Healthcare has evolved dramatically in recent years, and the progress that has happened looks like something out of a science fiction novel. Health data used to be housed in bulky manila files, but now many individuals use internet portals to view their medical history and lab reports.
Whilst the amount and accessibility of data is beneficial to patients, it is much more beneficial to hackers.
The security challenges to our most sensitive data are increasing as the healthcare services advance with new laws and technology. Below are five of the most significant data security vulnerabilities in healthcare in the digital age:
- Electronic health records and healthcare data transfers
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was approved as part of the 2009 Recovery Act. HITECH promotes healthcare professionals to use electronic health records (EHRs) for patients and health information exchanges (HIEs) to facilitate the sharing of patient data. Any patient who has had to transfer blood work from their primary care doctor to, for instance, their gastroenterologist will understand the value of HIEs (it’s remarkable that the fax machine has lasted until 2015). A network that keeps significant amounts of medical data distributed across numerous providers, on the other hand, offers an appealing target for data thieves. To obtain people’s health history, you no longer need to sneak into a doctor’s office and flick through actual files; all you need today is a lack of moral guilt and some hacking expertise. While HITECH encourages the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchanges (HIEs), it also enhances a patient’s rights to privacy under HIPAA and places a new responsibility on providers to remain compliant and secure health information. For instance, whenever there is a breach of “unprotected” (unencrypted) PHI (patient health information), providers must tell patients. Encryption has become the rule of the land as healthcare data moves increasingly to the virtual world.
- Impedance in adoption of new technology by user mishaps
Patient user mistake is another healthcare information security risk that EHRs face. Your medical privacy is in your control once you’ve accessed your test results through your provider’s portal. If you save your information in unencrypted cloud files or transmit your results to your mother through email, you make it easy for a hacker to gain access to your most private information. While HIPAA regulations apply to providers, users aren’t often as careful. Ensure you’re adopting best approaches for healthcare data security, such as being aware of what you save where and employing strong encryption whenever feasible, even in your emails.
- The growth of “hacktivism” and hackers
In February 2022, Logan Health Medical Center had stated that one of the hospital’s servers was the subject of a very sophisticated criminal assault. Certain employee and patient data were leaked as a result of the incident. After gaining access to a computer network, a cybercriminal can see and delete any data stored on the hacked servers. While most organizations can determine which files were accessed in the event of a data breach, they may not be able to determine which files the hacker really visited or whether any data was taken.
- Cloud and mobile technology use in healthcare
How prevalent is cloud computing in healthcare? So much so that it is expected that 80 percent of healthcare data would “travel through the cloud at some point in its lifecycle”. Patient data is exposed to the vulnerabilities of the cloud and personal smartphones as a result of the expanding business of healthcare mobile apps. Although HITECH requires the encryption of PHI (Protected Health Information), encryption in the cloud is a sensitive topic. While encrypting data at rest in the cloud is very straightforward, encrypting data in use — that is, data that is being utilized by an application rather than lying in memory — is significantly more difficult. To guarantee that their usage of cloud and mobile technology does not violate HIPAA, healthcare institutions must be careful with their safety and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) regulations.
- Obsolete technology in Healthcare
Managing a hospital isn’t relatively affordable, and when you’re focusing on the latest MRI technology or hiring more employees to meet rising demand, IT budgets might be overlooked. As providers withdraw support for your IT systems, including critical security updates, end-of-life (EOL) software and infrastructure poses an existential threat to healthcare data security. Although buying a new server might be costly, it’s far less expensive than facing the consequences of a data breach.
Thus, Healthcare professionals are considering how to incorporate cutting-edge techniques into their clinics without violating HIPAA or endangering patients. Data encryption is one option to ensure safety against the increasing threats.
Why the use of Encryption is advisable for Healthcare Professionals
Encryption in healthcare must be effortlessly incorporated into the routine of anyone who handles PHI for it to be effective. Fortunately, there is an email client-side encryption technology called Canary Mail that makes sending HIPAA-compliant emails a breeze. Canary Mail, unlike most other solutions on the market, is an application that is beautifully designed and feature-rich with cutting-edge PGP security.
Canary Mail has:
- Seamless email encryption, similar to how WhatsApp does it for chat
- Productivity-enhancing features such as read-tracking, snooze, follow-up reminders, smart bulk mail handling, and smart inbox filters, optimized for iOS
- Natural language search which works on emails, attachments, and contacts
- Minimal server footprint, with the option to store zero personal data on 3rd party servers
- Universal IMAP support, including Gmail, Yahoo, Office 365, iCloud, FastMail, etc
- A beautiful design and user experience that makes dealing with today’s email volumes as effortless as possible, especially on the iPhone, but also optimized for iPad.
Canary lets you send encrypted emails via your favorite email provider, including Gmail, Yahoo, Office 365, iCloud, or any other IMAP account. You can even send PGP encrypted emails from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, to any other PGP user, who may or may not be using Canary. With end-to-end encryption, your provider is no longer relevant – the emails won’t be readable on your provider’s web interface. This means that even if an intruder gets access to your Gmail account, all they’ll see is garbled text.
Interested in seeing how simple it is to implement client-side encryption? Try Canary for Free (put Canary pricing link https://canarymail.io/pricing.html) and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that every email you send is safe from intruders.