Cybersecurity in Dentistry: Common Problems and How To Avoid Them

Melissa LuVisi
June 3, 2021 | 4 min read

The dental industry is under attack by cybercriminals thanks to the vast amount of personally identifiable information (PII) they handle. A malicious attack can cost up to $175 per compromised patient record, not to mention the damage in reputation and patient trust that will take years to repair. 

How can you effectively protect your practice from prying eyes? Here are some common cybersecurity problems in dentistry and how you can avoid them:

Legacy Systems and Outdated Software

Outdated hardware and software often have vulnerabilities hackers can exploit to breach your system. Dental offices that use on-premise servers and software are easy targets because they often don’t have the resources required to keep patches current and implement the latest cybersecurity best practices. 

Make sure all your on-premise software is up-to-date and discontinue the use of unsupported applications (e.g., Windows XP.) To minimize exposure, replace your legacy system with a cloud dental practice management platform. Your provider will take care of all the upgrades to ensure that your data is protected at all times.

Growing Attack Surface

An attack surface refers to the sum of different points through which a hacker can breach a software environment. The increased use of mobile and IoT devices in a dental office (e.g., smartphones, tablets, digital imaging equipment) gives hackers more potential entry points to infiltrate your system.

You can minimize the risk by taking inventory of all mobile and IoT devices connected to your network, then configure them with the proper security settings. Dental EHRs are particularly attractive to hackers, so you should use a secure cloud-based system to help you protect patient data without compromising accessibility.

User Access and Management

Criminals can infiltrate your network through outdated and inactive user accounts (e.g., former employees or contractors.) The risk compounds if every staff member has administrative privileges and full access to all the information in your system. 

Scan your applications to reveal outdated accounts and close them immediately. Set up role-based access to your network and software platforms, so employees can only view or edit the information they need to do their jobs. Include revoking access and deactivating user accounts in the employee offboarding process. Also, use a cloud dental practice management platform that offers audit logs so you can see who accessed what information and when.

Phishing Scams and Malware Attacks

Hackers can infiltrate your system through social engineering techniques, such as sending staff members emails with malicious links or attachments to infect your network with malware/ransomware or trick employees into providing their login credentials. It takes only one person to click on one suspicious email to bring down the entire system.

Employee training is key to defending your practice against phishing scams and malware attacks. Include comprehensive cybersecurity training in the employee onboarding process and provide ongoing education to heighten cybersecurity awareness. Also, everyone in your practice should be aware of HIPAA guidelines to ensure compliance and data security.

Improper Device Disposal

Many dental practices are upgrading their computers and devices, which allow them to leverage digital technologies to improve efficiencies and patient experience. However, criminals can extract sensitive information or login credentials from discarded devices that aren’t properly “wiped.”

Whether you’re discarding or donating your old devices, make sure you go through the most rigorous process to erase all files and data. If you’re unfamiliar with these techniques, seek help from professional services to ensure that it’s done correctly. You should also have “remote wipe” enabled on all remote and portable devices connected to your system, so you can remove all the sensitive data in case they’re lost or stolen. 

Cybersecurity in Dentistry: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

It’s not “if '' but “when” cybercriminals will attempt to infiltrate your network. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your practice is too small to attract hackers’ attention. In fact, many smaller practices are ideal targets because they lack the resources or knowledge to protect themselves. 

Now that you understand how common cybersecurity problems can impact your dental practice, it’s time to take action and minimize your risks. While you still need to strengthen endpoint security and staff awareness, you can avoid many pitfalls by using cloud dental software.

tab32 offers a HIPAA-compliant cloud-based solution that can help ensure that all your sensitive protected health information (PHI) is safe. Learn more and request a demo to see how we can help you strengthen your defense.

Learn more now!

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