5 Common Digital Security Threats in Healthcare

Apr 22, 2020 | Tips and Best Practices

This post is a guest contribution from Marvellous Aham-Adi, professional freelance writer and content marketer.

One key area that every organization should pay close attention to is security. It is important that both organizational data and customer data is secure. This is especially important for the healthcare industry, where there is danger of digital healthcare information getting stolen or compromised.

If not recognized quickly, a single security breach can endanger the lives of patients and compromise healthcare practices. Tightening up the security of any healthcare organization is crucial, whether it is a huge hospital or a small clinic. Platforms like FormAssembly can help organizations maintain compliance while protecting data around the clock.

In fact, a 2020 Vision report from Cyber MDX showed that there were over 40 million breaches of healthcare personal records in 2019. This is triple the number of breaches that occurred in 2018. In this article, we’ll be looking at five common healthcare security threats that the healthcare system faces.

1. Malware and phishing

Phishing is a fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity via electronic communication.

Malware and phishing combine to form one of the biggest security threats that the healthcare system faces. One way this occurs is when patients receive emails that request details of their login information—these emails may look authentic and convincing. Once the hacker has the information, they can easily log into the patient portal and change critical information.

One way to combat this is by educating patients. No reputable organization would send an email asking for the user’s login information. Be proactive when letting patients know how to protect their data.

Phishing could present a more significant problem when the hacker gets hold of a staff member’s credentials. If a hacker secures this information, they could potentially plant malicious scripts and viruses that compromise an entire system. They can also inject codes that mine the personal records of patients. Educating staff on how to recognize phishing attempts is very important.

2. Unsecured mobile devices

When mobile devices are not properly secured, it can open an access point to hackers and criminals. It’s important to require additional authentication before a staff member can log into a mobile device. For example, fingerprint or face ID scans can be used as additional security measures.

With two-factor authentication, it’s more difficult for hackers to inject malware that can leave a healthcare system’s network vulnerable.

Other problems can result when mobile devices are not deactivated after replacement or upgrades. Hackers can get access to old mobile devices and use them to gain entry to a network. The organization must make extra effort to ban login access to mobile devices that are no longer in use.

3. Online medical devices

With modern advances in technology, many personal medical devices can go online and export information to external sources. While these advances make life easier for health professionals, they can also pose many security threats.

Many times, the security and privacy features on these devices are lacking. Hackers can intercept or manipulate data as it is transferred from the medical device to an external source or data point. Hackers can even gain access to unsecured online medical devices and change how the machine functions. If this happens while the machine is in use, it can lead to potentially harmful results for patients who rely on these machines.

4. Cloud security

A report from InformationWeek shows that 80% of healthcare data is predicted to pass through a cloud service at some point by the end of 2020. It is important that security measures are put into place to protect data that gets sent to a cloud provider.

It is easier to protect cloud data that isn’t in use than protecting cloud data that is in use. This is because encrypting data that is bouncing from the cloud to different applications can be difficult. To combat this issue, hospitals should employ a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and ensure that the devices are in accordance with HIPAA regulations. Cloud networks should also have PHI encryption.

5. Outdated technology

In many instances, the systems used in hospitals are outdated and in need of upgrades. Outdated software and technology can pose a serious security threat to the healthcare system. If your organization is trying to save money by avoiding data server updates or security patches, you might end up spending more when dealing with a security breach.

It is even easier for hackers to get into outdated technology because the security protocols are not as sophisticated. Modern software has advanced user authentication, making it more difficult to breach.

Make healthcare security a priority

It is important that healthcare organizations allocate a part of their budget for IT and security. The cost of dealing with a security breach might be more expensive than putting security measures in place initially.

It is also critical to educate staff and patients on security measures and best practices that reduce the chances of a data breach. Limit the access that certain staff have to patient records, and add additional authentication methods to create an extra layer of protection.

Finally, have a crisis management plan in place for the rare instances where they might be a breach. A contingency plan increases an organization’s effectiveness when dealing with a small or large security breach. Ensure that there is an escalation plan in place for small incidents.

Learn more about FormAssembly’s HIPAA compliance and secure web form options for healthcare providers worldwide.


Marvelous Aham-adi is a freelance writer and content marketer. He has been featured in top blogs like Social Media Examiner, VWO, and OnCrawl. He teaches individuals how to start a profitable podcast, improve productivity, and grow a brand using actionable marketing strategies. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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