Patient data and confidential medical research have become a prime target for cybercriminals, with a reported 66% of healthcare organizations having suffered from ransomware attacks in 2021. Healthcare organizations must thus prioritize the implementation of robust security measures to safeguard sensitive information and protect the interests of their stakeholders. Failure to do so not only compromises patient trust but also exposes organizations to severe legal and financial consequences.
To fortify the security infrastructure of healthcare organizations, we present these security measures that are indispensable safeguards against data breaches and vulnerabilities.
Regular workforce training
The human firewall is the first line of defense within an organization, but unfortunately, it is also the most vulnerable. Educating employees about cybersecurity best practices, implementing regular training sessions with periodic reviews, and ensuring their familiarity with HIPAA Privacy and Security rules are crucial steps in mitigating risks. Providing employees with knowledge about their role in data protection empowers them to recognize potential threats and effectively follow established procedures.
Logged and monitored access control
Implementing robust access control mechanisms with comprehensive logging and monitoring capabilities enables healthcare organizations to track and trace every interaction with sensitive data. This ensures that certain applications, sensitive information, and even physical access points are provided only to users who need access to perform their jobs. This usage data also provides an audit trail for investigations and helps flag any unauthorized or suspicious access attempts promptly.
Encrypting patient data, both at rest and in transit, provides an additional layer of protection. Your organization should ensure that your encryption practices are in accordance with the HIPAA Security rule. This ensures that your data encryption renders sensitive information unreadable to unauthorized individuals, safeguarding it from potential breaches and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.
Secured connected devices, equipment, and legacy systems
The interconnected nature of modern healthcare infrastructure, coupled with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), demands special attention to the security of devices, equipment, mobile apps, and legacy systems. It is imperative to implement regular updates, patches, and robust security measures to protect against potential vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals.
It’s worth noting that mobile computing and proprietary mobile apps have become a reality for many healthcare organizations, and these bring unique security risks. This is why it is crucial to establish a documented policy that governs the use of mobile devices and apps by both staff and patients. This should outline security measures and guidelines to ensure the safe and secure use of mobile technology within the organization.
In the case of legacy systems, regular patches and updates may no longer be feasible due to the system’s age or limited support. However, it is essential to address their security needs. Some healthcare organizations still rely on legacy systems or possess equipment that operates on legacy operating systems and/or software. For such scenarios, implementing security measures like zero-trust access policies and network segregation can help mitigate risks.
Backup data and contingency plan
Regularly backing up critical data ensures that in the event of a breach, system failure, or disaster, data can be restored, minimizing downtime and potential data loss. Ensure that you also have a well-defined procedure on how to restore backup data should the unthinkable happen.
Periodic reviews and risk assessment
Healthcare organizations must proactively review their security measures and conduct regular risk assessments. This allows them to identify potential vulnerabilities, implement necessary improvements, and stay ahead of emerging threats. Ensure that your IT personnel or IT help desk partner are on top of emerging security threats and keep abreast of the latest innovations in cybersecurity.
By prioritizing these must-have security measures, healthcare organizations can enhance their ability to protect patient data, maintain regulatory compliance with HIPAA and GDPR, and preserve the confidentiality of medical research. Refresh Technologies can implement these security measures for your organization. Contact us today.