3 Steps to Take Now to Improve Your IT Network Security
By Chris Beadle, Advantage Technologies
Cybersecurity has become an increasingly frequent topic of conversation over the last several years for many small businesses, especially dental practice owners. Data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records during the first six months of 2019 alone, according to Forbes, and in 2020 and 2021, cybersecurity breaches have continued to rise as a major concern amongst all segments of healthcare as attacks are directed more and more towards smaller and mid sized practices. In order to protect your practice and your patients, it’s imperative to ensure your office is staying on top of the latest areas of identified IT vulnerabilities.
As HIPAA regulated healthcare providers, the dental industry is acutely aware of the role IT plays in compliance through updating hardware, utilizing updated programs and patches, and having sound IT support to help ensure these continuous updates are implemented and don’t interfere with practice operations. However, one of the most overlooked and least expensive solutions to maintaining security and compliance is proper employee cybersecurity training. Below are 3 important steps you can take today to educate staff and greatly improve network security:
Employee training: It is often said that employee training may the weakest link in your office’s armor of cyber protections. This is not to imply that team members would maliciously sabotage your business (although it is a possible scenario), however, it does happen by accident usually due to a lack of knowledge or training to understand and properly identify security risks. Implement a protocol to educate every employee on best practices such as clicking unknown/suspicious embedded links/attachments in emails, knowing signs to look for regarding phishing emails, understanding the dangers of malicious links online often buried in ads or unsecure sites, and more. Quickly recognizing anything outside of the norm will go a long way in keeping your network safe.
Understanding the risk of social media and web browsing use: In the virtual world we live in today, practices utilize as many digital marketing tools as possible to build a presence online in the communities they serve. To the modern practice, outlets like social media have become invaluable. They have also become another vulnerable point of entry into your network through malware infected links. The best way to minimize accidental infections is to have one designated computer where one cyber security trained user has access to the practice’s social media. To reduce the possibility of other employees unintentionally accessing suspicious web pages or links, it is important to place controls on the other office computers to limit web access to sites not needed for daily use. Restricting these outlets and access greatly reduces the risk of the occasional innocent mistake and the potentially devastating effects that follow.
Review employee access to programs and software: Not all team members need unlimited access to things like office reporting, full functions within your practice management software, and complete patient data. Ask yourself questions like: Do previous employees still have active accounts? Do all your employees need to have access to over-write charges for previous visits? Are you monitoring who is accessing which reports, files, and patient data? Being mindful and intentional about discovering who could possibly be accessing your data and for what purpose is a crucial step to help protect your patients and maintain your data security.
Keeping patients’ sensitive information secure and protected is of the utmost concern to dental offices. These simple steps can not only keep their PHI safe, but it will greatly help reduce the chances of becoming a victim of a network breach. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take a few moments to review your own internal processes and utilize the expertise of your IT support to put measures into place. It could save you a huge headache in the future!
Chris Beadle is the Technology Consultant for Advantage Technologies in the Nashville area.