Cybercriminals continue to find ways to penetrate organizations and steal sensitive data. It is therefore critical that businesses take steps to secure their systems in order to protect customers’ protected health information (PHI). Read on to learn more about how you can keep PHI safe from cybercriminals.
What is PHI?
PHI is any information about an individual’s health that can be used to identify them. This includes things like medical records, test results, and prescription information. PHI is considered sensitive and confidential, and is subject to strict privacy laws. These laws are designed to protect patients and ensure that their health information is only shared with those who need to know it. However, there are some exceptions, such as when PHI is needed for research purposes or to comply with court orders. In general, though, individuals have the right to keep their PHI private.
How to secure PHI
Securing PHI can be a daunting task. But by following these best practices, you're one step closer to preventing a cyberattack.
1. Hold regular security training
According to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of breaches are attributed to human error, social engineering attacks, or misuse. With the healthcare industry under constant threat, it's essential for healthcare organizations to provide ongoing data security training to their employees. Data security training should be done on a regular basis, and it is important to cover all of the ways that data can be breached by hackers. It’s also crucial to educate your employees about current cyberthreats and how to spot them, and to make sure they are up to date on the latest security advancements.
2. Restrict access to authorized personnel only
Keep your files and documents safe by permitting only authorized people to access PHI. You should also grant employees access only to the PHI they need to perform their tasks to ensure that sensitive information is not shared unnecessarily. For example, accountants should not be able to see information about a patient's health condition in the same way that physicians should not have access to patients' billing information.
And in the case where employees do manage to gain access to unauthorized data for no valid reason, management should hold them accountable. Together with providing routine cybersecurity training to employees, this can help cut down the likelihood of data breaches due to internal threats.
3. Deploy strict physical security measures
Although electronic health record systems are now used widely, some healthcare organizations still prefer to use paper-based records or PHI, which they store in cabinets. If you’re one of these companies, keep your paper-based records safe by adding security cameras and deploying card entry systems to the areas of your facility where records are kept. Furthermore, you should require personnel to log out and promptly return all records with sensitive data that they access.
4. Create a secure infrastructure and network environment
Malware is a type of software that is designed to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Attackers can use malware to steal personal information, delete files, or damage hardware.
Malware is a threat to both individuals and organizations, so it's crucial to build an IT infrastructure that can withstand malware attacks. It's ideal to set up security measures such as advanced firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and email filtering software. Another way to further protect your network and PHI from hackers is by implementing network segregation and segmentation.
If malware does manage to find its way into your network, stop it from spreading further by deploying advanced anti-malware software. This software seeks out and eliminates any signs of a breach, giving you time to rectify the issue before it snowballs into something worse. And in the event of a system failure, you must have a data backup and recovery plan so that you can still attend to your customers' needs.
5. Leverage full-disk encryption
Full-disk encryption is a data security method that encrypts all of the information on a hard drive or other storage devices. The information that’s encrypted includes the operating system, applications, user data, and free space. The encryption process uses a mathematical algorithm to scramble the data so that it is unreadable without the correct key. Full-disk encryption can prevent unauthorized access to data even if the physical device is stolen or lost.
It is critical for businesses to take the necessary precautions to ensure that PHI is protected from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. If you're interested in learning more about securing your PHI and other digital assets, don't hesitate to reach out to us today.