How To Protect Data of Healthcare Patients

Nowadays, businesses that operate in the healthcare industry are facing higher risks than other sectors because health-related sensitive data is one of the most valuable data types for cybercriminals. The main reason why is that health-related sensitive data is worth millions of dollars in the black market. As a result, businesses in the healthcare industry become a primary target for cybercriminals, even amateur ones.

In this era, businesses can’t have poor cybersecurity hygiene, especially when the cybersecurity risks are too high. Poor security practices often lead to data breaches. These kinds of incidents can damage businesses’ reputations severely since they are handling the medical information of patients, and their data could be lost due to cyber-attacks. In this scenario, patients can be in a really difficult position because once their medical records are lost, their future treatments can be affected negatively.

Other than reputational damages, data breaches will have severe monetary costs as well. During attacks, your devices and information systems can be damaged, and repairing these technologies can be expensive. Additionally, once cybercriminals have stolen the medical records of patients, compliance authorities will apply severe penalties and fines since businesses are obligated to follow compliance requirements and secure health-related sensitive information.

For instance, if you operate in the United States, your business is compelled to secure health-related information by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In this regard, when your business fell victim to a data breach, HIPAA regulators can apply fines of up to 1.5 million USD yearly. That’s why safeguarding confidential medical data is really important. Now let’s explain the steps you should take to secure and protect the confidential medical data of patients.

1- Understand The Compliance Regulations

The first step towards securing sensitive medical data is to understand which regulations apply to your business and which compliance requirements you need to comply with. This will give you insights into what you need to do, and which actions should be taken. Evaluating where you stand is a good start, and based on your findings you can create an action plan.

2- Evaluate Your Security Infrastructure

In the second step, you should evaluate your security infrastructure to better understand how confidential medical data is secured, where it is stored, and who can access it. This assessment will help you pinpoint non-regulatory areas, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses in your security infrastructure and networks. Based on your findings you should implement additional security solutions and strengthen security across your corporate assets.

3- Conduct Risk Analysis

In the third step, you should conduct a risk analysis for your security infrastructure, information systems, and datasets. Risk analysis will help you define the degree of risks of every dataset and information system. This way, you can implement proper security measures. For instance, you can strengthen security on high-risk involving datasets, and areas meanwhile for low-security risks involving data sets you can put fewer security policies in place.

4- Encrypt Data

Encrypting confidential medical data is one of the most important security practices. In the fourth step, you should decide which type of data encryption methods you need. You should encrypt the data in transmission and at rest because even if cyber criminals access confidential medical data or possess data in transmission, they won’t be able to read it. Encrypting your data means that every single piece of information will look nonsensical, and unlogical to unauthorized individuals, and decrypting the data will be really difficult, even unachievable for most cybercriminals. That’s why if your business operates in the healthcare industry, data encryption tools are necessary rather than extras.

5- Apply Network Segmentation

Network segmentation is another important security practice to safeguard confidential medical data. In the fifth step, you should apply network segmentation to your network. This method refers to dividing a network into smaller network segments and preventing lateral movement between sub-segments. This way, you can minimize the surface areas of potential attacks because even if cybercriminals can gain illegitimate access to your networks, they can’t move to other segments. Additionally, you can apply network segmentation for corporate devices so that during a cyberattack, your business’s machinery won’t be damaged.

6- Consider Implementing Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is cutting-edge technology and enables robust security across corporate assets. In the last step, you should consider implementing this framework because Zero Trust in healthcare organizations is really beneficial and in most cases necessary. Zero Trust is grounded on the idea “trust none, verify always”, it assumes that no entity can be trusted and authentication is always required. So, it continuously demands authentication via multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on, and biometrics methods.

Additionally, it employs the least privilege access principle and gives limited access to every entity inside the network perimeter. This framework aims to secure all access points to corporate networks and enables complete network visibility by constantly monitoring the network. On top of this, it uses activity and behavior monitoring features that allow businesses to detect suspicious activities and behaviors rapidly. This way, your business can isolate all occurring threats quickly.

Last Remarks

Businesses in the healthcare industry are primary targets for cybercriminals as health-related confidential information is worth tons of money in the black market. In an era, where cyber risks are so high, your business should implement modern security solutions and measures to safeguard the confidential medical data of patients.

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