3 HIPAA Healthcare Cybersecurity Risks And Solutions

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With cyber threats and attacks becoming more and more frequent and the methods used by cybercriminals becoming more and more sophisticated over the past few years, the healthcare industry is up in arms to protect the data of its patients. There is a strong reason for this concern—even with just one tiny hole in a hospital or a healthcare organization’s cybersecurity network can expose thousands of sensitive data to those with malicious intent.

However, it is not just the information of patients that are at risk, but it’s also their health and safety. Without a safety net, healthcare organizations and businesses may face these hard-hitting challenges: 

  • Internet-connected medical devices can easily be tampered with
  • The medical and billing information of patients can quickly be sold on the dark web for insurance fraud
  • Ransomware can lock down patient care and back-office systems, making ransom payments a possibility 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the cybersecurity risks in the healthcare industry and the information security solutions healthcare organizations and businesses can employ to overpower them.

Cybersecurity Risks In the Healthcare Industry

As the healthcare sector grows more dependent on technology to gather and keep data as well as perform their daily operations well, the risks they face become even more complicated. For you to protect your organization from current and future vulnerabilities, it is therefore important to understand what these challenges are. Below are the three top cybersecurity challenges every healthcare organization or business must be aware of.

Data Breaches 

The healthcare sector isn’t a stranger to data breaches. In fact, it was impacted by an average of 2.8 breaches per month in the last year. There is a need for proper device management and monitoring, but even though legally-mandated requirements from HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are already in place, organizations still have a difficult time staying informed with up-to-date security measures and protocols due to a lack of resources. 

With data being out in the open like that, cybercriminals can easily gain access to patients’ contact information, prescriptions, and social security numbers. This can cause a lot of headaches to your patients and reputational damage to you and your organization.

Malware & Ransomware 

Ransomware attacks can happen with a click of a malicious link or while viewing an ad with malware. It can also come from phishing emails with suspicious attachments. Ransomware infects devices, files, and systems and it will only go away once a sum of money is paid to the cybercriminal by the victim organization.

Ransomware and malware attacks will cost your organization enormous amounts of time and money. This can easily deplete your funds that can be used to invest in new technology.

Insider Threats 

Sometimes, even your employees cannot be trusted. Insider threats are the reason why data encryption and zero-trust access strategies are critical in keeping the data of your organization and the patients you handle safe and secure.

A lot of money is involved in healthcare and if a disgruntled employee decides one day to purposefully disclose patient information out of spite, your business or organization is going to end up in a messy and very time-consuming situation.

Cybersecurity Solutions 

Aside from strictly complying with HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, ticking everything in the HIPAA compliance checklist, and understanding the heavy penalties one can incur from HIPAA violations, it’s also important for healthcare organizations and businesses to adopt a holistic approach to healthcare cybersecurity.
There are three safeguards to set in place to protect your organization and your patients against cybersecurity challenges:

Administrative Safeguards

These are the safeguards that tackle cybersecurity and privacy issues from a management perspective. Administrative safeguards include: 

  • Workforce Security. Deals with processes and procedures such as authorization and supervision, termination procedures, and workforce clearance procedures. 
  • Security Management Process. Involves risk analysis and management as well as information system activity review.
  • Security Awareness and Training. Includes awareness of protection from malicious software, login monitoring, putting security reminders in place, and managing passwords.
  • Information Access Management. This has to do with access authorization, establishment, and modification.
  • Contingency Plans. If things will ever go wrong, this is the safeguard that swoops in. This deals with disaster recovery, data backup, and emergency mode operation plans.

Technical Safeguards

These are the safeguards that are implemented to ensure that any data or information is only accessed by authorized personnel. This also includes ensuring that only the proper networks are used at all times. Technical safeguards include: 

  • Transmission Security. Manages encryption, integrity controls, and safeguards against unauthorized access of electronic personal health information (e-PHI) during transmission. 
  • Integrity Controls. Concerns mechanism designed to authenticate e-PHI. 
  • Access Controls. Ensures unique user identification, encryption and decryption, automatic logoff, and emergency access procedures. 
  • Audit Controls. Concentrates on software, hardware, and procedural mechanisms for examining and recording activities. 

Physical Safeguards 

These are the standards put in place to enable privacy and cybersecurity measures to operate productively and efficiently. Physical safeguards include: 

  • Workstation Use and Security. Involves restricting access to workstations, keycard access, and physical barriers. 
  • Device & Media Controls. Deals with the media re-use, disposal, accountability, and the storage and backup of data. 
  • Facility Access Controls. Focuses on the limitations of physical access of an employee, maintenance records, and validation procedures. 

In addition to the safeguards listed above, it is also vital to use HIPAA-compliant communication tools especially since most organizations nowadays use online platforms to exchange information.

With the advancement of technology in the healthcare industry, cybersecurity is instrumental in maintaining the safety, privacy, and integrity of all people involved—from stakeholders to patients. Strictly complying with standards set forth by governmental regulations and going beyond those is the only way for healthcare businesses and organizations to overcome cybersecurity threats and attacks.

About The Author:

Chatty is freelance writer from Manila. She finds joy in inspiring and educating others through writing. That’s why aside from job as a language evaluator for local and international students, she spends her leisure time writing about various topics such as lifestyle, technology, and business.

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