With the world facing a global healthcare crisis like nothing we’ve seen for a century as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives, you’d think this would be the predominant industry concern right now. Unfortunately, though, 2020 also proved that black-hat hackers aren’t put off by a global virus problem and can become even more active.
Hackers Targeting Healthcare Data in Droves
The healthcare industry has been targeted by cybercriminals for many years, with reports showing that almost 250 million individuals were affected by healthcare data breaches from 2005 to 2019. However, this trend continues to rise.
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This situation has much to do with the fact that more patient details get stored online each year. Plus, with increasing numbers of smart devices used in the sector, not to mention ever more third-party applications, many people working from home in insecure ways, and more healthcare information being shared, this gives hackers other motivations to try to break in.
Analysis from CI Security indicates that healthcare data breaches went up a whopping 36 percent in the second half of 2020 when over 21 million records got breached. This was a considerable increase from hacks in the first half of the year.
Plus, hackers use multiple strategies, many of the complex, sophisticated, and long-term. For example, some of the biggest healthcare breaches in 2020 involved techniques and issues such as ransomware attacks, hacks on third-party vendors, break-ins of appointment scheduling applications, laptop theft, the improper disposal of patient records, email system breaches, and phishing scams.
As a result, we must all take steps to understand common threats and protect our patient data – and all the other personal information linked to it – from prying eyes. Here are some ways you can stay safer.
Be Careful with Apps
Many of us use third-party apps to help manage and track our health and related stats. However, these applications aren’t always the best thing for our security. Some products don’t take as much care to protect user data as they should and may not do the right thing regarding client privacy.
Therefore, always carefully read the terms of service and privacy agreements that arise with apps to understand how much data is collected and if and when it’s shared. Some companies you grant access to have contracts to share details with unnamed third parties.
Plus, if another firm acquires the app company, the privacy guidelines could vary without you realizing it. Don’t just blindly believe that those making and running apps always have users’ best interests at heart. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask all the healthcare providers you visit in person for detailed information about how they store and use your data. You have every right to understand how they protect patient privacy.
Protect Yourself Online
These days, much of our health data gets shared online when we schedule appointments, sign up as new patients, and otherwise provide personal information to various practitioners and departments. To protect our details, then, we must do what we can to stay safe when online. For example, use quality antivirus software that is comprehensive and provides protection against numerous threats. Choose a product that covers ransomware, spyware, spam, and other malware.
Plus, password-protect your modem so cybercriminals can’t use your internet connection to break in and steal or view data. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to share personal information either. It’s necessary, too, to use strong passwords on all your devices, programs, and online accounts so hackers can’t easily gain access.
Choose codes that are at least eight characters long and made up of a good mixture of symbols, upper-case and lower-case letters, and numbers. Update your passwords every so often and use different codes across different gadgets and accounts, too, for additional security.
Keep Software Updates
Developers release new versions of their software not only when they add features but also when they update products to close security gaps. As a result, you need to keep all the software programs you use up to date at all times. Install the latest security software offerings, firewalls, operating systems, browsers, apps, plugins, etc.
These are some of the critical things you can do to keep your healthcare information away from prying eyes. Also, be wary about the kinds of details you share about yourself on social media sites and other public forums, or with people who contact you via email or phone, etc., asking for data.
Most legitimate healthcare providers will never tell you that you must share private data online or over the phone without verification. Remember: it’s critical to protect yourself because you can’t guarantee that others will do that for you.