Inadequate cybersecurity presents great risks to physicians, as healthcare is among the most targeted industries. Healthcare clinics and hospitals face cyberattacks almost daily.  According to tech research company Comparitech, ransomware attacks rose a whopping 470% from 2019 to 2020, with more than 600 healthcare institutions and more than 18 million individual patient records falling victim to attacks. Hackers are particularly drawn to healthcare institutions due to their often archaic security software, as well as their tendency to under-prioritize cybersecurity.

Healthcare providers are responsible for protecting patients’ medical records, which include highly sensitive information. However, medical practices often unwittingly open themselves up to cybersecurity risks. More than 90% of respondents valued both security and privacy as paramount, according to healthcare technology company MedicalDirector’s patient survey. While the prospect of updating a healthcare practice’s cybersecurity may seem overwhelming and time-consuming, it is a necessary element to successful practice management. Physicians do not have to tackle the most complex strategies from the outset, however. Rather, they can begin with a few basic steps to improve cybersecurity.

Human Error & Employee Negligence

Healthcare practices often expose themselves to cybersecurity risks simply via human error or employee negligence when confronted with scams like phishing. According to password manager NordPass, weak password management is a significant cause of data breaches, and insufficient passwords are a major source of healthcare providers offering easy access for cybersecurity breaches. The brief time it takes to establish a secure password is well worth the risk of exposing patients’ personal information to a cyberattack.

Physicians often practice unsecure data storing, which provides another avenue for cyberattacks. Most physicians do not provide encryption for patients’ computerized records, thereby setting up their practices for significant ransomware attack risks. Unencrypted records can be easily accessed by hackers, who might demand a hefty ransom from physicians while threatening to leak or destroy patient records. Unsecure data sharing is another error often seen in healthcare practices, particularly the use of email to share sensitive patient information. According to IT news site ZDNet, email is among the least secure methods of data exchange.

Outdated software often falls to the wayside on healthcare practices’ priority lists, according to MedicalDirector. However, software updates are essential in maintaining a secure computer system, offering protections like fixes and patches that thwart cyberattack attempts to access known security weaknesses. Updating software also ensures that a physician’s practice is protected under the most recent cybersecurity laws.