Healthcare Cybersecurity: Protection and Recovery

John Lynn

Cybersecurity threats keep many healthcare professionals up at night. If your healthcare organization hasn’t yet reported any cybersecurity issues, then it may simply not be tracking them properly.

Thankfully, more and more healthcare organizations have recognized the need for a healthcare cybersecurity strategy. However, many still fall short in the execution. Most commonly, I find that healthcare organizations fail to plan for both protection and recovery of their IT assets. Every healthcare organization must create a protection and recovery strategy to address the wide variety of inevitable security threats.

Many healthcare leaders just want to throw money at their cybersecurity challenges. Although there are great tools, applications and software you can buy to guard against a breach that are essential to a protection strategy, buying cybersecurity tools is only the first step in the process.

Education and Training

To effectively defend your organization against cybersecurity attacks, you must invest in education and training for your staff. If you’ve already secured your system, hackers may then attempt to manipulate users who have access to restricted information or even to physical spaces. To prevent this social hacking, educate your users and send your own “white hat” phishing campaigns to safely expose any weaknesses and illustrate the need for caution. End users learn a valuable security lesson if they get caught sharing their credentials or other private information to an internal phishing campaign.

In my experience, most organizations have indeed invested significantly in cybersecurity. However, efforts to strengthen security and educate end users must be ongoing. One-and-done cybersecurity protections won’t be adaptable to the ever-evolving healthcare cyberthreat landscape. Guarding against breaches must be a continuous effort — one that is woven into the culture of your organization.

The Importance of a Recovery Plan

Despite all these efforts, cybersecurity breaches can still occur. This is why an effective healthcare cybersecurity strategy must also include a rock-solid recovery plan.

An IDC study found that “1 in 4 organizations have experienced unrecoverable data loss.” The damage caused by this type of data loss is often immeasurable. It disrupts your clinical workflows, potentially puts patients at risk, harms your reputation and can cost millions of dollars. But a dependable backup strategy can help your organization avoid much of this damage.

Step one of an effective recovery plan is to set up a series of backups that are connected to but distinct from the infected system. These backups should be set up such that they don’t run the risk of replicating the infection. Then conduct regular tests to ensure you can restore these backups. A backup that cannot be restored is almost worse than no backup at all.

Next, make your backups properly accessible. The passwords for the backups should be available to the right people. Plan an alternative way to access your backup if your internet connection is compromised as well. Finally, make sure your backups are securely stored. Do not spend time and money securing your production system only to leave your backups open and vulnerable to attack. Hackers take the path of least resistance, which may be through your backup system.

Protection and recovery of digital assets is becoming an essential function of every healthcare organization. And the cybersecurity threats these organizations face will continue to grow. The best way to confront these threats is to plan for both the protection and the recovery of those assets when a cybersecurity attack does occur.

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