Tips For Protecting Hospitals From Ransomeware

Hospitals in the US are now looking for ways to strengthen their digital security systems following the WannaCry ransomeware attack in the UK. The ranswomeware attack on the health care system in the United Kingdom affected some one-fifth of the National Health Service providers there. This forced many hospitals to deny treatment to their patients and postpone surgeries.

The malware effectively caused widespread issues as the UK hospitals were operating on a single network, making it easy for the quick spread of the malware. It locks out people of their files, and the hackers present monetary demands for restoring the access. The hackers bait users to open infected attachments, click on infected email links, or take advantage of vulnerable or outdated systems.

US hospitals escaped the attack due to decentralization- something which is often lamented over by healthcare leaders. Unlike the National Health Service in the UK, US health providers are not linked with each other. However, still US hospitals are not fully safeguarded, though they escaped the ransomeware attack. A new vulnerability may be detected in the future to spread ransomeware or another virus.

The federal government has implemented measures at the country wide level to enhance cybersecurity, but hospitals should educate their staff to carryout cyberattack-prevention behaviors. The author of The Keckley Report, Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D., healthcare analyst, in an article has suggested four ways through which health networks and hospitals can prevent cyberattacks.

He puts it this way “Preventing it is a high priority, and, if attacked, managing it quickly and efficiently is an absolute necessity to sustain patient care and protect the reputation of the organization.” Below listed are his four tips for cyberattack prevention in hospitals.

• Regularly update the computer operating systems, internet browsers, and applications.
• Use hard-to-guess, strong passwords
• Never open attachments or click on links that come from unknown sources or seem suspicious.
• Make safe and secure backups on a routine basis.

Further, according to an article from Harvard Business Review, the healthcare industry can drive initiatives, such asupdating the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), for protecting their systems better from cyberthreats.

Health systems can also follow this tactic often employed by financial organizations- investing in cyber insurance. Another thing that health systems should adopt from the financial sector is “tokenization.” This measure used by the credit card companies can protect patient informationstored in a card-based transaction.

The article says “Given that most transactions in the healthcare sector are conducted through vulnerable hardware and software, it’s critical for providers and payers to strengthen their cybersecurity”.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report in which it revealed that the prime factors that render vulnerability to healthcare organizations are a lack of resources for providers and staffing shortages.

According to it, there has been an increase in ransomeware attack since 2016. These attacks are more threatening as they no longer target personal info alone, but the patient care providing capability of entire healthcare organizations and communities.

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