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Healthcare Cybersecurity: Following HIPAA Regulations May Not Protect You
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Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on February 1st, 2017

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Healthcare Cybersecurity: Following HIPAA Regulations May Not Protect You

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Make no mistake: Regulatory compliance in the medical industry is a necessary component of healthcare cybersecurity. Healthcare IT professionals would be highly ill advised to neglect any efforts to ensure full compliance with HIPAA regulations. But when it comes to implementing a comprehensive, organization-wide cybersecurity plan, compliance is just one aspect. In fact, organizations that make the mistake of equating HIPAA compliance to full healthcare cybersecurity are putting themselves at serious risk.

In order to truly protect your medical facility from the range and depth of cybersecurity threats out there, you need to do more than just align your practices with HIPAA law; you must develop a protection plan that safeguards your institution, your employees and your patients at levels of cybersecurity that go beyond legal compliance.

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Resisting a False Sense of Healthcare Cybersecurity

Sure, you may be passing compliance audits with flying colors and following through on all the necessary controls and documentation to meet HIPAA standards. In fact, your efforts put your organization in full compliance with the law and protect you from any legal ramifications. But that doesn’t mean they protect you from the span of harmful cyber attacks to which the healthcare industry is so vulnerable.

Real, effective healthcare cybersecurity goes beyond compliance. A focus on HIPAA is a good thing, as it alleviates the potential of facing significant penalties. However, there are some security risks that involve other factors beyond theft or leakage of patient data and that can lead to disruptive or devastating outcomes. A ransomware attack, for example, could render your files inaccessible and halt operations, or it could cost your organization a huge sum to regain functionality.

Don’t succumb to the false sense of security that sometimes comes with maintaining HIPAA compliance. Instead, integrate your HIPAA strategies with a much larger healthcare cybersecurity plan that truly prepares your organization to face the multitude of threats in the medical arena.

Looking to Other Industries for Guidance


Every industry has its own considerations when it comes to cybersecurity, but you’d be remiss in thinking that hackers are putting a lot of emphasis on industry-specific nuances. They don’t care about the industry; they only care about the effectiveness of their hacking efforts. So it should be no surprise that they apply may of the same strategies whether they’re attacking a healthcare organization or another type of enterprise.

That’s why it’s a good idea to adopt security practices from other industries, like retail and finance. Learn from the strategies and technologies that are used to thwart costly attacks in these areas instead of limiting your approaches. You’ll be in a better position to formulate a broader, multifaceted plan that protects your organization on many levels, not just the compliance one.

Forging a Proactive Approach to Healthcare Cybersecurity

As you take cybersecurity cues from other industries and formulate a comprehensive plan to protect your healthcare organization, make sure that your file sharing processes integrate the following proactive tactics:

  • Monitor your connections
  • Detect suspicious activity
  • Blacklist intruding IP addresses

Intrusion detection and prevention are paramount when it comes to healthcare cybersecurity. Unless you’re implementing file sharing practices that utilize these security measures, you’re not in a position to thwart simple intrusion attempts before they become fully executed cyber attacks that pose harm to your organization and your patients.

FTP Today, for instance, has proprietary intrusion detection and prevention heuristics to monitor, detect and instantly blacklist offending IP addresses. The blacklist is then distributed to our entire network of servers within a couple of minutes. We also feature industry-exclusive controls at the site level, including functionality to decide which protocols are active (FTP, FTPeS, FTPS, SFTP and HTTPS) as well as the ability to restrict site access by country. On a user level, there are controls to require individual users to connect from a specific IP address and to force them to connect over a certain protocol. 

Expecting the Unexpected: How to Brace for an Attack

With the proper proactive plans in place, your healthcare facility has a better handle on preventing cybersecurity attacks. Even so, you must prepare your organization to deal with the aftereffects if an attack is not successfully stopped. This is when regular file backups become so crucial.

Make sure that part of your cybersecurity effort involves full and incremental backups -- and not just locally. Choose a file sharing solution that enables you to write data in more than one geo-location so as to create a series of redundancies that help protect your critical files and healthcare information. Additionally, ensure that all backups are encrypted both in transit and at rest. 

Understanding the Risks in Today’s Healthcare Cybersecurity Landscape

“A report by credit firm Experian predicts 2017 will even be worse than 2016 for the healthcare industry as more attackers recognize the value in rich medical record data. Personal health information is 50 times more valuable on the black market than financial information. Stolen patient health records can fetch as much as $60 per record.” (HIT Consultant)

This outlook is not good news. It should prompt your organization to take a careful look at your cybersecurity measures and make the necessary efforts to protect your data -- beginning with regulatory compliance and extending to a full prevention and preparedness plan.

Each and every day, your healthcare organization handles essential and sensitive information. As files and medical data are stored and shared, it is vital to ensure the strongest protections for privacy and security. Otherwise, you’re at risk of facing both serious noncompliance penalties and cybercriminal activity that could obstruct your operations. Technological advancements in the healthcare industry have made the management of patient health information easier than ever before, but you must implement processes and tools that adhere to strict compliance regulations AND that make comprehensive cybersecurity a top priority.

Do your healthcare cybersecurity efforts both meet HIPAA requirements and go beyond compliance? Share your comments below, and download our free HIPAA Readiness Statement to ensure your file sharing solution meets regulatory standards.

HIPAA compliant file sharing

About Martin Horan

Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.

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