Cybersecurity and Compliance Checklist for Healthcare Organizations
Cybersecurity and compliance are necessary for businesses in any industry, but they’re especially important concerns for hospitals, insurance companies, health payers, and other healthcare providers. Health data provides an especially high-value target for hackers and other bad actors, as health records and other similar information have been known to sell for as much as USD 1,000 on the dark web. This means that healthcare organizations are highly vulnerable to aggressive, large-scale data breaches.
The potential repercussions of successful cyberattacks on healthcare organizations are impossible to overstate. When confidential and sensitive health data is compromised, it poses a significant risk to the safety and privacy of both providers and their patients. Furthermore, cyberattacks are deeply damaging to healthcare organizations’ bottom line, resulting in financial and reputational damage, disrupted services, and even medical malpractice lawsuits. One recent IBM report noted that costs associated with healthcare data breaches reached a record high of USD 10 million per attack in 2022.
Given the increased risk and high cost of cyberattacks, it’s critical for healthcare organizations to be up-to-date on current best practices. The following steps can help your organization protect itself from virtual security threats:
Upgrade Clinical Systems with Cloud-Based Solutions
Many healthcare organizations operating today use systems that are between five to ten years old, and it’s not uncommon to find even older, un-upgraded systems still in use. These antiquated systems lack the security tools and features necessary to effectively keep out cybercriminals, making the organizations that use them prime targets for cyberattacks. Before all else, healthcare organizations should take stock of their current clinical systems and upgrade their hardware and software where necessary.
One important step healthcare organizations can take to improve their cybersecurity is to migrate sensitive information from local systems to the cloud. A robust health insurance solution, for instance, can help enhance healthcare data management and expedite secure claims processing. Cloud-based solutions provide military-grade encryption, storage backups, data recovery functions, and other helpful security tools as offered services. These features make data stored in the cloud easier to keep secure than data managed on-premises by individual IT staff members.
Implement the CIA Triad
Healthcare organizations are best served using the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) triad to guide policymaking on matters of information security. Confidentiality here refers to rules designed to restrict access to information, while integrity refers to the guarantee that the information in question is complete and accurate. Availability, meanwhile, refers to an organization’s capacity to grant authorized individuals secure and reliable access to information when necessary.
Adopting the CIA triad helps healthcare organizations protect sensitive health data from being manipulated. This framework functions in line with the principle of least privilege, which stipulates that a system’s users should be given access only to the tools and information they need to do their work—and no more than that. Organizations should also be able to revoke this access when necessary to minimize the number of loopholes and openings cybercriminals might take advantage of.
This granular permissions and access management not only prevents bad actors from entering an organization’s system, but also safeguards the confidentiality and integrity of its data.
Keep Your Attack Surface as Small as Possible
A system’s “attack surface” refers collectively to the number of entry points that unauthorized users can exploit in order to access that system’s functions or data. It’s in healthcare organizations’ best interest to work toward minimizing their attack surface as part of a more general effort to tighten cybersecurity. Common strategies for doing so include, but aren’t limited to, the following:
- Run only required functions to minimize the number of services running simultaneously.
- Follow software installation guides closely and refrain from installing any tools or supplementary programs that are not required to run the application.
- Track user activity on the system. Your records should show when users log in, what services they access, and other similar details.
- Install firewalls at the boundaries of your system.
Train Staff to Prioritize Cybersecurity and Compliance
Of course, top-notch cybersecurity can’t be achieved with state-of-the-art technology alone. Healthcare organizations need to make sure that all their employees—not just those in their IT and legal departments—are familiar with current cybersecurity and compliance best practices. All employees must be familiar with the company’s security policies and take responsibility for abiding by them day-to-day. They should also know how to respond in the event of data breaches and other crises.
While ill-informed and complacent employees can rapidly become security liabilities in themselves, a well-prepared, vigilant, and knowledgeable workforce will form a solid line of defense against cybercrime. The following steps can help any healthcare organization train their employees in current best practices and develop a cybersecurity- and compliance-first culture:
- Ensure that company security policies are simple, easy to understand, and actionable. Communicate these policies companywide.
- Brief employees on how to identify and report suspicious emails, instant messages, phone calls, and other potentially illicit communications.
- Conduct regular training sessions on compliance requirements. You may opt to train your staff around once a month or more frequently if the need arises.
Solid cybersecurity and compliance strategies help healthcare organizations maintain business continuity and safeguard patient welfare. Indeed, organizations protected by strong security systems will be able to avert destructive data breaches and keep operations going even in the event of successful attacks.