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Protecting Your Health: Cybersecurity Tips

By Tom Seest

Is Your Health Information Safe From Cyber Threats?

At BestCybersecurityNews, we help entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, young learners, and seniors learn more about cybersecurity.

Protecting Protected Health Information (PHI) is of utmost importance in healthcare. Cybercriminals regard PHI as more valuable than credit card or financial data and thus must be adequately safeguarded.
Healthcare organizations must implement security protocols designed to safeguard patient information. These policies and processes are known as HIPAA compliance.

Is Your Health Information Safe From Cyber Threats?

Is Your Health Information Safe From Cyber Threats?

Is Your Personal Data Safe from Cyber Attacks?

Protected health information (PHI) is a type of personal data that healthcare organizations and other entities must protect. This includes medical records, payment records, and other patient details which may be kept in either paper or electronic format.
PHI is essential for many reasons, such as healthcare research and population health management. The information can also be utilized for value-based care initiatives and health insurance programs, in addition to marketing campaigns or promotions of products or services.
However, as the amount of PHI being created and stored increases, cybersecurity risks are rising. Organizations need to be aware of these potential threats and take appropriate measures for keeping PHI secure.
Cyberattacks and malware are the two primary security risks to PHI (protected health information). Healthcare organizations are particularly vulnerable due to their highly sensitive data, so they must ensure all systems are up-to-date and strong password policies are enforced on any end-user devices.
Ransomware and other types of attacks that hold systems hostage until a ransom is paid are common security threats to PHI. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are on the rise due to the prevalence of connected devices in healthcare.
These types of attacks can expose sensitive patient and employee data. To ensure an organization is prepared for these events, a cybersecurity plan that includes communication strategies and incident response retainers should be in place.
In addition to a cybersecurity plan, healthcare organizations must abide by HIPAA regulations in order to safeguard their PHI. Not doing so could result in fines and public humiliation, endangering the integrity of an organization.
To protect PHI, the most common ways to secure it are encrypting all files at rest and in transit, as well as using a secure file storage and sharing solution with smart data leak protection, advanced permissions, etc. For instance, file cloud solutions like FileCloud offer businesses highly secured locations with granular access controls so they are safeguarded from unauthorized users accessing confidential information.

Is Your Personal Data Safe from Cyber Attacks?

Is Your Personal Data Safe from Cyber Attacks?

What Qualifies as Protected Health Information under HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) defines protected health information (PHI) as any identifiable medical data that can be used to identify an individual. This includes names, dates of birth, social security numbers and other identifying info as well as billing records, prescriptions and laboratory results.
Information about a patient’s condition, treatment and finances may also be included. This data can be found in medical records and conversations between healthcare professionals and billing systems.
A covered entity, which is any health care provider or company that handles PHI or personal health records (PHRs), must abide by HIPAA regulations. These laws safeguard patients against unauthorized access to their private health data.
Health organizations must create and implement safeguards to protect their sensitive data. Furthermore, they should educate employees about how to safeguard confidential information and avoid cyber security breaches.
These safeguards include using strong passwords and encryption, protecting devices from ransomware attacks, and teaching employees the importance of keeping their data confidential.
Covered entities must abide by the law when a data breach occurs. They are required to notify HHS and any affected residents within 60 days if their information has been compromised, and depending on how serious the breach was, they may face civil money penalties and other fines.
HIPAA requires businesses to securely dispose of PHI in a way that prevents its reconstruction. Paper records can be shredded or otherwise destroyed, while electronic files can be deleted or rendered unreadable.
The law also safeguards individuals who wish to exercise their privacy rights. For instance, patients can request that their information be delivered to a designated third party such as a family care provider or self-care app on a mobile device.
The definition of PHI is not exhaustive, and there are exceptions to the rule. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume that all personal health history data and related data fall under this umbrella category.

What Qualifies as Protected Health Information under HIPAA?

What Qualifies as Protected Health Information under HIPAA?

Is Your PHI Secure? Understanding Hipaa’s Requirements

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets forth a variety of safeguards to protect patient privacy. It also lays out rules for how covered entities and business associates must safeguard PHI, as well as how to notify patients if there has been a breach.
A covered entity is any healthcare organization that receives, creates, maintains or transmits any individually identifiable health information in any format – paper, electronic or otherwise. A business associate refers to any person or entity performing services for a covered entity that could come into contact with patients’ protected health information.
Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, a covered entity cannot disclose a patient’s PHI without their consent. Furthermore, they must post notices of their privacy policies and procedures on a patient-facing website, as well as training employees on these protocols.
When a covered entity fails to fully abide by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, they could face severe sanctions. Depending on how serious the violation, fines for noncompliance range from $100-250,000 per offense and imprisonment for one to ten years.
Covered entities must also implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to keep ePHI secure. These may include securing facilities and restricting access to ePHI; using data encryption for secure storage, transmission, and sharing ePHI; as well as providing employees with training on security best practices.
Conducting a risk analysis is essential for meeting the Security Rule requirements. This process will enable you to assess your organization’s specific vulnerabilities and determine the necessary administrative, physical, and technical safeguards that will safeguard ePHI from unauthorized access.
Encrypting ePHI is a crucial security measure that can protect your organization from data breaches and help it remain compliant with HIPAA. It works by scrambling ePHI with an algorithm that cannot be deciphered by anyone other than those authorized to view it. Furthermore, using an encryption method standardized and approved by the U.S. government – like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) – is recommended as best practice.
The HIPAA Security Rule also lays out a series of security standards designed to safeguard ePHI against reasonably anticipated threats, hazards and impermissible uses or disclosures. These requirements are known as “required” implementation specifications.

Is Your PHI Secure? Understanding Hipaa's Requirements

Is Your PHI Secure? Understanding Hipaa’s Requirements

Are Your PHI Security Measures Up to Date?

Protected health information (PHI) is a prime target for hackers, making it the top priority of any healthcare organization. Whether you need to bolster security or simply comply with HIPAA rules, there are several best practices that can help your organization meet its cybersecurity objectives while safeguarding patient data.
Logging and Data Monitoring: Regular activity logging can help keep track of who accesses PHI, where it’s stored, and what happens to it in case of a breach. Additionally, this helps your organization identify who may pose a security risk to your network.
Encryption: Encrypting any device that stores or processes electronic protected health information (PHI) is an effective way to keep PHI secure. This ensures that any user with access to ePHI must provide two factors in order to utilize the device.
Clean Desk Policy: Enforcing ePHI security requires employees to delete any documents or notes containing PHI before leaving the office, helping reduce the likelihood that someone might come across your organization’s sensitive data in case of a breach.
Cybersecurity Education: Healthcare employees should receive comprehensive cybersecurity training to better comprehend how to safeguard ePHI from cyber threats and what steps should be taken if attacked. This includes recognizing threats, reporting them, using strong passwords, encryption, and two-factor authentication where available.
Microsegmentation: Separating your electronic patient health information (ePHI) on separate networks can protect other systems on your network from being accessed by attackers. This is especially crucial for organizations with medical devices connected to IT systems or general-purpose Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Invest in a data breach notification system: As required by the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, having such a system in place will allow you to quickly notify affected individuals and regulators if your data has been compromised.
Mobile device security: As smartphones and tablets have become more useful to healthcare organizations, they may also present a potential attack vector. To ensure your mobile devices remain secure and compliant with HIPAA guidelines, ensure they are password-protected.
Hackers often target mobile devices due to their ease of accessibility. Taking steps to secure your technology not only helps you remain HIPAA compliant, but it can also improve employee safety and productivity levels.

Are Your PHI Security Measures Up to Date?

Are Your PHI Security Measures Up to Date?

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