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There is some information that people want to keep safe no matter what. Social security numbers, financial information, and health information are usually among the top examples, and happen to be closely tied to the data that is required in matters of healthcare. For this reason, providers and facilities in this space are under significant pressure to ensure the safety and security of patient data.

To make things more complicated, the healthcare industry is handling more data than ever before, and the pandemic has only made big data a bigger part of the equation. Improving technology and virtual care/telehealth make for more exchange and storage of digital data. This in turn makes it all the more important for healthcare professionals and facilities to prioritize information safety.

Here are some of the ways they can do so.

1. Manage Staff

This can be broken up into two initiatives. The first has to do with restricting access to data applications so that no one is unnecessarily handling data who doesn’t need to. If a healthcare facility restricts data, there are fewer people who can open up the system to possible threats, and there’s less chance of having to deal with threats in the first place. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure that each person has their own credentials in order to access data, and that these credentials are never shared.

The second initiative involves educating those who do have access to sensitive data. People with access need to understand the possible threats that can occur, and the security measures they need to take –– as well as what safeguards are currently in place to protect data. Facilities and IT managers can learn from recent data breaches and use that information in order to determine what to look out for, and educate staff accordingly.

2. Understand Modern Cybersecurity

Modern cybersecurity for large businesses has gone well beyond basic password protections and software updates. Large facilities today hire entire IT departments filled with people who have backgrounds in cybersecurity and are thus trained in how to monitor networks, protect data, and analyze security measures on a continual basis. Armed with this knowledge, they are able to work with whatever technology is in use and adapt to whatever threats are faced at a given time.

Understanding the thorough and proactive nature of this modern approach will help healthcare facilities to ensure that they aren’t just doing the bare minimum, but are in fact appropriately prioritizing data security.

3. Understand Common Threats

There are a number of threats that the healthcare sector has to look out for. Unfortunately, these include both external and insider threats, and each type has to be dealt with in a specific way.

External threats include various types of malware, such as spyware, ransomware, and viruses that cause system failure. Other examples include hacking, phishing, or brute force attacks, which occur when hackers try to obtain login credentials. Insider threats meanwhile include accidental loss or disclosure of private data, use of unauthorized devices such as flash drives or mobile devices plugged into the healthcare facility’s devices, and theft –– like someone stealing a work laptop that has all an employee’s passwords and credentials saved.

Awareness of where these threats come from and how they materialize will help healthcare facilities to organize defenses.

4. Employ Zero Trust Security

Zero Trust has become a trendy topic and recommended best practice in IT security. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it applies to a security model that demands the strict and unconditional verification of identification for any and all people using a private network. More traditional IT security models from years past have in some sense operated with a degree of “implicit trust.” Once you were in the network you were able to use it. With a Zero Trust setup, however, a healthcare provider or facility can ensure that everyone using the network will have to verify an approved ID in order to do so –– every time. The model adds several layers of security to all network processes.

5. Remain Open To Change

Threats are always evolving, and healthcare security systems must adjust accordingly. Part of implementing cybersecurity and educating staff on it means establishing openness and willingness to change. From simple adjustments like changing passwords and implementing recommended two-factor authentication, to more involved changes like embracing new software or encryption systems, everything needs to be on the table –– even if it can be a bit annoying at first.

It’s worth healthcare workers dealing with these changes in order to keep both their and their patients’ information safe.

Keeping sensitive data safe doesn’t have to be a complicated, headache-inducing process, but it’s important anyway. Employing IT professionals, using standard cyber hygiene, and upskilling the current staff while restricting access is a great first set of steps towards keeping data under lock and key.


Article was specially written for by Andrea Conner


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