In August 2019, dental practice management company Digital Dental Record suffered a ransomware attack that affected around 400 customers — dental practices that process PHI of hundreds, if not thousands, of patients.
The malware was deployed to the company’s remote management software that’s used to back up client data. The files were locked, and Digital Dental Record had to pay the hacker to unlock the data. The company also had to communicate with the affected clients, facilitate contact with insurance carriers, and address other business concerns.
During this incidence, sensitive data could have been compromised, putting not only patients but also the business of many dental practices at risk!
Here’s what you need to know about ransomware attacks and how to protect your dental practice from hackers.
What’s a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts a victim's files. The attacker then demands a payment from the victim to restore access to the data.
Ransomware can infiltrate a computer system via various vectors. The most common one is phishing spams, which refer to malicious links or attachments that are sent to a victim in an email.
Once the ransomware has been downloaded and opened, the hacker can take over the victim’s computer. If the computer is connected to a network, the hacker can then infiltrate the system and seize the data stored in the local server.
There are also other more aggressive ransomware attacks that exploit security holes in software and networks without tricking users into clicking links or downloading files.
Since it takes only one employee to click on one suspicious link for ransomware to infiltrate the entire local network, dental practices that use on-premise servers to run their dental management software are particularly vulnerable to such attacks.
Consequences of Ransomware Attacks on Dental Practices
More than 1,500 healthcare organizations have fallen prey to ransomware attacks since 2016, costing the sector over $160 million. More than 6.65 million patient records have been impacted.
These security breaches compromise sensitive patient information and often resulted in hefty fines due to violation of HIPAA regulations. They’ll also tarnish your reputation, erode patients’ trust in your practice, lead to costly downtime, and even cause the loss of businesses.
In addition, you may incur expenses associated with forensic investigations, data loss and recovery, as well as credit monitoring services for the affected patients — hurting your bottom line for years to come.
How To Protect Patient Data From Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware typically targets patient data stored in local servers that run on-premise dental practice management software.
Therefore, the best way to prevent hackers from holding your data “hostage” is to remove it from your local server altogether by using cloud dental software to run your practice.
Here’s how cloud-based dental practice management software can protect your data from ransomware attacks:
- A provider that builds the software on trusted cloud platforms such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon can leverage the most secure technologies available today to store your data.
- Your data will be encrypted when it’s stored on these platforms to minimize the risk of it being stolen by hackers.
- These cloud computing providers have teams of highly-trained security experts to keep the platforms up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity protocols.
- Most cloud security measures have multiple layers of redundancies that simply aren’t available to on-premise software solutions. This helps minimize costly downtime that can impact business operations.
- Reputable cloud computing providers also have comprehensive backup and recovery plans in place to minimize interruptions and data loss in the event that they’re under attack.
Improve Your IT Security with Cloud-based Dental Management Software
By using cloud-based dental management software, you’ll be able to lower overhead costs associated with IT maintenance and protect your network against ransomware attacks. You can also rest assured that you’re adhering to the latest HIPAA guidelines so you can prevent costly data breaches.
Request a demo to see how tab32 can keep your PHI safe and your network secure.
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