Health care data has become a focus for many recent cybersecurity efforts. The medical industry has become a favorite target of cybercriminals, with one in five Americans having their information exposed in a breach.
Regulations like HIPAA require medical organizations to protect patient data, but they often don’t specify how. It’s up to the covered entities themselves to determine what specific protections can help them achieve these ends. Here are five steps to preserve health care data security in 2022.
1. Implement Strict Access Controls
The first step organizations should take is to restrict who can access what data. Rising Internet of Things (IoT) and remote health care adoption mean there’s a higher risk attackers could use one seemingly insignificant entry point to gain critical information. Reducing user access from the beginning limits what one breach can do.
Access controls should follow the principle of least privilege. Every user and system should only be able to see the data they need to perform their role properly. Keep in mind that these requirements may change over time, so network administrators may have to reevaluate and adjust permissions periodically.
2. Monitor and Restrict Data Usage
After restricting access controls, IT teams should monitor how different users and systems use data. Some vulnerabilities are unavoidable because certain users need data access but may not act safely. For example, electronic health records (EHRs) give patients remote access to their data, but users may fall for phishing scams.
Usage monitoring can help control these vulnerabilities. If you understand how various people and systems typically use their data, you can highlight irregularities that may signify a breach. Some advanced network monitoring tools can automate this process, restricting accounts when they behave irregularly.
You should also install controls to limit unnecessarily risky actions from authorized users. For example, patients should be able to view their data, but systems should stop them from sharing it without authorizing the third party.
3. Encrypt Data at All Points
Another crucial step in securing health care data is encrypting it. HIPAA doesn’t necessarily require encryption, but it is a helpful step in maintaining privacy, as it renders information virtually useless to anyone who intercepts it. Many services encrypt data at rest, but it’s also crucial to ensure you do so in transit.
Medical organizations will have to send digital data to remote users more frequently as telemedicine adoption increases. This trend presents a valuable opportunity for hackers if there’s no in-transit encryption. Cybercriminals could intercept data as it goes from one point to another, so at-rest encryption won’t be sufficient to maintain privacy.
4. Train Employees in Best Practices
Some of the best cybersecurity measures aren’t technical but a matter of management. Employee security training is crucial, regardless of what other steps you take. One mistake can let an attacker slip past even the most sophisticated technical defenses, so organizations must prevent unsafe user behavior.
Phishing is one of the fastest-rising cybersecurity threats, so employees should know how to spot these attacks. Social engineering avoidance should be part of all workers’ onboarding processes. Regular refresher training can also remind employees of how they can spot and avoid phishing attempts.
Training should cover best practices like using multifactor authentication and strong, unique passwords. Informing patients of these steps in telemedicine apps is also important.
5. Penetration Test Regularly
Remember that cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Cybercriminals will always find new attack methods, and growing IT sprawl will make systems increasingly complex and hard to manage. In light of these ongoing challenges, you should penetration test regularly to find any vulnerabilities that need fixing.
The average hospital has 10 to 15 connected devices per bed, giving them massive attack surfaces. Given this complexity, medical organizations can’t likely find every potential vulnerability themselves. They need expert help to find and patch the weak points in their defenses.
Health Care Data Security Is Essential in 2022
The medical industry is becoming a more enticing target since it’s increasingly reliant on connected infrastructure. Data security in the sector must improve in light of rising cybercrime and these vulnerabilities.
These five steps can help IT teams in medical organizations protect their sensitive information. Ensuring data security in this industry can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the complications. The sector could jeopardize the safety of those already in need if it doesn’t become more secure.