While many of us may not really care too much if we overstep a few HIPAA regulations because we’re too busy trying to keep our business afloat, we often forget that all security risks are NOT created equal. While some HIPAA regulations may simply protect very minor data leaks [yes, keeping patients safe is definitely your goal, but errors happen], big ransom attacks may cause your business to STOP.

ransom-virus

The biggest impact of a ransomware attack? On your medical billing. Without the flow of bills going out and payments getting processed and coming in, how in the heck are you going to pay for your staff and equipment?

With a ransomware attack, will you be able to continue to treat patients? Or will you start having to turn them away because you don’t have their records and don’t want to risk malpractice because your notes aren’t all where they should be (they all are encrypted from that nasty attack that just hit!).

Today I want to discuss why cybercriminals are using ransomware and how your healthcare offices, but this applies to ANY business, can protect themselves from the next ransom attack.

The ransomware economy has evolved—like any market, the ransomware economy has grown and evolved in response to how users react to infections. Because businesses have historically paid hefty ransoms to get their data recovered from an attack, more and more ransomware is being developed every day.

What criminals understand is that businesses—but especially healthcare businesses—need their data ASAP to function. Many make emotional decisions to pay ransoms to get their data back at any cost.

Ransom attacks have recently evolved to threaten to publish encrypted files if ransoms are not paid—to pressurize the likes of healthcare businesses that have special obligations to keep patient data secure.

Software vulnerabilities are being identified at an astounding rate—the software that you are using right now—maybe your Windows operating system, your EHR software or even something as seemingly benign as the application you installed to print on that new fancy printer—might be all targets for cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals are scanning networks for known vulnerabilities (vulnerabilities that companies like Microsoft, Google and Adobe are publishing with fixes) and are penetrating and infecting networks at an alarming rate.

The reason for all of these infections? Healthcare businesses (or rather their IT Support) are failing to patch (and test) their networks, leaving businesses like yours vulnerable to ransom attacks. Your IT Support needs to make sure your systems are patched (and that patches are tested to ensure that the patch actually is working). This means (1) cataloging ALL of your software and operating systems, (2) daily checking for security patch releases and (3) applying and testing patches on your network. That’s a LOT of work for just one or even a couple of guys to do consistently while having to deal with all of the other user problems eating up their time!

[Note: Dynamic Edge clients should be rest-assured that patches are applied and tested when they are released (we have a dedicated team of security specialists making sure your networks are protected).]

Businesses lack recovery plans—another reason why ransomware is SO successful in healthcare, is most IT departments or support fail to plan ahead. When a virus attacks the ENTIRE network, most IT Support react without a clear plan to move ahead, recover files and get your business generating cash flow to keep it moving forward.

Without a tested recovery plan that helps you detect if everything is working properly (and updated when new or changing security threats enter your security landscape) you may risk attacks that leave your business down for WEEKS while an untested restore process is underway. Think of your patients being told that they can’t be treated for weeks. How will that affect business?

Aging and outdated infrastructure—many IT Support companies will simply give you the lip service you want to hear. If you hear things like “we can do that” without ever getting any pushback, there’s likely something wrong.

Many IT Support companies just want your business and won’t get to the brass tax because they don’t want to rattle the cage. When IT Support companies assure that they will support older infrastructure, old operating systems and outdated software, what they aren’t telling you is behind the scenes they are simply crossing their fingers hoping everything will continue to work.

Cybercriminals are especially in tune with scoping out networks using outdated servers (such as Windows 2008 [link]) or operating systems. It is really essential that your business upgrade your infrastructure to close security gaps that may keep your business from staying in business if a cybercriminal were to ping your network.

Lack of user security training—I know that user training might seem like tedious busy work, but the fact is that most of your users have no clue how to detect the latest phishing scams and have no idea what simple steps they need to take to ensure your business doesn’t become the next ransomware victim.

Getting annual training (which I might add is a HIPAA requirement) is an important part of keeping your organization secure from cyberattacks (nearly 98% of phishing attacks nowadays are directed at ransomware infections).

We train users regularly on site at live healthcare cybersecurity training events (or through webinars every other month). Are you interested in our next webinar? (Ask us to sign you up!)

Your business doesn’t have backups figured out quite right—while many IT Support teams ensure you that your backups are working, they NEVER actually check them. Regular tested backups are a key component to making sure your business will be able to recover if a cyberattack (or any other form of disaster) were to strike.

Without good backups to recover from, your business may have lost ALL of its patient records. That means no billing, not patient care, no cash flow, NOTHING. You might as well shut the doors now if your backups aren’t working!

No cybersecurity assessment—most healthcare businesses fall to “this will never happen to us” syndrome. But the problem is, cybercriminals are seeing healthcare as more valuable targets than ever because they aren’t keeping patient records secure and patient records are worth big bucks on the Dark Web.

By overcoming the “never to us” mentality and getting an annual 3rd party cybersecurity assessment, many healthcare businesses are becoming less-likely cyber targets and better protecting themselves from unplanned downtime and outages. Malware and cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated and advanced. Is your cybersecurity keeping up? Contact Us TODAY for a network security assessment.