More than 30 million personal medical records have been thieved from the “secure” servers of health care practices by hackers from around the globe. Health care information is immensely valuable — and not just to the patients and families to which it pertains, but to veritable strangers looking to make some money on the black market. Yet, despite the sensitivity and significance of their clients’ personal information, health care providers continue to fail in securing substantial and effective data protection. Read up on health care providers’ obstacles in instituting proper security, and if you work in the industry, find out what can be done to keep your medical records safe.
3 Reasons Why Health Care Data Isn’t Secure
Despite near-constant reminders from the FBI that health records and hospital information is prime meat for hackers, this data still doesn’t have the protection it needs to be truly safe. Both large-scale and small-scale breaches have been frequent in the past years, but still the industry is having trouble remedying the underlying causes of data insecurity. Here are the big three problems facing the health care field in relation to network and information security.
Their security systems are outdated. It’s a major aspect of keeping data safe, but it’s the main reason hackers are able to get at sensitive health records. Too many hospitals are relying on outdated security software to keep their information safe, and it’s not working. Not only do old security systems fail to keep up with the ever-changing tactics of clever hackers, but they don’t have the capability to change with new developments from security companies to keep those hackers at bay.
Sharing is necessary in the industry. The more people who have access to your data, the less secure your data is. Unfortunately, because most patients don’t have just one doctor for their whole lives, the health care industry must share its data regularly and often. Plus, the information inevitably travels among groups who have no substantial training in security. As medicine progresses, it seems unlikely that the transfer of information with dissipate at all; in fact, as specialization increases, it is more likely that health records will be shared more often.
They face the same issues as any other company. Misplaced devices and uneducated or lax employees are a plague on every single business, and health care is no exception. Whether it’s a simple phishing scam or more complex malware, invasions that perhaps weren’t initially targeting health care information can score it big when hospitals and clinics don’t monitor their employees behavior.
3 Ways to Solve These Issues
The problems plaguing the health care industry seem simple, but because the industry is so wide and varied, the issues become extremely difficult to resolve. No one single solution will work for every doctor’s office and hospital; plus, security is basically ever-changing, meaning large institutions need to be flexible with their security choices or else face expensive major renovations in a couple years — or worse, face the same vulnerability they’re working under now. Here are some feasible steps health care institutions can make to keep their precious data safer.
Add basic barriers to data to prevent easy attacks. Though security systems do need to be up-to-date and updated regularly, some simple security solutions never go out of style. Health care employees should be more careful with their passwords, being sure to follow the most current password rules. However, most experts agree that passwords alone aren’t enough for important information, so using additional security features like the two-factor authentication token solution would make it harder for the average hacker to get access to health records. Encryption keeps your data safe from prying eyes if a laptop or cell phone gets misplaced or lost.
Close sharing portals when they aren’t in use. Yes, the transfer of information is necessary in the health care industry, but that doesn’t mean offices and hospitals have to share all the time and with everyone. Connections among institutions can be closed when information isn’t being shared, and they should be to prevent unwanted hackers from walking in through your open doors and stealing your information. Plus, emails can be encrypted just like saved data, so your data never has to be freely available during transfer.
Continue education. Because security changes constantly, constant employee education is absolutely necessary. Doctors and nurses must regularly read up on new medical techniques and breakthroughs, so ask them to read up on advances in security as well.