Societal investments in tech development and advancements in the consumer experience are making data as precious as a natural resource. Valuable information like patient data welcomes unwanted cyber-attacks. Learning how to protect patient data and other aspects of your business is absolutely critical to any company. In healthcare, protecting patient data becomes even more important because doctors’ offices and other facilities hold a lot of very vital, very personal information.
According to HIPAA Journal, “Phishing attacks are becoming a greater threat to the healthcare industry than any other attack vector.” Phishing is one of the most common hacking tactics used to access patient data and even slip ransomware into your system. Patient data can be used to create fake identifications and all manner of nefarious (but lucrative) items. Ransomware is a hacking technique in which stored data can be essentially kidnapped and held for ransom.
Being aware of the latest phishing trends is vital not just for protecting patient data but for protecting your entire business. Check out some of the current, most popular phishing techniques and what you can do to stay ahead of the game and protect patient data.
Social Media Infiltration and Insecure Links
Engaging with multiple social platforms on a daily basis has become essential to many businesses. Hackers have fashioned their tactics around this frequently used but often poorly protected asset. If your company has social media accounts, it is vulnerable. Depending on the object of the attack, hackers may wind up rummaging through their victim’s personal information — patient data and company data.
Using HTTPS websites has become a more common means of phishing — the use of these sites has increased by 900% since 2016. The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure,” and this is supposed to be the big difference in HTTPS (versus HTTP sites). The trick is that the links are not actually secured. When information is entered, the phishers then have access to your email address and password at best and potentially other important information.
Common attacks in this field stem from fake social accounts. Attackers send direct messages to real users, linking them to insecure pages designed to capture their login data. The more personal approach in social platform attacks makes this even more dangerous.
Important Email Mimicry
A 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found email was the primary means of entry in 96% of data breaches. In a survey of 1,300 doctors, The American Medical Association and Accenture found that eight out of ten doctors had been cyber-attacked — more than half by a phishing email.
Even the most cautious employee can be caught off guard by an email from the boss. One of the more devious phishing trends comes from an email address with a domain mimicking that of the company. The recipient is asked to respond to a link that looks like a company survey. In one fell swoop, a patient data security breach occurs, and the entire organization can be infiltrated.
Furthermore, some emails are designed to look as if they come from reputable banks and credit organizations. The included links then allow malware to start mining cryptocurrency on the infected computer. Harvesting credentials can also occur this way — “a phishing template that employs a custom web font to implement a substitution cipher (among other techniques) to render well-crafted phishing pages” allows phishers to steal the recipients’ data without leaving evidence behind.
Fake Email Attachments
Opening an attachment or clicking a link might seem harmless, but the results can be catastrophic if it comes from an unchecked source. New ransomware tactics will use these as entry points into a company’s data storage. These attachments may target work-related topics like “HR Payroll Dates Change” or “Company Card Fines.” Links might look like serious, important, work-related pages. The titles are used to overwhelm the employee, making them overlook telltale signs of fraud in a rush to open the email.
In truth, however, these links can contain viruses (like the Emotet trojan in 2019, which got sent to one million email addresses in just one day) or, again, links to unsecured sites that allow hackers into your system to access data or important company information.
Other Forms of Phishing
Every emailing platform eventually updates, generally through downloads. Disguised as an update, many employees fall prey to downloading a malicious threat. This phishing technique will lead the victims to another site with a fake login page. Instead of updating their system, it steals personal information.
Even mobile devices are at risk now. Although this is not an email scam, many phishing schemes use text messages, often linking you to the site where you can “collect your $1000 Amazon gift card!” or warning you of the “final notification regarding the USPS delivery” from a past date. You can only view these links on a mobile device, and they are pretty much guaranteed to hack into your phone and/or store your login credentials for future reference.
Phishing may make use of multiple folders so that every time the site is opened a new page loads. This keeps the site open longer and allows hackers to access hundreds — if not thousands — of pieces of information, belonging to companies, private individuals, and — you guessed it — your patients.
How to Protect Patient Data from Phishing Scams
One of the best ways to stay safe is by staying educated. Make sure to engage in cloud data security best practices, potentially even making documents about it widely available for your company. Designate a specific employee or employees to periodically read up on phishing trends and other current hacking scams. Have them update key employees or make time for periodic reports, including any employees that use a company email or access the internet.
Everyone with a business email at your company should know how to protect their email address. Keeping company emails safe is vital to protecting patient data. Make sure to take steps so all your employees know how to use their company addresses safely. Avoid signing up for newsletters from unknown sites, and pay attention to emails from people you do not know — even if their name comes with “VP” attached.
Keep Up With Cloud Data Security Best Practices
Healthcare businesses have valuable patient data, so a data backup and recovery in healthcare information is a must. Having a backup system is one of the best forms of security. Using the cloud, as long as you take the appropriate precautions, can be a great protective measure.
Companies can lose hours and smaller businesses may forfeit a whole day trying to get patient data back from a ransomware patient data security breach. Smaller companies are more likely to lose more time, which is much more expensive for them too. Unfortunately, small and mid-sized businesses are also less likely to be able to afford in-house IT security services.
Invest in a Managed IT Security Service Provider
The best option for smaller companies is leaving it to the professionals; of course, any company can benefit from a professional IT security provider. Managed IT security services providers are a great option to help you tackle security and data management and to keep patient data protected. Managed IT security services providers can also do things like provide safer email platforms, improve operational efficiency, and ensure your company is using cloud data security best practices. The best part, of course, is that it requires very little of your time!
For More Information
Tired of trying to keep up with the ever-changing methods of hackers? Let Scale. Scale Technology is a managed IT security services provider. We can take over your IT security measures and make sure you have the protection you need. We understand how important data backup and recovery in healthcare is, and we know how to protect patient data from phishing schemes, malware, and ransomware. To get started with a consultation, contact Scale today!