How To Identify Cybersecurity Threats in Your Dental Practice

May 13, 2021 | 3 min read

Dental offices are a prime target for hackers. As a small business, you have limited resources to prevent attacks. As a healthcare provider, your system handles personal data that’s highly valuable to cybercriminals. 

You have a double whammy on your hand, but it doesn’t mean you should just throw in the towel and cross your fingers! There are many ways you can strengthen your IT security, and the first step is to know where you may have security problems so you can use your resources cost-effectively to plug the leaky bucket.

Learn how tab32 can protect your dental patient data, today!

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The Most Common Cybersecurity Threats That Impact Dental Practices

As the saying goes, “Know thy enemy.” You can better guard your practice against attackers when you know what you’re up against. Here are the most common types of attacks you should look out for:

  • Malware: Including adware, ransomware, scareware, spyware, viruses, and worms, malicious software can harm a computer, breach a system, and corrupt or steal data.
  • Phishing and social engineering: Cybercriminals send phony emails, which trick your employees into sharing login credentials so they can access sensitive data in your system.
  • Spear phishing: A targeted phishing attack in which a hacker sends highly specific emails to users with administrative privilege or decision-making powers.
  • Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack: Hackers intercept communications (e.g., emails between administrative staff and patients) to steal information.
  • Trojans: This type of virus disguises as legitimate software. When an employee installs it on a computer, it gives a hacker access to your system and sensitive data.
  • Ransomware: This malware blocks you from accessing your own data and files until you pay a ransom to the hacker. 
  • Connected devices attack: Malicious actors can exploit the wireless connectivity of your internet of things (IoT) medical devices to infiltrate your system and steal data.
  • Mobile malware: Hackers can breach your system via malicious apps or wifi when your staff accesses your system with their mobile devices without the proper security configuration. 

How To Identify Cybersecurity Problems in Your Dental Practice

The next question is, how can you find out if your system is vulnerable to these threats? How can you pinpoint the risks so you can invest your resources cost-effectively? 

First, you should conduct a risk assessment to identify and document the most vulnerable assets in your system. For most dental practices, it would be patient data that contains personal information.

You should have a simple idea of what information you collect, how you’re storing it, and who has access to it. You should also know how you’re currently protecting the data, securing your devices, and protecting your network, emails, and other software applications.

While the security of your software is important, don’t overlook the hardware aspect. Besides taking inventory of all the devices that can access your system, make sure on-premise servers are secure. For example, who has access to your server room? Is it locked after hours? 

Also, evaluate your endpoint security. If employees are using their personal devices to access your network, you should enforce a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. You should also implement two-factor authentication for logging into your system and have a standard process to wipe all your devices before disposal.

There’s a growing number of tools you can use to scan your network and take inventory of all the services that you’re running. You can see if the software versions are up-to-date and identify known vulnerabilities.

If you don’t have the in-house IT resources to run a risk assessment, consider hiring a third-party consulting service to conduct penetration testing to gauge the resiliency of your system and identify where you need to make adjustments.

In addition, review your backup and recovery plan and undergo a business impact analysis to see how a breach may affect your practice from a financial, operational, and reputational perspective. This can give you a clear picture of how an attack can affect your practice and how you can prioritize resources in your business continuity plan.

Improving Cybersecurity In Dentistry

For most modern dental practices, patient information is stored in the dental practice management software. As such, it should have all the necessary security measures in place to protect sensitive data from prying eyes. 

Using a HIPAA compliant cloud dental software platform can ease the many cybersecurity risks faced by dental practices today. From two-factor authentication to comprehensive backup and recovery, you can have peace of mind that your data is well-guarded.

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