Why hackers target healthcare data and what you should do to protect it: 9 takeaways

Senior Vice President of Business Technology Solutions Harish Pai shared his thoughts, in Data Informed, on why patient data is so valuable to hackers, and what healthcare providers can do to make sure their records are secure. 

Here are nine takeaways.

1. Mr. Pai said as technology develops and devices continue to transform patient care, data fluidity between cloud-based devices makes security a top concern.

2. The personal nature of the information along with the data's long shelf life makes patient records one of the most valuable resources to hackers. The hackers can use the information for identity theft and fraud.

3. The biggest cause of data breaches is when data is relayed over the cloud, from the user to the physician or vice versa, to the servers it is stored on. Hackers need to exploit only a single vulnerability to bring a network down and compromise patient records. The Office of Civil Rights under Health and Human Services reported more than 113 million medical records were compromised last year.

4. Mr. Pai said if a data breach occurred at this point, that is where payers and physicians will be hardest hit.

5. An emerging danger facing physicians and payers is ransomware. Ransomware is a virus that installs itself on a system and blocks access to a computer until a sum of money is paid. The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology said "ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations will wreak havoc on America's critical infrastructure community."

6. While patients risk personal data hacks, backlash from the public and government will fall on payers and providers. The cost of securing that data, outweighs the cost of lawsuits that'll arise from the breach, Mr. Pai said.

7. A 256-bit AES encryption platform to ensure all data is backed up and exchanged safely and to standard is what Mr. Pai recommends. Having a company to backup the data is an easy way to ensure it is safely encrypted.

8. Biometric authentication technologies are another safeguard because of the need for a person to confirm their identity. It can be used to help control access to lab results and records.

9. Hospitals, payers and providers should develop not only preventative steps to keep hackers out, but also an action plan in case of a system breach. An action plan should have step-by-step procedures for both pre-breach and post-breach. They should actively reference past breaches. Having trained employees is something Mr. Pai said is one of the most important steps to ensure healthcare data is safely guarded.

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