every day, people have sort of become desensitized to them. But this isn’t good. Protection of data, especially in the medical industry, is extremely important as it continues to be the most targeted sector for the cybercriminals.

Hackers want medical data because it is worth a lot. A single chart on an electric health record sells for an estimated fifty dollars on the dark web, and credit card number for as low as one dollar each. Hence, it is quite evident that healthcare is an easy industry to exploit and taken advantage of.

Unfortunately, the situations don’t seem to turn around for the better anytime soon. The number of breaches and ransom attacks are going to rise unless proper resilient actions are taken. But, before we dive into data protection strategies, let us first learn about the common culprits responsible for security breaches.

Causes of Data Breach in Healthcare

Healthcare industry has the highest costs associated with data breaches. Following are the reasons accountable for that –

Obsolete Software. This is one of the biggest causes of security breaches in healthcare companies. In fact, every year companies lose billions of dollars due to faulty software or unfixed system vulnerabilities. The outdated software programs are limited and hence, leave gaps for hackers to easily locate and benefit from them.

Human Error or Greed. In healthcare industries, the internal actors i.e. the staff employed are the huge threats. Majority of data breach incidents are an inside job. And, whether the move is out of malicious intent or plain negligence, the consequences of both the situations can be equally damaging.

Theft or Improper Data Disposal. Healthcare companies often end up exposing their patient data as a result of theft, loss, and improper disposal of equipment. Situations here can include unencrypted laptops being stolen from vehicles, stolen sd cards or premises, giving access to unencrypted data on public networks, and a few other errors which can be extremely disastrous.

Unauthorized Access. With hacking comes the problem of unauthorized access and disclosure to a system or device. Hackers know all the techniques to steal and access your patients’ credentials, bringing the entire data to a compromised state. Although the amount of exposed records per reported incident is significantly less in the country, this is something you cannot ignore completely.

Malware. It has always been the top causes of data breaches around the world, irrespective of the industry. But, this is not surprising because malware authors get commendable financial returns by implementing malicious codes to steal your data and selling it to the highest bidder on the dark web.

Prevention of Data Breach in Healthcare

Security breaches are preventable. Here is what you can do to tighten your healthcare data security and keep your organization safe for years to come –

Analyze Risk. To create a secure healthcare system, it is imperative to look at the situations from a different perspective. You cannot just sit hands on hands and hope for good. Instead, you have to evaluate your company’s appetitive for risk in a detailed manner and understand minutest of loopholes around your applications, back-end systems, remote locations, and so on; and then apply the best security practices.

Provide Education and Training to Employees. All your employees must understand the data security practices in the right manner. And, for that, you need to give them frequent on-the-job training sessions and protect all the health records. Teach them not to give out any unnecessary information on social media websites or share health cards other than the patients themselves. Also, promote regular data backup practices in order to retrieve the lost data, in case the need arises.

Monitor Devices and Records. An important part of continuing education for your medical staff is to caution them never to leave electronic devices and paperwork loaded with sensitive information out there in the open. It is because more often, data breaches happen due to theft from an employee’s residence, workplace, or vehicle. So, remind them to do their part of the effort in keeping the data safe.

Control Access to Patients’ Records. In a healthcare system, you see so many members of the facility accessing the patients’ information for several different reasons. In that case, it is vital that you know how to carefully manage the identity of those users and limit access to the data that is pertinent to their position. By restricting access and managing user permissions, you can surely prevent a healthcare data breach.

Develop Stringent BYOD Policy. Strict and airtight ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategies are a must to ensure that your internal network and devices are secure enough. It is crucial to outline proper security guidelines as to what devices (i.e. smartphones, tablets, and laptops) are allowed for company’s work, both internally and externally; and whether any company-issued devices are allowed to be taken home.

Note that the measures mentioned above are preparatory ones. They don’t guarantee that you cannot get breached. Healthcare IT environment is quite complex and while there is no full-poof security architecture, you do have these tips as your bulletproof vests. Also, it is a safe bet to have the contact number of data recovery experts handy and get in touch in case of any emergency data recovery.