Digital health records are a goldmine for infectious malware and hackers looking to sell personally identifiable information on the Dark Web. Identity theft is real, and healthcare organizations must enable strict control policies that provide administrative, technical, and even physical safeguards to protect and secure an individual’s electronic personal healthcare information (or e-PHI).
While HIPAA compliance offers a comprehensive checklist to take care of this, there are specific other ways to protect the e-PHI that your company stores and operates with. We at Akitra are your friendly compliance experts, and in this blog, we will discuss four ways to protect e-PHI besides HIPAA compliance.
Let’s get going!
What is e-PHI?
First things first, let’s define what e-PHI stands for. Electronic protected health information (ePHI) is private, sensitive patient data that must be kept secure under a healthcare organization’s sole jurisdiction. Health information must meet two requirements to be deemed protected health information and subject to HIPAA compliance:
- The patient is personally identifiable, and,
- The information is produced, utilized, or disclosed while treating a covered entity.
Let’s focus on the security measures next.
Four Ways to Protect e-PHI Besides HIPAA Compliance
- Defend Your e-PHI Like You’d Defend Your Dignity!
Healthcare organizations and business partners with ePHI are the preferred targets for cybercriminals since patient records can be purchased on the dark web for $1000.
Healthcare firms are particularly susceptible to phishing efforts and ransomware attacks due to the importance and amount of their data. You can take precautions using IT defensive measures if you are aware of the areas where ePHI is exposed.
When IT systems are not updated, many ransomware occurrences take place. A multi-pronged strategy, including routine patching, a backup plan, and a recovery method, is the most robust defense against ransomware. You wouldn’t want to provide a ransom now, would you?
Regular software upgrades help fix security holes that hackers like to exploit. The budget should allocate time and money for ongoing security improvements and cybersecurity training. Defensive ePHI data protection includes employee training, such as simulated phishing assaults, as a critical component.
This leads us right to the next point,
- Assess Insider Threats and Curb Access to Unauthorized Personnels
One of your employees may have left your organization some time back. And if they still have access to the e-PHI on your systems, that is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
What can you do to prevent unauthorized access and subsequent data leaks? You must verify the controls, policies, and procedures that control employee access to patient data to prevent employees from deliberately or unintentionally obtaining it. When an employee turns in their credentials, access should be immediately terminated because they pose a security risk.
Besides, you should teach your current workforce never to play online games, access the Internet, or check non-work email on computers that handle ePHI. They should be aware that they should never open links in unsolicited emails.
Social engineering is another skill your employees need training in. It frequently occurs when people pretend to be janitors, IT, public services, or telecommunications specialists. Criminals choose these fields because they often have unrestricted access, and their behavior is not scrutinized. People shouldn’t have access to places containing sensitive information without proper authority.
- Secure Your Remote Access System
Insecure remote access software is one of the simplest ways for attackers to access your system and download malware. There are three primary methods for leaving remote access unprotected:
- Unmodified vendor preset usernames and passwords
A web search can quickly turn up the default pre-installed passwords on many remote access devices. If you still use the default remote access password, you’re just making it simpler for hackers to access your system.
The password and username must be different for an attacker to guess both of them simultaneously and access your system successfully. Don’t use the name of your company, and use fake usernames instead, like Kirk236.
- Restrict who has remote access to the system.
Only those whose jobs necessitate it should be given remote access. It would be best if you never divulged your remote access passwords. Setting up user privileges according to the role is one of the most remarkable ways to decide who should have access accurately. Create positions first that fit the structure of your organization. There will likely be over 20 different responsibilities in hospitals, but there will likely be fewer than ten doctor’s offices. The bare minimum of access necessary for each role to carry out its duties is then assigned. This access will determine their level of remote network access.
- Two-factor authentication is absent
It is simple for attackers to get access when only one factor (a password) is required. However, you may maintain remote access security by putting rigorous authentication procedures in place. By significantly lowering the chance of an attack, two-factor authentication tremendously assists in establishing your identity. A username does not count as one of the two factors when setting up two-factor authentication since it lacks two of the three required aspects:
- something the person alone is aware of (for example, a password);
- something the user alone possesses (such as a cell phone or an RSA token)
- something the user is (for example, a fingerprint).
- Perform a Company-Wide Comprehensive Risk Assessment Every Few Months
Every healthcare business should employ technology to carry out thorough, enterprise-wide risk management in addition to a targeted assessment. Hiring independent legal counsel and purchasing cyber insurance is also advisable for post-incidence forensic investigations.
Protecting ePHI data needs to be an organizational priority since risk management is the leading cause of Office for Civil Rights settlements. Compliance, legal, and IT department stakeholders should be included in risk management initiatives, and the board and department heads should receive regular reports. Accountability and record-keeping are required for HIPAA compliance.
A centralized location for controls, rules, procedures, and paperwork like business associate agreements, along with adhering to IT security best practices and thorough employee training, are the best ways to safeguard the growing amount of patient healthcare data.
Protecting e-PHI with Akitra!
The methods outlined above are the additional ways you can protect your e-Phi from malware and malicious hackers—HIPAA is still the golden standard of security that protects patients’ personally identifiable information worldwide.
Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our service helps customers become certified for HIPAA compliance standards, along with other frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CCPA, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes, delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently.
The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.
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