We all know that healthcare workers must maintain personal hygiene — like thorough hand-washing — to protect patients’ health. But you may not think about the fact that healthcare organizations must also maintain cybersecurity hygiene to protect patient data.
Cybersecurity threats are on the rise, and it is more important than ever for businesses to take precautions to secure their sensitive information. And since criminals know that healthcare organizations possess a wealth of sensitive patient data, the healthcare sector is a prime target for cyberattacks.
With so much personal identifiable information (PII) sitting within medical records, now is the time for healthcare organizations to take special precautions to protect their systems and data from hackers.
Challenges in Healthcare
Although healthcare cybersecurity is important, it can be challenging to maintain for the following reasons:
- Healthcare IT is difficult because healthcare systems often have hundreds of applications in addition to a large number of users, devices, and assets. Furthermore, the healthcare system is spread across hybrid and multi-cloud environments, making it tough to uphold excellent cyber hygiene habits.
- Healthcare organizations handle large quantities of sensitive patient data at multiple locations. It can be difficult to secure this data and stay compliant if you lack visibility into its location.
- Despite recent advancements, many old technologies are still in use in healthcare organizations. A stubborn reliance on legacy devices, or even simply not having an accurate inventory of all devices connected to their network, leaves many healthcare systems vulnerable to attack. Cybercriminals are aware of this and target these types of weak spots in order to gain access to an organization's data.
- Although hospitals have made an effort to improve the security of their medical devices, they still use unsupported operating systems that cannot receive security updates. Organizations often install these devices in a different network environment to reduce potential risks.
- Phishing and password compromises are the most common attack vector in healthcare. Healthcare organizations are vulnerable to attacks that result from compromised credentials as they can go undetected and give an attacker access to pose as somebody with authorized credentials.
Best practices for healthcare
Although it's not always convenient, security is essential. Good cyber hygiene cannot be achieved without the support of users throughout the organization - even those who have little expertise or interest in cybersecurity. To adopt a good security mindset, we must all accept that having safe practices might not always be easy or convenient. Below is the cyber hygiene strategy healthcare organizations must take into account:
- As opposed to focusing on device management, organizations should center their efforts around managing system access and data movement.
- Multi-factor authentication must be employed in concert with other access controls to verify user identities beyond simple password protection. It is essential that only authorized users can change classification levels; this can be achieved through proper control measures.
- Strong password policies must be implemented to stop weak passwords and prevent breaches.
- Alternatively, start exploring biometrics for system login to make it easier. Complex password policies could have dire consequences if an ER doctor takes too long to input them, putting patient safety at risk.
- Healthcare organizations must retire their old infrastructure. Legacy architecture is a challenge and an opportunity, so technology executives must take timely steps to maintain it.
Cybersecurity is everyone's responsibility, which means that while organizations need to prioritize cyber hygiene, so must individual users. Just like proper hand washing, these measures go far to defend against cyber infection.