The months of April and May 2023 were one of the worse periods for healthcare data security. The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reported a notable 44% rise in the number of reported data breaches during this period. Additionally, a disturbing trend emerged concerning ransomware attacks. Hacking and IT-related incidents constituted a staggering 81.33% of the total breaches for the month, encompassing a massive 99.54% of all compromised records. These statistics underscore a critical need for heightened vigilance and robust cybersecurity measures to combat the growing threat to healthcare data.
This article outlines industry best practices and provides 10 tips for a healthcare practice to follow to prevent hacking incidents and protect their patient data from cybercriminals.
Here we present a Cliffs Notes guide to cybersecurity best practices, offering a set of ten essential tips that healthcare practices can adopt to proactively thwart hacking incidents. Following these recommendations, healthcare professionals can bolster their defenses and ensure the safeguarding of patient data against the ever-present threat of cybercriminals.
What is a ransomware attack?
A ransomware attack is a type of cyber threat where malicious software is used to infiltrate a computer system or network, encrypting the victim’s data, and rendering it inaccessible. The attackers then demand a ransom payment, usually in cryptocurrency, in exchange for providing the decryption key to unlock the compromised data. Ransomware attacks can have devastating consequences, causing financial loss, data breaches, and operational disruptions for individuals, businesses, and organizations.
What can you do to prevent ransomware attacks?
A ransomware attack can be a very stressful and challenging situation to deal with for business owners, but here are some steps you can take to handle the situation:
- Disconnect from the network: If you suspect that a computer or device has been infected with ransomware, immediately disconnect it from the network to prevent the malware from spreading to other devices on the network.
- Do not pay the ransom: Paying the ransom does not guarantee that your files will be decrypted, and it also funds the cybercriminals, encouraging them to continue their illegal activities.
- Identify the ransomware: Identify the ransomware variant that has infected your system. This information can be used to determine if there are any known decryption tools available to help recover your data.
- Restore data from backups: If you have backups of your important files, you can restore them to your system after removing the ransomware.
- Seek professional help: Consult with a cybersecurity professional or an IT expert who has experience dealing with ransomware attacks. They can help assess the damage, identify the ransomware variant, and provide guidance on how to recover your data.
- Report the attack: Report the attack to law enforcement agencies and your IT security team to help them identify and track down cybercriminals.
- Take measures to prevent future attacks: Implement measures to prevent future attacks, such as keeping your operating system and software up to date, using strong passwords, and conducting regular backups of your data.
- Conduct a thorough system scan: Once you have disconnected the affected device from the network, perform a full system scan to remove any remaining traces of the ransomware. Use reputable antivirus software and make sure it is up to date.
- Monitor your system: Keep a close eye on your system to ensure that the ransomware has been completely removed. Check for any unusual behavior, such as strange network activity or unauthorized file modifications.
- Educate yourself and your employees: Educate yourself and your employees about the risks of ransomware and how to prevent it. This includes training on how to identify phishing emails, avoid suspicious links, and maintain good cyber hygiene.
Remember, prevention is the best defense against ransomware attacks. By taking proactive measures to protect your systems and educating yourself and your staff, you can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware.
About the author
Katalin Van Over is a patient data privacy and security professional who for the past 15 years, has designed and managed HIPAA compliance programs at various healthcare settings including inpatient and outpatient facilities, small practices, and in the biotech industry.
Katalin is also the co-owner of ProLogic IT a Healthcare IT company that manages computer systems for small and medium-size practices across the country. ProLogic IT offers HIPAA compliance services that support small healthcare practices. ProLogic IT offers complimentary HIPAA audit review services, to help providers identify compliance gaps and data risks. ProLogic IT also offers easy and affordable solutions to mitigate compliance gaps to help comply with State and Federal mandates that also preserve the integrity and the continued safe operations of a practice.
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