The healthcare industry, including various specialties like dentistry, is slowly but surely incorporating technology into daily workflows. Most dental practices have EHR/EDR software to manage patient records, practice management software to help them with daily operations, security software like antivirus tools etc. New patient data is maintained exclusively in a digital format and most clinics have also digitized their paper-based records.
Data Breaches and Phishing Attacks
Unfortunately, this digital transformation means that dental practices are a lucrative target for hackers and criminals. Data breaches in the healthcare industry have become increasingly common and continue to make headlines. Patient health data – insurance information, health IDs, Medicare/Medicaid data – is more valuable than a stolen credit card number.
Almost any type of security breach can begin with a simple phishing attempt. Scammers send email to millions of people, pretending to be from reputable organizations like banks or insurance companies. They induce the victims to click on malicious links included in the mail. The unsuspecting user enters their account credentials or passwords into a fake website, after which criminals can steal data.
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Attacks
There is no getting around it – no organization can completely prevent phishing emails from reaching users. Fraudsters and scammers use increasingly creative methods to bypass software filters. However, you can implement several measures to ensure that none of your employees fall for such a ruse.
Improve Awareness through Education and Training
Human error is the cause of the vast majority of security breaches and data theft. How can you minimize it? Security awareness training programs are one of the best tools at your disposal. Are your employees aware of how to spot phishing emails? Do they know not to click on suspicious links or enter their passwords on just any website? You might be surprised to know that not everyone understands the risks of phishing emails.
Any security program should be a continuous endeavor. You cannot simply give a presentation once a month and forget about it. You need to reinforce the lessons and make sure that everyone on the team understands the consequences. Some practices even hire consultants to simulate attacks, keeping people on their toes.
Create a Response Checklist
In spite of your best efforts, someone will end up clicking on links in emails from an unknown sender. So what is the user supposed to do when this happens? There should be a clear chain of command when it comes to incident response and handling. Create an incident response checklist that clearly highlights the steps to be taken when something like this happens. Who should the employee contact? Is there a mailbox where they can forward phishing attempts for further scrutiny? Just like a fire drill, your employees should know what to do when a security emergency happens.
Use Technology Effectively
No single application can completely protect an organization at all times. However, you can use several tools to monitor and defend your data. A combination of antivirus tools, firewalls, spam filters, and various other software can minimize the number of phishing emails that end up in user inboxes.
Just as criminals use creative methods to target hapless victims, software developers and engineers are continuously improving these defensive tools. Make sure to update to the latest versions and apply security patches the moment vendors release them.
Many healthcare organizations treat security as an afterthought. But remember that no dental practice can continue working without access to their data. Imagine if your staff has to work for an hour or an entire day without any patient information! Digital data might need different tools for protection but they need to be protected nevertheless.