By Robert McDermott, President and CEO, iCoreConnect
Cybersecurity is about more than just keeping your patients’ data safe. It’s about securing your practice and its future while building and maintaining patient trust. Data breaches can be costly, not just financially but also to your reputation. Those impacts can be far reaching and long lasting with significant consequences for your practice. Protecting your patient data is about the survival of your business.
One of the most important, and perhaps obvious, reasons cybersecurity is essential for your dental practice is HIPAA compliance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that insurers as well as medical and dental practices and providers put measures in place to ensure the safety and security of personal and private information as it relates to healthcare data.
Common Cybersecurity Dangers in Your Dental Practice
Understanding what cybersecurity threats exist is fundamental in being able to protect your practice and patient data. Two of the bigger threats include:
Fake emails and fake websites are designed to fool individuals into providing data to what they believe is a trusted source, such as a business or person with whom they are familiar. With the recent rise of “spearphishing,” cybercriminals have begun targeting specific individuals by name, title and other personal details by pulling from social media accounts and other online sources.
Both Delta Dental of Illinois and Delta Dental of Arizona reported phishing attacks within the last three years, both of which enabled the attacker to gain access to patient information.
Perhaps the most dangerous threat to healthcare right now is ransomware. Ransomware is designed to lock your systems or encrypt your data, which prevents your organization from accessing and using it until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware, and the groups that utilize it, usually enter through end user access. This may include phishing attacks to get login credentials or by taking advantage of virtual work and bring your own device (BYOD) policies. In this way, they gain access to your system with the ultimate goal of controlling it.
5 Tips for Improving Cybersecurity in Your Dental Practice
Given the threats that currently exist and their ability to evolve quickly, understanding how you can take control of your cybersecurity stance is essential.
1. Train your team
Cybercriminals capitalize on human action, so training your team is among the most important cybersecurity steps you can take. Often, your team is the front line of defense in recognizing problems, from a slow response to web applications, complaints from patients regarding issues with the website, or recognizing malicious attempts to access data or login credentials.
2. Use encrypted email
Protected Health Information should not travel in or out of your general email inbox (Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.). Nearly all data trusted to your organization should be encrypted. HIPAA encrypted email can protect your accounts from unsolicited emails, which means malicious messages will never make it to your inboxes.
3. Limit Cybercrime Access Points
The safest HIPAA-compliant email meets all five required HIPAA Safeguards, transmits across a private encrypted network and encrypts email in transit and ‘at rest’ in your inbox.
4. Be in control of your inbox
Any HIPAA-compliant email that requires you to initiate first email communication to those outside your network is the most secure way to know you will be receiving email from a trusted source.
5. Work with partners who provide and clearly prioritize strong security
As with any business partner, you want to do your due diligence. Consider their reliability and security, their expertise, and do your research. A failure on their part to secure data is, ultimately, a failure on your part.
There are a lot of measures you can take to ensure the safety and security of your dental practice and the sensitive data contained within. While no measure is foolproof, implementing risk mitigation efforts is required not just by law, but through your commitment to your patients, your team, and your practice.
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