The Effects of Ransomware on Dentistry and How to Fight Back

Kiltesh Patel
May 7, 2020 | 3 min read

On August 26, 2019, a ransomware attack was carried out against Digital Dental Record’s DSS Safe (a data backup system) and PerCSoft (a technology provider in the dental industry,) affecting about 400 dental practices.

The attack caused an estimated 9.6 days of downtime for each customer, which typically costs five to 10 times greater than the ransom demand. In addition, these businesses lose an average of 8% of data during the attack. DDS Safe and PerCSoft had to incur the cost of a forensic investigation while trying to prevent frustrated customers from switching service providers.

In November 2019, Complete Technology Solutions (a Colorado-based IT service vendor for dental practices) fell victim to a ransomware attack that impacted 100+ dentistry businesses, which suffered from outages and extended downtime, causing them to turn away patients and lose a substantial amount of income.

These are just a couple of the growing number of ransomware attacks against dental practices, during which hackers use malware to encrypts a victim's files and then demand a payment to restore access to the data.

Since 2016, there have been 172 ransomware attacks on US healthcare organizations, with 5% of these attacks impacting the dental industry. It’s reported that healthcare organizations in the U.S. paid $11.5 billion in ransom to hackers in 2019.

Also, the cost of downtime is very high. The average downtime caused by ransomware attacks is 16.2 days, costing an average of $918,000 per healthcare organization.

How Ransomeware Attacks Impact Dental Practices

Ransomware attacks prevent you from accessing business-critical data and patient information that’s essential to the operation of your practice. Even after a ransom is paid, many victims were unable to regain access to their data.

These attacks lead to costly downtime, which can last for hours, weeks, or even months — crippling many dental practices. Without a functioning system and access to patient information, you’d have to turn away patients. If patient data is compromised, you’d also suffer from a tarnished reputation and a loss of trust from the community.

Not to mention, you may incur a hefty penalty for violating HIPAA regulations. You may also have to pay for forensic investigations, data loss and recovery, as well as credit monitoring services for the affected patients.

Defense Your Dental Practice Against Ransomware Attacks

The dental industry is prime target for cybercriminals. Hackers not only attack dental practices directly but also IT providers that service these businesses so they can target a large number of dentist offices in one fell swoop.

Here’s what you can do to protect your business from costly ransomware attacks:

Most ransomware attacks start with a phishing scam that tricks employees into clicking a malicious link or opening an attachment, which downloads the malware onto their computers. If the computers are connected to your network, the ransomware can then infiltrate your local servers and “lockdown” your data.

Reinforcing endpoint security can help improve your defense against ransomware. You can do so by installing firewalls and antivirus software in all devices used by your staff to access your system. You should also provide adequate employee training on cybersecurity to minimize the chances that your staff will click on malicious links or download suspicious files. 

However, these measures aren’t the best defense. It only takes one person to click on one bad link to bring down the entire system if you use an on-premise dental management software solution and store all the data locally.

The most effective way to prevent ransomware attacks is to remove sensitive information from your local servers by using a cloud dental software solution built on secure and trusted platforms such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

Your software will be updated regularly with the latest cloud security measures while the multiple layers of redundancies can eliminate costly downtime. Reputable cloud providers also have comprehensive backup and recovery plans in place to minimize interruptions and data loss in case you came under attack.

Request a demo to see how tab32, a cloud-based dental practice management software, can keep your PHI safe and your network secure.

Book a demo now!

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