Top 7 Healthcare Cybersecurity and Data Storage Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Learn about the cybersecurity threats that effect the healthcare industry, get insight into the challenges facing healthcare cybersecurity, and understand how your means of data storage can be your best protection… or biggest weakness.

Healthcare cybersecurity is more critical now than ever before. In 2021, healthcare data breaches reached an all-time high, affecting 45 million Americans, up from 34 million in 2020, according to a report by Critical Insight.

Graph showing healthcare cyber security breaches

(Image source: Critical Insight)

Importance of Cybersecurity in Healthcare

These cyberattacks have had a wide range of negative consequences for healthcare organizations and their business associates, ranging from brand damage to punitive fines and settlements in cases where they were found to breach HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

For example, in 2021, Excellus Health Plan paid $5.1 million to settle multiple HIPAA Violations with the Department of Health and Human Services related to poor cyber risk management, weak information system activity reviews and lack of technical policies to prevent unauthorized ePHI (electronic Protected Health Information) access that led to the breach of 9,358,891 patient records.

With the increasing number of cyberattacks on healthcare providers, you must take the necessary precautions to protect your data. The HIPAA Security Rule mandates that HIPAA covered entities (healthcare organizations and their business associates) put proper administrative, physical and technical safeguards in place to ensure that ePHI remains confidential and secure.

The lack of proper technical precautions in the healthcare sector leads to cybersecurity risks and HIPAA violations.

Below, we will discuss some of the top healthcare cybersecurity mistakes you need to avoid as a healthcare organization. Implementing these safeguards will help keep your patient data safe and secure.

Lack of Encryption and Other Security Controls in Healthcare Organizations’ Data Storage Solution

One of healthcare providers’ most common cybersecurity mistakes is the lack of encryption and other security controls on critical infrastructure. Without these safeguards, patient data is vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access.

Encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect protected health information from cyberattacks. It scrambles your data so that it cannot be read without a unique key or password. This makes it difficult for hackers to steal your information or for someone who obtains your data illegally to use it.

Other security controls such as firewalls, antivirus software and malware protection help protect your systems from attack and prevent unauthorized access to your data. Implementing these measures will help keep your systems safe from cybercriminals.

Poor Access Controls and Permission Management

Another common cybersecurity mistake healthcare organizations and their business associates make is the lack of proper access controls and permission management. This can leave your data vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access. Access controls are measures you put in place to restrict who has access to your data and what they can do with it.

Permission management is the process of granting or denying users specific permissions to view, edit or delete data. These safeguards will help ensure that only authorized users access your information.

Using Personal Devices to Access ePHI

Many healthcare organizations allow their employees to use personal devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets to access ePHI. While this can be convenient for employees, it also increases the risk of a cybersecurity breach.

Personal devices are not as secure as corporate-owned devices and may not have the necessary security features to protect your data. They may also lack proper antivirus and malware protection. If you allow your employees to use their personal devices to access ePHI, make sure that they know the risks and take precautions to protect their devices. This includes installing appropriate security software and creating strong passwords.

Leaving Computer Containing ePHI Unattended and Logged in

Another common cybersecurity mistake healthcare organizations make is leaving computers containing ePHI unattended and logged in. If a hacker obtains access to these devices, they will access your data. If you must leave a computer containing ePHI unattended, make sure to log out of all applications and turn off the device.

Poor Storage of Portable Media

Another cybersecurity mistake healthcare organizations make is the improper storage of portable media. This can leave your data vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access. Portable media such as USB drives, CDs and DVDs are often used to store sensitive information such as patient records. However, if these devices are not adequately secured, they can be stolen or lost, leaving your data vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access.

Ensure that any portable media containing ePHI is kept in a secure location where unauthorized users cannot access it. You should also keep track of all portable media containing patient information, so you know who has access to this data at all times.

Poor Physical Security of Premises

Many cybersecurity mistakes made by healthcare organizations are not related to cybersecurity at all but rather poor physical security practices. Inadequate physical security can make your organization more vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches and other types of attacks. For example, an unlocked door may allow someone to enter the building without being detected and steal computers or other equipment with sensitive information on them or install keyloggers and other malware.

Therefore, healthcare organizations need to have a comprehensive security plan that includes both cybersecurity and physical security.

A good way to improve your organization’s physical security is to conduct regular vulnerability assessments. This will help identify any weak points in your security infrastructure and allow you to take corrective action.

Poor Cyber Security Training

Finally, one of the most common mistakes healthcare organizations make when it comes to cybersecurity is poor cyber security training. Employees need to be aware of the dangers of cybersecurity breaches and learn how to protect themselves from these threats. Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations do not provide their employees with adequate cybersecurity training, leaving them vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.

Ensure that your employees receive regular cybersecurity training and are aware of the latest threats and how to protect themselves from them. Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving field, so employees need to stay up to date on the latest security threats.

Central Data Storage (CDS) helps the healthcare industry avoid common cybersecurity mistakes when implementing cybersecurity measures. CDS offers secure backup and recovery and encrypted file sharing solutionsContact us today to see how CDS can help. 

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