Six ransomware prevention tips for healthcare organizations

In healthcare, medical practices are in the business of treating patients for illness and disease. Some of the…


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conditions healthcare providers encounter can be prevented if a patient takes preventative steps. In a similar fashion, healthcare organizations should follow ransomware prevention tips to combat cyberattacks and data breaches. 

In the on-going fight between cyberattackers and security software firms, the most common casualties are those who don’t employ adequate protections in their systems — from small medical practices that have limited budgets and IT knowledge all the way to large healthcare organizations. With so much at risk for healthcare organizations, IT must implement proactive steps to help mitigate their risks and keep attacks at bay.

Here are six ransomware prevention tips healthcare organizations should include as part of their ongoing security strategy.

Email protections can reduce potential attacks

Small and large organizations should recognize that email is one of the preferred methods cybercriminals use to execute malicious code. This allows attackers to reach as many potential victims as possible by hiding behind phishing attempts and fake emails to persuade recipients to open an attachment. As a result, cyberattackers are able to infect a user’s machine and take control of it and hold their data for ransom. IT must ensure adequate protections and filters are applied at the email level, and users should have limited permissions to network resources to limit damage in the case of successful infections. 

End-user education and awareness

Educating users on how to determine whether an email is safe to open and review its attachment is a critical step to reduce the potential of a successful infection. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have also adopted new methods that allow them to disguise themselves behind email addresses of the recipient’s co-workers and other services to make the email look like it is coming from a trusted source. IT departments must spend more time upfront educating their end users and adopting security campaigns.

Implementing protections at multiple entry points

Protecting against attacks requires organizations to cover multiple fronts from which attackers attempt to infect and gain access to systems. As a result, healthcare organizations must invest in having the proper security tools for the following three areas: email, network environment and endpoint devices. This approach helps create a fence that plays a critical role at stopping hacking and phishing attempts.

A working backup with a tested recovery plan

In the unfortunate event that a user or organization is faced with a successful ransomware infection, one of the best defenses that an organization has is when they are able to successfully recover their data and restore all the affected information successfully. Part of this recovery exercise comes from the requirement for an organization to ensure that they have tested their DR plan to ensure a quick and successful recovery.

Employee advanced threat protection for emails and systems

For IT to feel comfortable that their systems are protected, intelligent systems that can monitor network and user activities 24/7/365 are one of the most recommended ransomware prevention tips. Today IT departments in healthcare are installing tools that offer advanced threat protection, including machine learning that analyzes all activities around a system to identify abnormal activities that could signal an infection or hacking attempt. These systems are also supplementing traditional antivirus tools that primarily rely on signature-based virus definition to detect possible malicious code based on behavior and not signature.

All systems must stay up to date

For a cyberattacker to take control of a victim’s computer, their malicious code must locate a vulnerability and exploit it to execute itself. Targeted systems include the browser, the network firewall, the operating system, smartphone platforms and device firmware. Fortunately, most software vendors are continuously updating their software and ensuring their products are secure. Although there are cases when patching occurs after an initial exploit is discovered by hackers, most companies can quickly react and offer fixes for their vulnerabilities. IT must ensure that all their systems remain up to date when it comes to patches and updates to address any potential vulnerabilities that may exist in their systems.

Investing in end-user training, security tools and continuous system monitoring is becoming the norm for IT across hospitals and other healthcare organizations. With the increasing threats and sophistication of tools used by cybercriminals today, healthcare entities cannot rely solely on legacy antivirus tools and traditional firewalls to keep them protected. The damages from data breaches or infections have serious implications, and organizations can ensure their IT has the funding and support to build their defenses against this threat by following the ransomware prevention tips above.

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