Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Recently, there have been several attacks and breaches of healthcare data that prove that healthcare systems are vulnerable and a tempting target for hackers. Healthcare networks house protected health information (PHI) – a valuable asset for cybercriminals to enable identity theft. Being one step ahead of these threats requires a concerted corporate effort.

Let’s look at a few key measures healthcare institutions can use to enhance their IT cybersecurity:

Establish a Culture of Health IT Security
To ensure that sensitive healthcare data remains secure, everyone involves joint effort in preventive vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity. Leaders should inculcate data security as a key corporate value.

Documenting your corporate commitment to security through appropriate procedures is the ideal first step. Healthcare institutions need to implement smart tactics, sufficient staff and funding to ensure they stay ahead of any potential threats or breaches. Security should be included in both the strategic plan as well as in the budgeting process.

Protect Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming popular in healthcare due to their availability and ease of access. Experts claim that around 90% of healthcare organizations are implementing or are planning to implement a mobile device initiative. Although the use of mobile devices has shown promise in increasing patient satisfaction and staff productivity, there are still some lingering concerns. Two concerns at the top of this list are data encryption and HIPAA compliance.

Currently, the implementation of a mobile device management system (MDMS) is crucial for administration and compliance. Unfortunately, more than half of the IT leaders surveyed expressed concerns regarding their current MDMS not having proper security measures. To limit risks, many companies are integrating an add-on system for mobile content management, which enables secure file sharing whilst also functioning as an authentication tool. Another new and innovative solution is an all-in-one enterprise mobility management system.

Keep Software and Operating Systems Current
A complaisant approach to regular software updates and security patches exposes organizations to unnecessary threats. When software updates are made available, they are a signal to both users and hackers that there are now vulnerabilities within the earlier version that can be exploited.

Keeping data security aside, using outdated operating systems in medical equipment can massively impair a healthcare system’s ability to provide quality care. For instance, an MRI machine infected with a virus can result in delayed diagnosis. If the MRI machine has network access, it paves the way for hackers to use it as a gateway into a larger system.

The best approach is to instill a proactive plan for software updates for all necessary systems, including mobile, desktop and IoT devices. Updated anti-virus software can help to easily detect potential threats. It is also essential to ensure that staff cannot install software on any devices without proper authorization.

Plan for an Inevitable Breach
As cyberattacks are becoming even more sophisticated, the best approach is to plan for the inevitability of a breach while also striving to prevent one from happening. Simply adhering to compliance does not guarantee data security. Ongoing risk assessments are crucial to detect and address possible entry points and security gaps in organizational systems, processes and equipment.

An intricate mitigation and recovery plan must outline exactly the steps an organization must take to recover lost information. The plan should outline how you will give the required notification to affected individuals and others. The objective of this is to publicly demonstrate that data loss is being managed responsibly and appropriately.

Periodic Staff Training
All personnel associated with the healthcare system i.e. providers, staff, volunteers and vendors must receive periodic security awareness training. The best method is to teach using real-life hacking and phishing scenarios. Some organizations regularly run phishing attempts as teaching tools for their employees. Staff must also be trained to recognize and understand the process for reporting suspicious behavior.