Cybersecurity In Healthcare: 10 Best Tips To Be Safe Online
Updated on: 20/05/2022
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In the current electronic world, protecting information and cybersecurity in healthcare is vital for the normal functioning of the organizations globally. Many organizations in the healthcare sector possess various kinds of specialized hospital information systems that include e-prescribing systems, EHR systems, clinical decision support systems, practice management support systems, computerized physician order entry systems and radiology information systems.
In addition to this, there are thousands of various devices that comprise the Internet of Things (IOT) and require protection as well. The IOT devices include smart heating, smart elevators, infusion pumps, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, remote patient monitoring devices and many others.
In this article, we will talk about the top 10 tips that you are bound to follow to preserve cybersecurity in healthcare. But before that we are going to talk about some assets (not included in the above list) that can be compromised if not taken enough precautions, how they can be compromised causing loss in the healthcare sector and improving cybersecurity in healthcare will be beneficial.
Table of Contents
- Some Key Assets That Can Be Compromised In The Healthcare Sector
- Top 10 Tips For Ensuring Cybersecurity In Healthcare
- Establishing A Security Culture
- Protecting The Mobile Devices
- Maintaining Healthy Computer Habits
- Using A Firewall
- Installing & Maintaining Anti-Virus Software
- Planning For The Unexpected
- Controlling Access To The Protected Health Information
- Using Strong Passwords & Password Management
- Limiting Network Access
- Controlling Physical Access
- Final Thoughts
Some Key Assets That Can Be Compromised In The Healthcare Sector
There are a lot of assets supporting the healthcare sector that can be compromised and that you must consider the importance of cybersecurity in healthcare. But here are the key assets that are mostly compromised causing data breaches and destruction in the healthcare organizations.
Email or electronic mail is the primary communication means within the healthcare organization. All varieties of information are created, transacted, sent, received and maintained within the email systems. The storage capacities of the mailbox tends to grow over time with the individuals storing various types of valuable information ranging from the financial information to the intellectual property, patient information and many more. Thus, email security is a very crucial part of cybersecurity in healthcare.
One of the most common threats associated with email is phishing and these cause the most significant cybersecurity incidents. The unaware users might unknowingly click on any malicious link or even open a malicious attachment that came in a phishing email and infect their computer systems with the destructive malware. In specific instances, the malware might also spread through the computer network to the other computers and in extreme cases these malware might be ransomware demanding hefty charges locking all the systems.
The phishing email might also induce proprietary or sensitive information from the recipient. These emails are very effective as they can typically fool the recipient into adopting a desired action like clicking on a malicious link, disclosing the proprietary or sensitive information or opening a malicious attachment. Thus, regular security awareness training is the key to thwart phishing attempts.
Unauthorized physical access to a device or a computer might lead to its compromise. For instance, there are physical techniques that might be employed to hack a device. The physical exploitation of a device might also defeat the technical controls that had been otherwise in place. Thus, physically securing a device also plays an important role in cybersecurity in healthcare industry as well as any other sector in general where it seeks safeguarding its operations, data and proper configuration.
One of the examples of such is leaving behind, say, a computer or a laptop unattended in your absence or while traveling. Careless actions might lead to loss or theft of the device. Another most prominent example is the evil maid attack where a device is altered in an undetectable manner so that the cybercriminals might access the device later and perform severe actions such as installing keyloggers for recording sensitive information, like the credentials.
Those systems that are no longer supported by the manufacturer. The legacy systems might also include the operating systems (OS), applications or otherwise. One of the many challenges of cybersecurity in healthcare is that several organizations possess a significant legacy system footprint. The downside of the legacy systems is that they are typically not supported anymore by the manufacturer. And as such, there is generally a lack of the security patches as well as other available updates.
The legacy systems might exist within the organizations as they are too expensive for upgrading or owing to a fact that the upgrade might not be available. The manufacturers of the operating system might shut down the systems and the healthcare organizations might not just have enough cybersecurity budget to be capable of upgrading systems to the currency supported versions.
Typically, medical devices possess legacy operating systems. Or that they might also exist to support the legacy applications for which there exist no replacement.
Top 10 Tips For Ensuring Cybersecurity In Healthcare
You might want to know how to improve cybersecurity in healthcare. Below are the top 10 tips that you are required to follow in order to stay safe or possess cybersecurity in healthcare sector and that you can minimize the cyber attacks, data breaches and the loss of information causing detrimental situations to the organizations.
1. Establishing A Security Culture
The security professionals are unanimous and the weakest link in any of the computer systems is the user. The researchers who have studied Information Technology have demonstrated over time that it is quite difficult to raise people’s awareness to the vulnerabilities and threats that can jeopardize the information that they work with daily.
The healthcare practice measures are ineffective unless it is willing and are implemented. In addition to the fact that people need proactive training so that they are sensitized to the importance of information security. Thus, it is necessary that all the healthcare best practices should instill and support the security-minded organizational culture.
One of the most challenging aspects of inculcating a security focus amongst the users is overcoming the perception - “It cannot happen to me”. Regardless of the level of education or the sophistication in IT, people believe that they will never succumb to the sloppy practices or place the patient’s information at risk and that it only occurs to the other people.
The checklists that have been included in this document are a proven method to overcome the human blindspot in respect to Information Security. Abiding by a set of the prescribed practices and checking them regularly, you can avoid some of the errors that you tend to make out of overconfidence.
However, only this checklist will not suffice. It is compulsory for any organization where the patient’s lives are at stake to support the proper information security via establishment of a culture of security. Each person in the organization is required to subscribe to a shared vision of information security so that the habits and the practices are automatic.
Here are some obvious steps that you have to take:
✅ Training and education must be frequent and ongoing.
✅ Individuals who manage and direct the work of others must set a good example as well as resist in the temptation of indulging in exceptionalism.
✅ The accountability and taking responsibility for the security of information must be included in the core values of the organization.
Protecting the patients via implementation of the good information security practices is mandatory to be second nature as sanitary practices to the healthcare organizations.
2. Protecting The Mobile Devices
The mobile devices such as the handhelds, laptops, computers, smartphones and the portable storage media have opened a new world of opportunities to unleash the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) from the desktops. However, these opportunities also expose the information privacy and security to severe threats. Some of these threats also overlap with those of the desktop threats while some are unique to the mobile devices. Here are some facts:
☛ Owing to the mobility of these devices, they are very easy to lose and also vulnerable to theft.
☛ Unlike the stationary devices, the mobile devices are pretty much likely to be exposed to the electromagnetic interference, usually from the other medical devices. The interference can also corrupt the information that is stored on the mobile device.
☛ Owing to the fact that the mobile devices can be used in the places where the devices are visible by the others, the users need to be extra careful in order to prevent the unauthorized viewing of the electronic health information that is displayed on the handheld devices including the laptops and smartphones.
☛ Not all of the mobile devices are equipped with the strong access controls and authentication. Thus, extra steps are required to be taken for securing the mobile devices from unauthorized use. The laptops and the smartphones must also bear password protection.
Many of the handheld devices can be successfully configured with the password protection and these protections must be enabled if and when available. If the password protection is not offered, the users need to take additional steps for protecting the electronic health information on the handheld which includes the extra precaution over the physical control of the device.
The users must be aware of the fact that transporting data with mobile devices is innately risky. There has to be an overriding justification for this practice that rises over mere convenience. Where it serves to be absolutely mandatory to commit the health information to a mobile device, the cybersecurity professionals always recommend that the data is encrypted.
The mobile devices that do not support the encryption properties, must be avoided. The encrypted devices are available at an affordable cost, which is much less as compared to the cost of mitigating a data breach. If it is very necessary to carry a laptop containing the electronic health information outside a secure area, the users must protect the information on the hard drive of the laptop via encryption.
The policies specifying the circumstances under which the mobile devices might be removed from the facility are very crucial and due care is required to be taken in developing as well as enforcing these policies. The key goal is to protect all the information of the patients. Thus, the considerations of convenience or customization like working from home must be considered in that particular light.
In the increasingly mobile world of this time, it is definitely tempting to use mobile technology for breaking away from the office and performing work from the comfort of home. However, those who possess responsibility for the protection of the patients’ information must understand that this responsibility goes beyond the boundaries of the office. Thus, good privacy as well as security practices must always be abided by.
Here are a couple of mobile device checklist:
✅ The required policies are in place that prescribes the use of the mobile devices.
✅ All the staff members carefully understand as well as agree to abide by mobile device policy and procedures.
✅ All the mobile devices are configured for preventing the unauthorized access.
✅ All of the Protected Health Information (PHI) on individual mobile devices is encrypted.
✅ The connections between the authorized mobile devices and the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are encrypted.
3. Maintaining Healthy Computer Habits
It is of utmost importance that the medical practitioner is vividly familiar with the importance of the healthy computer habits for maintaining good health and reducing the risks of infection as well as disease. The same thing is absolutely true for the IT systems including the EHR systems. Both of them must be maintained properly so that they continue to function properly as well as reliably in the manner that respects the importance and the sensitive nature of the information that is stored within them. As with any health regimen, the very simple measures go a long way.
A. Configuration Management
The software packages and the new computers are delivered with a great array of options and a very limited guidance on how to configure them so that the system is secure. In the face of such a complexity, it can be quite challenging to know what options to enable and which ones to disable. There are specific rule of thumb:
✅ Uninstall all the software applications that are not required to running the practice such as instant message clients, games and the various photo-sharing tools. If you find the purpose of a software application is not obvious, then you are required to look at the website of the software company for learning more about the purposes and the uses of the applications. Additionally, you are required to check with the developer of the EHR in order to check if the software is critical to the function of the EHR.
✅ You must not simply accept the standards or the default configurations while installing the software. Carefully step through individual options, understand the choices and acquire technical assistance where it is necessary.
✅ You are required to find out if the EHR vendor5 maintains an open connection to the installed software or otherwise known as the “backdoor” for providing updates and support. If such a thing exists, you are required to ensure a secure connection at the firewall and request that this access can be disabled when not in use.
✅ Additionally, disable the remote file sharing as well as the remote printing option within the operating system configuration. Permitting this might result in the accidental sharing or printing of the files to the locations where the unauthorized individuals might access them.
B. Software Maintenance
Most of the softwares demands periodic updating for keeping it secure and also to add features. The vendors might also send out the updates in several ways that includes the automated downloads and the customer-requested downloads.
Keeping the softwares updates time to time is critical in maintaining a secured system as many of these updates address the newly detected security vulnerabilities in the product. In the huge enterprises, this kind of “patching” might be a daily task where several vendors might issue the frequent updates.
On the contrary, in the smaller practice, there might be a lack of the resources for continuously monitoring for new updates as well as applying them in good time. Instead, the small practices might wish to automate the updates to occur on a specified time like the Microsoft Windows Automatic Update. However, the practices must monitor for the critical as well as urgent patches and updates that seek immediate attention. The messages from the vendors regarding all of these patches and updates must be monitored and acted upon immediately.
C. Operating System (OS) Maintenance
An operating system tends to gather outdated information and settings over time unless regular maintenance is carried out. As the medical supplies are required to be monitored for their expiration dates, the things that are outdated on a computer system need to be dealt with immediately. Things that you are required to check in this regard include:
✅ The user accounts for the ex-employees are disabled appropriately and timely. If an employee is to be terminated involuntarily, you are required to disable the access to the account prior to the notice of the termination being served.
✅ The computers and the other devices like the copy machines that might have had the data stored in them are required to be “sanitized” before the disposal. If you are sure that all the information on the hard drive has been successfully deleted, you must know that this can still be recovered with the commonly available tools. To avoid the possibility of an unintended data breach, you are required to follow the guidelines for disposal found in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-88 “Guidelines for Media Sanitation.
✅ The old data files are archived for the storage if required or cleaned off the system if they are not required. This is subject to the applicable data retention requirements.
✅ The softwares that you are no longer using needs to be completely uninstalled. This includes the trial software as well as the old versions of the latest software.
How are you going to know whether the staff members have downloaded the programs that they are restricted from?
There are various commercial applications as well as services like the anti-virus and the anti-malware programs that can be easily set up for reporting or even cease the download of the rogue or unapproved software. They can additionally conduct the vulnerability and configuration scans. In addition to this, some services or applications can conduct the general security audits as well. Thus, you are required to work with your IT team or the other resources for performing the vulnerability, malware, configuration and the various other security audits frequently. Here are a couple of maintenance checklist:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system maintenance procedures.
✅ All the staff members carefully understand as well as agree to abide by mobile device policy and procedures.
✅ the computer systems are free from the unnecessary data files and softwares.
✅ Remote printing and remote file sharing are disabled.
✅ The remote maintenance connections of the vendors are documented and fully secured.
✅ The systems and the applications are patched and updated frequently as recommended by the manufacturer.
4. Using A Firewall
Unless a very small practice makes use of an EHR system that is completely disconnected from the Internet, it must possess a firewall for protecting against the threats and intrusions from the outside sources. The anti-virus software will aid in locating and destroying the malicious software that has already entered. The job of a firewall is to restrict the intruders from entering in the very first place. To be precise, that anti-virus can be thought of as an infection control while the firewall acts as disease prevention.
A firewall is capable of taking the form of a software product or even a hardware device. In both of the cases, the job is to inspect all of the messages that are coming into the system from the outside which could either be from the Internet or from a local network. It can also decide as per the predetermined criteria, if the message must be permitted to come in.
Configuring a firewall can be complicated technically and that the hardware firewalls must be configured by the trained technical personnel. On the other hand, the software firewalls are often preconfigured with the common settings that tends to be even more useful in most of the situations. The software firewalls are included with some of the most popular operating systems that offer protection in the stage of installation.
Alternatively, a separate software for the firewall is widely available from the vendors of computer security and includes most of the suppliers of the antivirus software. Both kinds of firewall software usually offer technical support and configuration guidance to enable the successful configuration by the users without the technical expertise.
When Should You Use A Hardware Firewall?
The large practices that make use of the LAN or Local Area Network must consider a hardware firewall. A hardware firewall is located between the Internet and the LAN, offering centralized management of the firewall settings. This expands the LAN security as it ensures that the firewall settings are uniform for all of the users. If a hardware firewall is used, it must be configured, monitored and maintained by a specialist in this field. Here are some key firewall checklist:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes the configuration, use and the operations of firewall and firewall logs.
✅ All the computers are properly protected and possess securely configured firewall.
✅ All the staff members well understands and agree that they might not hinder the firewall operations.
5. Installing & Maintaining Anti-Virus Software
The primary method that the attackers compromise the computers in the small office is via the viruses and the similar codes that exploit the vulnerabilities on the machine. These vulnerabilities are prevalent owing to the nature of the computing environment. Even a computer that possesses all of the latest security updates to its operating system and applications, might be at risk owing to the previously undetected flaws.
In addition to this, the computers can also become infected by innocent looking sources like email, CDs, flash drives and the web downloads. Thus, it is crucial to use the product that offers continuously updated protection. Anti-virus softwares are widely available and are well tested to be reliable. The best part is that they cost very little.
Following the implementations of the EHRs, it is vital to keep the anti-virus software updated. The products require frequent updates from the vendor in the bid to protect against the newer malware and the computer viruses. Most of the anti-virus software auto generates the reminders regarding these updates while most of the others are configurable to permit for the automatic updating. Without the presence of the anti-virus software, the data might be stolen, defaced, destroyed and the attackers might take control of the machine.
How Can The Users Recognize A Computer Virus Infection?
Some of the typical symptoms that enables an user to identify a computer virus infection includes the following:
- The system will not start automatically.
- The system will crash repeatedly for no obvious reasons.
- The internet browser visits the unwanted pages.
- The anti-virus software does not seem to be working.
- Several unwanted advertisements pop up on the screen.
- The user is unable to control the pointer or mouse as a whole.
Below are some of the anti-virus checklist:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes usage of the anti-virus software.
✅ All the staff members well understands and agree that they might not hinder the operations of the anti-virus software.
✅ All the staff members are aware of the method to recognize the possible symptoms of malware and virus in their computer system.
✅ All the staff members must know the things to do for avoiding virus and malware infections.
✅ The antivirus software is properly installed and working fine on each computer and complying to the manufacturer recommendations.
✅ The antivirus software is set up to permit automatic updates from the manufacturer.
✅ The antivirus software is completely up-to-date as per the manufacturer’s standards.
✅ Mobile or hand-held devices supporting antivirus software must have the software installed and effectively operating.
6. Planning For The Unexpected
The unexpected will happen sooner or later. Flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane and other natural calamities or man-made disasters can come at any time. The crucial healthcare records and the other vital valuable assets must be protected against the loss from these events. Specifically, there are two major parts to this practice - having a sound recovery plan and creating backups.
In the world of the business, it is routine to create a backup. However, in the small practice, it might be that the staff members are only familiar with the computing environment at home. In such a scenario, backups are rarely considered unless a crash occurs, by which time it gets too late.
From the very first day, a new EHR is operating in a practice, the information contained in it must be backed up regularly as well as reliably. A reliable backup is considered to be the one that you can count on in an emergency. Therefore, it is important to not only capture all the data correctly and also look at the matter so that it can accurately and quickly be restored. The backup media must always be tested frequently for their capability to restore properly.
Whatever medium you are using to hold the backup, say, CD, DVD, magnetic tapes or removable hard drives, you must store it safely so that the same disaster cannot wipe them out that befalls the main system. Based on the local geography or type of the risk, this might mean that the backups must be stored many miles away.
One of the emerging options for the backup storage is cloud computing that might be a viable option for many as it involves no investment in the hardware and very little technical expertise. However, the cloud backup must be selected with care. Additionally, you must take care that the backup data must be secure enough as the original.
The critical files can be copied manually onto the backup media. But this might be tedious and potentially prone to error. If possible, an automated backup method must also be used. Some kinds of the backup media are reusable like the removable hard drives and the magnetic tapes. Over time, these media can wear out and that too after multiple backup cycles. It is equally important to test them for reliable restoration operations as they age.
The storage of the backup media must also be protected with the same kind of access controls. The recovery planning should be conducted so that when there is an emergency, you have clear procedures in place. It is possible that in a disaster, the possible healthcare cybersecurity practices will be called upon for supplying the medical records and the information rapidly.
The practice must also be prepared in the bid to access their backups as well as restore the functionality that seeks knowledge regarding what data was backed up, the timeframes and the frequency of the backups when it had been carried out, where the backups had been stored and the types of the equipments that are required to restore them. If it is possible, then this information must be kept safely at a remote location where someone possesses the responsibility for producing it in case there is any emergency.
Should You Store Your Backup Media At Home?
Permanently installed home safe or a fireproof that only the healthcare provider is aware of might be the most feasible choice for most of the practices for storing the backup media. This might not place the back up out of danger of a widespread disaster such as earthquake, hurricane, nuclear, but it would definitely offer some safety against the local emergencies like the flood and fire. The fireproof portable boxes or the safes where the non-staffs possess the combination are quite inadequate.
Here is a checklist for the backup and recovery:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes all the backup and recovery procedures.
✅ All of the staff members must understand the recovery plan as well as their duties during the recovery.
✅ The system restore procedures must be known to at least one of the trusted parties outside the practice.
✅ A copy of the recovery plan must be safely stored at a secured place off-site.
✅ The files that are identified as critical must be documented as well as listed in the backup configuration.
✅ The backup schedule must be chosen regularly and timely.
✅ Each backup run is required to be tested for its capability to restore the data accurately.
✅ All the backup media must be secured physically.
✅ All the backup media that are stored off-site should be properly encrypted.
✅ All the backup media must be positively made unreadable prior disposal.
✅ Multiple backups must be retained as a failsafe.
7. Controlling Access To The Protected Health Information
In the bid to minimize the risk to the electronic health information while effectively setting up the EHR systems. Passwords are very crucial in protecting information. However, it is just half of what makes the total user credentials of a computer. The other half comprises the users’ name of the user identities.
In most of the computer systems, the credentials such as the usernames and the passwords are utilized as a part of an access control system where the users are assigned specific rights to access the data within. This access control system might b]e just a part of an operating system or OS such as Windows or built into a specific application like an e-prescribing module and often both are true. In any of the cases, you must configure your EHR implementation for granting the electronic health information access solely to people having a “desire to know”.
For most of the situations in the small practices, setting the file access permissions might be done manually making use of the access control list. This can solely be done by someone having authorized rights to the system. Before setting these permissions, it is crucial to identify the type of files that must be accessible to which of the staff members.
The additional access controls that might be configured include the role-based access controls, where the role of a staff member within the practice like billing specialist, nurse or physician determines the kind of information that might be accessed. In such a case, proper care must be taken for assigning staff to the proper roles and then setting the access permissions against each role correctly in respect to the desire to know.
The combinations of the regulations and the diverse access control possibilities contributes to making this one of the most complex processes that is involved in the setting up of an EHR system in the small practice.
What If The Electronic Health Information Is Being Accessed Without Permission?
Depending upon specific circumstances, like an incident is considered as a data breach that requires being reported to the HHS and/or a state agency if there is such a requirement in the state’s law. Possessing good access controls as well as knowledge of who has viewed or used the information via the access logs can aid in preventing and detecting these data breaches.
Below is a strong access control checklist:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes the access controls.
✅ Each of the user accounts can be tied positively to a currently authorized individuals.
✅ The users are solely authorized to access specifically those information that they require to successfully perform their duties.
✅ All the files have been set to restrict their access solely to the authorized individuals.
✅ All the staff members must well understand and agree to abide by the individual access control policies.
✅ The computers that are running the healthcare and related systems must be unavailable for the other purposes.
8. Using Strong Passwords & Password Management
Passwords are considered to be the first line of defense for preventing unauthorized access to any computer. Irrespective to the type of operating system, a password must be required to log in. Despite the fact that a strong password will not restrict the attackers from attempting to gain access, however, it can slow them down as well as discourage them. Additionally, the strong passwords in combination to the effective access controls, aids to restrict the casual misuse such as the staff members pursuing their personal curiosity regarding a case although they possess no legit requirement for the information.
The strong passwords are the ones that you cannot guess easily. As the attackers might utilize the automated methods for trying to guess the password, it is vital to choose a password that does not possess characteristics making it vulnerable.
The strong passwords must never include:
❌ Words that are available in the dictionary, even though they re altered slightly like replacing an alphabet with a number.
❌ Personal information like self name, birth date, birth day, details of family members, pets, Social Security Number (SSN) or just anything else that others might easily learn. You need to remember that if a piece of information is on a social networking site, it must never be used in a password.
Following are some of the strong password characteristics:
✅ The password must bear at least eight characters. But the longer your password is, the better.
✅ You must use a combination of the lower case and the upper case letters, at least one special character such as a punctuation mark and one number.
Finally, all the systems must be configured so that the passwords can be changed pretty frequently. While this might seem to be inconvenient for the users, it also minimizes some of the risks that will break a system easily using the stolen password.
What About The Passwords & Authentication?
Multi-factor or strong authentication combines the multiple various authentication methods and results in stronger security. In addition to a username and a password, you must use another authentication method like a key fob, a smartcard, iris scan or fingerprint. The multi-factor authentication must be used under the federal regulations allowing the e-preion of the controlled substances.
What About The Forgotten Passwords?
It is quite normal for anyone to forget a password, especially if the password is too long. For preventing people from writing down their passwords and carelessly leaving them in any unsecured locations, you must plan for the resetting of the passwords. This might involve:
- Permitting two different staff members to be authorized for resetting the passwords.
- Choosing a product possessing in-built password resetting capabilities.
Following is the checklist for passwords:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes password practices for the organization.
✅ All of the staff members well understands as well as agrees to abide by the password policies.
✅ Individual staff member must possess a unique username and password.
✅ The passwords must not be revealed to or shared with any others.
✅ The passwords must never be written down or displayed in the digital screen.
✅ The passwords are required to be difficult to guess but easy to remember.
✅ The passwords must be always changed routinely.
✅ Never reuse the passwords for the same websites or the other websites. Once done within a password just scrap it.
✅ Any product or service that might come with their default passwords must be changed in no time during the installation of the product or using the service for the first time.
✅ All devices or programs that permit optional password protection must possess their password protection turned on and in use.
9. Limiting Network Access
The ease of usage and flexibility helps to make the modern networking tools pretty appealing. The Web 2.0 technologies such as the peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing as well as instant messaging are much popular and widely used. The quick and easy method to set up the broadband capability within an office or home is Wireless routing. Nevertheless, owing to the sensitivity of the healthcare information and the fact, it is shielded by law, the tools that might permit the outsiders to achieve access to the network of healthcare practices should always be used with extreme caution.
The wireless routers that permit a single Internet connection to be used by multiple computers are widely available at a much affordable rate. For the small practice intending to rely on wireless networking, there are special precautions in order. Until the wireless router is secured, the signal of it can be easily picked up from just some distance away, that includes, for instance the parking lot of a building. The other offices in the same building or even the homes that are pretty much closer.
As the electronic health information that is flowing over the wireless network must be protected by the law, it is vital to secure the wireless signal so that just those who are allowed to access the information can pick up the signal. The wireless routers must also be set up for operating only in the encrypted mode.
The devices that are brought into the practice by the visitors must not allow the access to the network as it is unlikely that such devices might be completely vetted for security on a short notice. Setting up a network for safely allowing the guest access is quite expensive and time consuming. Thus, the best defense is to restrict casual access. When a wireless network is configured, individual legit devices should be identified to the router and in such a circumstance can the device be allowed access.
The peer-to-peer (P2P) applications like the instant messaging and file sharing might expose the connected devices to the various security threats and vulnerabilities that includes allowing unauthorized access to the devices on which they are installed. Therefore, you need to ensure that the peer-to-peer applications are not installed without the explicit review and approval.
If you are planning to turn off these programs, then you must hear the fact that it is just not enough even if you uninstall them. A machine that contains the peer-to-peer applications might bear the exploitable bits of code that are still there even when the programs have been completely removed. A good policy in this regard would be to prohibit the staff members from installing any software without prior approval.
Here is an useful network Access checklist:
✅ Proper policies are in place that prescribes the network configuration and access.
✅ All the staff members must well understand and agree to abide by the network use policy.
✅ Access to the network must be restricted to the authorized personnel and devices.
✅ The guest devices are prohibited from accessing the networks containing Protected Health Information (PHI).
✅ All the wireless networks must use the appropriate encryption.
✅ The computers must not contain any peer-to-peer applications.
✅ No public instant messaging services shall be used.
✅ The private instant messaging services, if used, must possess appropriate security.
10. Controlling Physical Access
You should not just secure the critical assets such as the files and information, but also the devices themselves that make up an EHR system. All of these must be safe from unauthorized access. The most common single method that the electronic health information gets compromised is via the loss of the devices, regardless of the event occurring as a result of theft or just accidental.
At this point you might wonder - is it possible for a data storage device to disappear? Well, honestly, no matter how well you take care of your office or the passwords, file permissions or the passwords, it is still possible that a determined individual might access the information stored on it. Thus, it is crucial to limit the chances that the device might be lost, tampered with or stolen.
Securing the devices as well as the information physically must include policies that limit the access like secured machines in locked rooms, restricting the capability to move the devices from a secured area, and managing the keys.
Where Should I Keep My Server Storing Electronic Health Information?
When you are considering the place to locate a server containing the electronic health information like within an EHR, two of the most important factors that you are required to consider include the physical and the environmental protection.
The physical protection must be focused on restricting the unauthorized individuals from accessing the server such as storing the server in a locked room that is accessible only to the staff members with permission. The environmental protection must aim to protect the server from water, fire, and several other elements. You must never store your server in a restroom but off the floor away from the windows and water and also in a temperature-regulated room.
The following a s checklist for physical access:
✅ Proper policies must be in place that prescribes the security of the devices and physical safety.
✅ All the staff members must understand and abide by the policies and procedures of the physical access.
✅ All the devices possessing g Protected Health Information (PHI) must be inventoried and can be accounted for.
✅ All the computer devices must be protected from the environmental hazards.
✅ Physical access to the secured areas must always be limited to only the authorized individuals.
✅ All the computers running the Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems must be shielded from the unauthorized viewing.
✅ All the equipments located in the less secured or high traffic areas must be secured physically.
Cybersecurity influences each and every aspect of the healthcare industry, starting right from the sensitive health information confidentiality to patient care and to the insurance rates. This is why we need cybersecurity in healthcare. The industry and the government leaders acknowledge that cybersecurity in healthcare is essential and the path must be in the cybersecurity technologies, processes and standards.
While some people call for the additional governmental regulation for ensuring the patients’ and their data safety, most healthcare leaders understand that voluntary compliance with the strictest standards is the sole way to go a long way undamaged.
Considering the current situation with the cyber threats in the healthcare industry, the scariest of all the cyber threats might still lie ahead. Additionally, cyberthreats in radiation oncology are constantly increasing. In the wild, the malwares involved in these cybersecurity threats might also fool the doctors into misdiagnosing their patients. Cyber investigation following such unfortunate events can also be considered from the best cybersecurity agency.