Cybersecurity is the responsibility of every executive. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from research on the global state of cybersecurity.
In 2021 alone, over 22 billion consumer data records were stolen in roughly 1,862 security breaches across the globe. The average cost of each data breach was $4.24 million, with the average healthcare data breach costing the company nearly twice that amount.
Executives in the healthcare IT space are scrambling to bolster their defenses and prevent hackers from making their organization the next target. But, the realm of cybersecurity is highly specialized and difficult to navigate for even the most experienced specialists.
This article will help healthcare executives and their IT departments understand the current healthcare cybersecurity landscape and implement strong data privacy protections in every digital healthcare solution they implement.
Implementing Cybersecurity Practices into Digital Transformation
The rising number of data breaches and the high value associated with sensitive medical data make cybersecurity one of the top priorities for digital transformation agencies like I-ology.
Malicious actors attempt to hack into a new system every 39 seconds–with the healthcare industry being the number one target for global hackers.
As a result, healthcare executives and their internal IT teams must integrate recognized and thoroughly tested data privacy standards into every aspect of their digital healthcare ecosystem.
Selecting the Best Security Methodology
The growing number of cybersecurity attacks, coupled with the rising cost associated with each successful data breach, means that data privacy is now a major financial concern.
Healthcare executives and their IT teams can save money, protect valuable medical data, and avoid embarrassing data breaches by following one of the two voluntary frameworks on cybersecurity. These methodologies are explicitly designed to assist companies that manage sensitive data to reinforce their cybersecurity defense.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NISF) Cybersecurity Framework (CF) is a voluntary data security framework created for developers that build HIPAA-compliant digital solutions that contain sensitive consumer data, such as patient engagement platforms and office software used by medical practices.
Initially released in 2014, this framework provides a robust set of cybersecurity guidelines and verifiable data privacy standards that ensure strong data protections and safeguard valuable information.
The NIST CF also utilizes a risk management approach to help organizations identify the most important vulnerabilities and prioritize cybersecurity protections according to organizational needs. This is accomplished through Framework Implementation Tiers, which describe the degree of work and effort necessary to implement a specific cybersecurity protection.
As of June 2022, the NIST is currently soliciting comments on a revision to the NIST CF framework. Once finalized, this revision will add five new CF subcategories to enhance cybersecurity protections. These are specifically designed to simplify the data privacy process and to allow organizations to identify and implement their cybersecurity needs.
HITRUST, formerly known as the Health Information Trust Alliance, is a cybersecurity consulting company that offers an additional data protection framework independent of the NIST CF.
Developed in conjunction with governmental regulators, cybersecurity professionals, and C-suite executives, the HITRUST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is a set of voluntary standards designed to provide organizations with “a comprehensive, flexible, and efficient approach to regulatory/standards compliance and risk management.”
The protocol enables healthcare compliance experts to build secure, HIPAA-compliant digital healthcare solutions that meet government regulations and thwart attacks from malicious criminals.
By integrating these requirements into the software development process itself, digital transformation partners like I-ology can build high-quality, ultra-secure web applications that meet patient needs without compromising security.
Zero Trust Network Access
One of the most important tools at the cybersecurity professional’s disposal is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). This protocol enhances organizational security by forcing employees both on-site and off to verify their identity and credentials before logging on and accessing sensitive patient information.
Originally viewed as the sole purview of the military and intelligence agencies, ZTNA has recently become standard in the healthcare industry.
That’s because this model operates on the assumption that no one can be trusted–ensuring that unauthorized users are unable to access an organization’s secure network.
This assumption is a dramatic departure from the “moat and castle” security model, which assumes that any computer connected to their organizational network is trusted and given full access. The model was a particularly weak form of protection because hackers only needed to be physically present on-site to access crucial information.
Under ZTNA, employees must verify their identity each time they access the internal network. This often includes credentials like a username and password, verification of their access level, and two-factor authentication–which will be discussed in the next section.
Importantly, each user is also assigned access levels and can only access resources that the administrator deems necessary.
While two-factor authentication has recently seen a surge in popularity in consumer electronics and websites, the technology is only now becoming standard in digital healthcare solutions.
Multi-factor authentication is so important because of the inherently weak nature of self-created passwords.
Research has found that 10% of people use the same password for every account–with 17% of people admitting that their data had been breached in the past twelve months. Given the poor protections offered by traditional passwords, two-factor authentication is an easy choice.
The technology works by forcing the patient to verify their identity twice to gain access to the system.
For example, many providers send the patient’s cell phone a text message with a unique code after entering their password. This prevents hackers who have deduced their password from accessing their account without physically possessing their cell phone. Healthcare administrators and their IT teams value the protection that this two-factor authentication offers.
Patients love this option as well. An estimated 70% of consumers prefer to use passwordless multi-factor authentication logins, rather than traditional password-driven login approaches.
Robust Software Testing
The best digital transformation agencies practice rigorous testing before implementing their digital healthcare solutions. This is vitally important because quality assurance testing is the stage of the development process where most cybersecurity weaknesses are discovered and fixed.
One of the most effective ways to ensure data compliance during development is to test data encryption as a part of the strategic security testing process. This will quickly find vulnerabilities in the encryption process–one of the most common weaknesses sought after by hackers.
Developers should also set up robust data and application rules. These rules are assigned to every employee in the organization–and they dictate what data and software they can access, what files they can download, and prevent those without legitimate needs from finding sensitive medical data.
While healthcare organizations are scrambling to implement user-friendly patient engagement platforms that improve patient satisfaction and reduce administrative costs, data privacy and cybersecurity must remain priorities during the software development process.
Data privacy remains so important because the healthcare industry is the number one global target of hackers, with sensitive medical information fetching a high price on the dark web.
Executives and in-house IT teams can protect sensitive information by integrating internationally-recognized cybersecurity standards into their software development projects, and by implementing simple protections like ZTNA and two-factor authentication.
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