Guest Column | March 9, 2018

Keeping Health Data Secure Online

By Chris San Filippo, Hotspot Shield

Data Security

Using online systems and messaging platforms to discuss, transfer, or store patient and health data is increasingly implemented in the medical industry. Physicians and hospitals are being required to move their physical files into cloud-based storage solutions in order to release physical office space as well as the administrative burden that accompanies paper files. However, ransomware attacks and cyberattacks have become more common. Some physician offices have paid out the ransom for the safe return of their data. Due to the sensitivity of the health and personal data housed in your online cloud-based systems, how can you effectively encrypt your stored and outgoing data to prevent possible attacks altogether?

Conduct An IT Security Risk Assessment

Determining where your threats lie is the first step to knowing how to protect your data. Larger medical facilities will have an IT specialist or an entire IT department on-hand, or you can utilize a third-party IT company that specializes in medical data security in order to run security protocols and determine where security should be beefed up. The safety and privacy of medical data is extremely important to patients and physicians alike. Therefore, setting up a regular risk assessment strategy is important to knowing how to protect your data and where provisions or improvements can be made.

Enable Your Browser’s Built-In Ad-Blocker Service

Ad-blockers can help to prevent the storage of cookies and malware on your browser which could breach your security protocols. Some companies are now offering built-in ad-blockers as automatic extensions to help safeguard your privacy and online information from advertisement services. Google has also started to test a developer version of their built-in ad-blocker for Chrome users. These services will be able to automatically block ads from the sites you visit online, which will ultimately protect your data’s security by not tracking your IP address’s movements through the internet or the company’s intranet.

Use A VPN Service

What is a VPN? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. If you need a secure and encrypted service to help protect your patients and staff, installing a VPN is a great choice to make. There are several types of VPNs, and all of which take your outgoing data and channel it through an encrypted tunnel or a set of proxy servers to hide the traffic from you to the internet, making it appear as though the VPN is initiating the exchange rather than you. Encrypted data coming from the VPN can’t be read by third parties trying to steal your information. As an added bonus, many VPN providers also include anti-malware or anti-spyware in their software for extra protection. Scrambling your IP address through a VPN not only protects your computer from third party companies trying to view your data and traffic, but it also gives you the opportunity to bypass restrictions based on your particular geographical location.

Choose The Right VPN For Your Needs

Not all VPNs are the same. While some are secure enough to house critical data sets and patient information, others are less reliable and should be avoided. Choosing the VPN service that works best for you will take a little bit of research and a few trials. You want to make sure that you choose the right kind of VPN to protect your data, and to make sure that you agree with their terms and conditions. It is important to make sure that whether you are using a paid VPN service versus a free one, and vice versa, that you are choosing a service that won’t be storing your information or that take ownership over anything sent through their channels.