Top 10 Tips for Cybersecurity in Healthcare Industry

Updated: May 10

Beyond the pandemic, the past year has seen a continued escalation of cybersecurity threats in the healthcare sector. This has led many healthcare executives and security practitioners to ask themselves "how can we better protect our healthcare organization’s data, or how do we want to improve the cybersecurity program overall to ensure our patients’ safety, protect our operations, and our network and data?" The tips below will help an organization overcome these challenges and improve the cybersecurity and risk management programs within your organization.


Currently, computers, laptops, mobile, and internet-connected devices significantly influence our daily life and influence various business associations in ways no one had previously anticipated. The healthcare sector, and our relationship and interactions within it, are most certainly impacted by this transformation of cyber technology.


The protection of an organization's, or persons, personal data is the key factor in cybersecurity. In healthcare, cybersecurity is heightened with the need to ensure patient safety and the organization's operational capacity to deliver care. These are key factors that drive the most crucial task that cannot be ignored. So, it is necessary to focus on cybersecurity for healthcare and remain vigilant to mitigate cybersecurity issues in healthcare.


Top 10 Tips for Cyber Security in Healthcare Industry


Generally, cybersecurity is a shared responsibility across the IT department and other stakeholders in the healthcare organization. You hire personnel for handling your organization's cybersecurity policies, processes, and systems. Some organizations may also leverage the experience and knowledge of a cybersecurity service provider. Regardless of the people and companies involved everyone must be involved and aware of the potential security issues in your organization. Everyone plays a vital role in creating and enforcing a culture of security.


With that in mind, in this post, we provide the top 10 tips for cybersecurity in the healthcare industry. So, follow these tips for cybersecurity. Hopefully, these tips will help you improve your security system effectively.


1. Train your Staff Regarding Cybersecurity Practices


Cybersecurity attacks are most commonly successful because of insiders and user errors; that is why in terms of combatting cybersecurity, staff training, and awareness are essential in cybersecurity practice.


Ensure your staff members understand the signs of social engineering used in typical phishing attempts via email. Conduct recurring training to educate personnel on the proper measures and continually reinforce the training for the organization's security culture.


As necessary, bring in a third-party consultant or trainer. Use the third-party to enhance the level of knowledge across the organization and provide training for everyone to understand security best practices.


2. Use Antivirus Software


Generally, the hackers target vulnerable organizations (small offices, ambulatory clinics, and acute care facilities)through a virus or malware attack. Many external sources such as CDs/DVDs, email, flash drivers, and Internet downloads can be suspect and prone to infect your device, or your organization, with viruses. Malware, or other zer-daythreats.

To protect your devices and organization from malicious threats, whenever possible, you should use antivirus software such as; Symantec, Norton, McAfee, or next-generation endpoint protection suites from Carbon Black, Cylance, etc.


"How would you recognize that your system is infected from malware?" Users should be wary of the following signs of trouble:


  • System crashes without any reason

  • Installed antivirus software doesn't work

  • Difficulty in controlling in mouse or pointer

  • The web browser sends unwanted web pages

  • System unable to start, “blue screen of death”

  • Unwanted or nuisance ads popup


These are just some of the signs that indicate the presence of a virus or malware on your device(s). Such incidents should be reported promptly so that the issues may be quickly investigated, mitigated, and/or resolved. The reporting procedures should be part of the training efforts mentioned previously.


3. Never Reuse the Same Password


Using the same password for multiple platforms significantly increases the chances of a potential loss or harm from a cyberattack. The easy way tends to be human nature when it comes to passwords encourages employees to use a different, complex password for each platform used to access information or treat patients.


The main issue of reusing passwords is it permits a cyber-attacker to discover one working password and then use it for all active accounts that reuse the same password.


4. Use a Strong Password


For healthcare cybersecurity best practices, and to protect your devices from unauthorized access, you need to create a strong password. Many attackers use automated methods to guess (or crack) passwords, strong and complex passwords can prevent guessing/cracking from happening. A strong, complex password is perhaps one of the single most important best practices and security safeguards an employee can use.


Here are some characteristics of a strong, complex password that you should consider for increasing healthcare’s security ecosystem.

  • Password should be longer than 8 characters.

  • Password includes a combination of upper case, lower case, numeric, and special characters.

  • Change your password frequently or in accordance with local policies.

  • Never use dictionary words because they are easy to guess.

  • Never include personal information in your passwords, such as; family members name, your name, date of birth, social security numbers, etc.


5. Securely Store Password


Healthcare cybersecurity, and good security practices in general, users should store their passwords in a secure place. We strongly recommend many of the mainstream password managers that are available in the market today, either third-party or as part of the operating system; we do not encourage the storage of passwords in your browser as a best practice. You should avoid storing the password on an unsecured document (e.g. Word, Notepad, etc.)or any shared document.


The advantage of a best practice password manager is all strong, the complex passwords can be stored in a single encrypted application that provides the authorized user access via a single strong complex password, or passphrase, and should have two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled. An example of a good passphrase may be"Ilovetoeatanappleforbreakfast." To make your passphrase stronger, you should swap characters such as numbers, characters, and upper, lower case letters.


6. Limit Physical Access to Systems


In order to reduce your cyber-attack surface, you need to establish physical access control on all your connected systems and devices. In a healthcare organization, the EHR system is a major concern, and it should be protected from unauthorized access as it is foundational to patient care, business operations, and a rich repository of protected healthcare information.


To prevent data loss, asset loss or theft, and mitigate negative impacts to patient safety and business operations, you must minimize the chances of devices being lost or stolen.


For traditional Information Technology (IT) assets the factors of physical security most often consider two factors:

  • Physical Protection

Physical protection includes restricting physical access to assets and information from unauthorized persons and ensuring only authorized persons may gain access.

  • Environmental Protection

Environmental protection includes protection from water, fire, and other external impacts. Risks from these factors are typically mitigated with additional resources or systems put in place to circumvent impacts. Continuity of operations planning can also ensure continued operations in the event of environmental impacts.


7. Maintain Good Cyber-hygiene Habits


Maintaining good health is the core business mission of a healthcare organization. Similarly, the same concept applies to healthcare cybersecurity. You need to develop and maintain good cyber-hygiene habits to ensure that your systems, devices, and operations remain available for patient care and are working properly.


Maintain good cyber-hygiene habits in the following areas:

  • Operating System (OS) Maintenance

  • Configuration Management

  • Software Maintenance

There are many options associated with modern technology and gadgets that should be appropriately optimized. However, a few essential rules that you must follow for the security of your healthcare organization.

  • When possible, test patches in a test environment prior to deployment onto production systems and devices.

  • Minimize non-essential applications, services, and close unnecessary ports not required for clinical and business operations.

  • Disable file shares and remote access whenever possible to minimize exposure of protected information from unauthorized access.

8. Protect Your Mobile Devices


Mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, and small storage devices make access to healthcare information convenient and easy. This ease of access also provides a broader attack surface for exploitation. Mobile device cybersecurity is essential to minimize the risk of threats and cyber-attacks at these small, mobile endpoints.


Crucial factors that you should consider for protecting your mobile devices include:

  • Mobile devices are carried and can be seen by others, physically protecting your mobile devices from unauthorized access is paramount.

  • Most mobile devices have the means to track their use and location that permit authorized users to locate. Enable device tracking on mobile devices.

  • Consider the use of a VPN application to ensure confidentiality of information on public Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

  • Most mobile devices are protected from unauthorized access with a screen saver. Screen saver should be configured for the password or PIN access. These passwords are not often in accordance with password rules for application security, but still critical to mobile device security.

  • Many corporate mobile devices are managed with a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform as part of the cybersecurity program in your healthcare organization. At an organizational level, this should be adopted to support standard policies for acceptable use, data partitioning, and mobile device wiping of sensitive corporate information if lost or stolen.

9. Perform Risk Assessments


Risk assessments should be completed as part of the healthcare organization’s pre-purchase and contract best practices. This is paramount to assess the capability of a considered device, service, or third-party providers to meet organizational security policies and system-level controls.

Risk assessments should also be accomplished on a recurring basis to ensure gaps from previous assessments are reviewed and assessed, and the dynamically changing threat environment is considered in light of new information, tools, and capabilities.


If the healthcare organization lacks the expertise, consideration of a third-party firm to perform risk assessment should be considered.

10. Use, Monitor, and Manage Your Firewalls


A firewall can be a software or hardware device that helps in the prevention of external intrusions and provides full protection to your internal data. Next-generation firewall (NGFW) platforms and software-defined networks (SDNs) are also approaches that can be used to segregate and blunt external or lateral intrusions on your network. Regardless of the firewall technology they require ongoing and persistent support for monitoring, installing, and maintenance.


For health organizations, firewalls, NGFWs, and/or SDNs are the most effective means to secure a complex network of business, clinical, and medical devices. The challenges of legacy medical devices, patching, and regulatory constraints are a unique component of healthcare networks that make the need for these platforms imperative. These platforms provide some of the most impactful security technologies for use on the healthcare organization’s local area and wide area networks

Conclusion


Every healthcare organization has its organizational networks deployed across a wide array of architectures, Cloud-based, third-party hosted in-house, mobile platforms, web-based platforms, and interconnected medical device platforms integrated across ancillary information systems and storage environments. Healthcare cybersecurity policies and practices are intertwined with multiple technology solutions and challenges of medical device life cycle management across legacy and emerging technologies.


To keep your patient's and department's critical information confidential, complete, and accessible you must have a documented cybersecurity policy that supports the organizational mission and delivery of care.


Asimily can be an integral part of a robust cybersecurity program for the healthcare industry. Asimily can support the core tenets of healthcare cybersecurity to support patient safety, support continued healthcare operations, and detect and protect protected healthcare information.

If you have any questions regarding healthcare cybersecurity and how Asimily can help, please leave your questions or queries in the comment section below.


Hopefully, you would find this information useful for your health care organization.