It is unfortunate that data breaches and targeted hacking activities have become more prevalent in the past decade. As more companies move their business into the digital realm, opportunities for data theft and other malicious attacks have increased. No industry is immune to data breaches, including the healthcare industry.
In fact, healthcare organizations are statistically some of the hardest hit in terms of total private data records exposed.
Between 2009 and 2017, the number of exposed healthcare records grew from 134,773, to over 16.4 million per year. In total, over 171 million records were exposed during this period in the United States alone. The number of individual breaches has also increased, from just 18 reported in 2009, to 329 in 2016 when the last reliable data was collected.
It is clear that this is a growing problem, and it’s something that should be addressed with an increased focus on cybersecurity protection in the healthcare industry.
Why Are Healthcare Providers Targeted for Cyber Theft?
There are a number of key factors that make healthcare organizations targets of cyber theft and other malicious activity. Understanding these factors is important when designing solutions.
- Hospitals and other healthcare organizations hold extensive patient data which can be used for advanced forms of identity theft, including medical insurance fraud.
- Companies in the healthcare industry are prime targets for data ransom. Malicious parties use malware to infect systems and encrypt data, requiring payment to return the data to a usable state.
- Healthcare organizations have, on average, more individuals who have access to sensitive data. This means that insider threats and leaks are more prevalent.
These factors can be quite complex when getting down to the details, but they are not impossible to overcome.
In some ways initiatives like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) do help to protect patient data, but results are not 100% effective. HIPAA provides regulations for how data should be handled and stored, but it is not an IT focused initiative. This means that organizations can be HIPAA compliant, even if their security solutions are not up to the highest standards.
Healthcare Organizations Should Invest in Quality IT Security Consulting
A managed IT service is essential for any company that deals with healthcare records and other related data. With security consulting, any organization can improve their security procedures and back end systems to reduce the risk of data theft. There are a number of ways which this can be achieved.
Strategies can include:
- Using tokenization to access data, to reduce the amount of specific personal data that staff members have access to. This can reduce inside leaks and theft of data.
- Implementing wide scale security systems, including user level access and encryption to ensure that data is only viewed by those who have authorization, and all viewing will be logged.
- Using hardware and software level antivirus, antimalware, and firewall protection. A managed IT service can provide enterprise-grade security solutions that restrict the flow of data in and out of a healthcare network.
- Training can be designed and provided to reduce risk in the workplace. User training can include proper use of systems and data handling.
- Organizations can enforce strict password rules and regular password changes.
The risk of data compromises is ever present, and trends have shown that breaches will only increase in prevalence in the future. By investing in a managed IT service with ongoing security consulting, healthcare companies can reduce the chances of data theft, while safeguarding personal information and the very future of the organization.