Ransomware attacks have always been a threat for medical practices and healthcare providers need to find out ways to protect their practice from these cyber-attacks. Recent studies revealed that these attacks have been increasing in the United States and have cost $160 million since the year 2016. More and more hospital systems embracing and deploying Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software systems means there’s always a threat from cyber attackers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have urged physicians and hospital systems to adopt telemedicine EMR software systems to provide remote care to patients. Relying on technology and digital healthcare tools means that cybersecurity becomes the top priority of healthcare organizations and doctors. Patients’ health records need to be protected and secured round the clock and there are a few tips for clinicians to make sure their medical practice is protected.

COVID-19 and Cybersecurity

Cyber-attacks and ransomware attacks have been on the rise and have increased by 60% between February to March 2020 according to cybersecurity firm Bitdefender. It was also reported that 26 healthcare providers have been attacked by ransomware gangs in the first five months of 2020.

The aftershock of a security breach can be problematic for both physicians and patients as the provider’s reputation can be questioned and regulatory agencies might have to step in. To avoid all these inconveniences and ensure protection and avoid ransomware risks here are certain steps practices can take.

The 4 tips to avoid ransomware attacks

  1. Confirm IT compliance – It is crucial to follow-up with the IT security framework including, NIST or HITRUST. Your software system needs to be HIPAA Compliance to protect health data from breaches and attacks. An IT framework will also offer guidance to your medical practice on risk management.
  2. Perform regular data backups – Ransomware attacks can be a grave problem as it becomes almost difficult to recover the stolen data from your system. For this very reason, practitioners need to perform consistent data backups that protect your practice from ransomware threats and also protect against any technical failures. The modern backup technology makes the process simple and is strongly encrypted to protect files from potential attackers and allows for quick recovery of patient records if there’s a ransomware attack.
  3. Install security – To stop the source of attack before it spreads throughout your computer and software system it is advised to set up an anti-spam to block messages from unauthorized and dubious sources. You should also make sure that the network firewall is in place and install anti-virus software on your server. By installing security you will make sure that data in your system is safely locked.
  4. Assess the risk and have a contingency plan – Protecting your practice from cyber threats is an on-going process as you rely more on digital tools to extend care amidst the pandemic. It is important to perform assessments to check your vulnerability. It is preferable to conduct these assessments at least once a year.

Moving ahead

Relying on technology has its benefits and once you prioritize patient security then things won’t get out of hand and the damage can be less detrimental. Hospital systems are also using AI-enabled security tools to detect any suspicious activity by using algorithms it is good to check up with your software vendor how they are using machine learning technologies in the security and protection of sensitive data.