How to Protect Your Facility from Ransomware Attacks

Healthcare facilities and networks have come under attack as of late. Hackers and cyber-terrorists have been using ransomware to hold sensitive healthcare data hostage, forcing facilities to either pay up or risk losing their patients’ data for good.

A whopping 89% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach within the past two years. If you think your facility is safe from cyber-crimes, think again. A Mid-Horizon study concluded that approximately 100% of web applications connected to critical health information are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The cost of responding to and resolving these attacks continues to rise. Experts believe the loss of data and related IT failures will cost healthcare companies nearly $6 trillion in damages in the next three years, compared to $3 trillion in 2017.

Ransomware is the most common form of malware. With these crimes on the rise, more healthcare facilities are choosing to pay the ransom, creating more incentives for these types of crimes. It’s estimated that around 23% of healthcare organizations paid some form of payment to the attackers.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your health data, use these tips to protect your facility from ransomware attacks.

Tips for Protecting Your Facility from Ransomware

  • Do Not Pay the Ransom

If your facility gets hit with a malware attack, HHS and other healthcare organizations advise against paying the ransom. This may seem like the fastest solution to the problem, but it doesn’t always guarantee results. Paying the ransom only creates more incentive for these kinds of attacks. If you pay the hackers once, there’s a good chance they will hack into your system again.

There’s also no guarantee that the hackers will release your healthcare data once you pay the ransom. The hackers may disappear with the money in hand without giving you access to your information.

  • Report the Crime

Instead of paying the ransom, report the crime to HHS and law enforcement and await further instruction. You may be hesitant to report the crime if you don’t want your patients to know that your facility has suffered an attack, but concealing these crimes isn’t the solution. Reporting these crimes to the authorities helps cybersecurity experts learn more about these kinds of attacks, so you can better protect yourself in the future.

  • Create a Backup of Your Data

It’s also important to establish a secure backup location for your files, whether it’s an additional onsite server, an offsite location, or in the cloud. If hackers get into your IT system, they will hold your records for ransom. You won’t be able to access these files without an encryption key.

With a secure backup, you can rest assured that your files are safe and secure without having to pay the ransom. It’s best to make sure the backup is completely separate from the main IT data infrastructure, so you can insulate the backup system from hackers. Your IT data system should automatically sync with the backup database, so you always have access to the latest data.

You should also streamline the process of bringing your backup data online. If your main database falls prey to hackers, you should be able to get your backup system up and running as quickly as possible.

  • Keep Employees in the Loop

Protecting your facility from ransomware attacks should be a group effort. Phishing attacks usually occur when employees click on suspicious links or emails they’re not supposed to. Keep up with the latest trends in healthcare cybersecurity and pass these findings along to the rest of your team. Ransomware is getting more advanced. Experts observed 350 different versions of ransomware in 2018, compared to 241 in the previous years. If anyone sees a suspicious email or link, they should forward it to the IT department to make sure it’s safe to open.

Staff members should also avoid conducting personal business on computers, devices and workstations. No one should be opening personal files or emails on work-related devices or surfing the web to check their Facebook or Twitter account.

Experts preach what’s known as “cyber hygiene,” which means implementing healthy digital practices that prevent the spread of malware. Employees should always think before they click.

Keep these tips in mind to protect your facility from ransomware and other cyber-crimes. One wrong click, poor data management, and out-of-date security protocols can put patient information at risk. Start reinforcing your IT data system today to prevent ransomware attacks.

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