Walk into almost any health care facility in America, and chances are, you’ll find a variety of new technologies that didn’t exist even a decade ago. All of your personal information is now digitized, allowing you to move doctors with little to no delay, the treatment you receive is now faster and more efficient, and even payment options can be done over an app.
So, what’s the problem? One of the biggest concerns right now is security. Because medical technology is exponentially expanding, it can be hard for companies to thoroughly test new technologies for security vulnerabilities; the same goes for your healthcare records. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest concerns.
The New Security Nightmare
Medical technology is making strides in advancing healthcare all over the world, but especially here at home. While many people tout the advancements as something to be proud of, the truth is that medical technology is the new security nightmare.
Between outdated systems, private information stored in rarely-secured systems and even apps, medical information is easier to access than ever. Some healthcare systems are even using electronic health records, which record everything from your medical history to your phone number and bank account information. Cybercriminals are more and more moving towards hacking these vulnerable systems.
Hacking is an incredibly hard problem to solve in the medical industry, most likely due to the fact that healthcare providers are not well-versed in securing their technology and systems against hackers.
Hospitals are using more apps and devices that retrieve information from the web; if these devices and networks are not secured, a hacker could gain control, input ransomware, and cause severe damage to that technology and the company that runs it. We saw this very situation unfold in May with the WannaCry ransomware attack.
To add to that, not enough health care professionals are doing all they can to limit security problems; only 31 percent of professionals use encryption regularly to secure data, while a further five percent don’t use encryption at all and don’t intend to adopt the practice in the future.
Because the healthcare field deals with sensitive information, it is a prime target for hackers, who will use anything from an automated malware attack to ransomware to delete or block information from being accessed until payment has been made to the hackers.
Medical Records and Patient Data
In 2012 and 2013, CNN reported that 90 percent of all health care organizations in America had either exposed patients’ data and medical records or had it stolen in hacking attacks. Thankfully, that number has fallen since then, but the threat of having patient data stolen is still a top concern for those in the healthcare information systems industry.
With the rise of electronic health records, which make referrals and even doctor visits easier for patients, comes the rise of exposed medical records and patient data. Now healthcare programs are doing something about it: medical billing and coding schools are now teaching students how to encrypt data – an important step in protecting all medical records.
While it remains to be seen how well encryption can help keep information safe, it does help with peace of mind for patients who don’t want their information floating around on the web.
Is the Risk Worth It?
There’s always a risk when it comes to medical technology. With each new advancement, such as leadless pacemakers and electronic health records, comes the inevitability that a technology could be hacked by someone with less-than-admirable intentions. And as new medical technology arises with security fail-safes in place, so too do services and computer programs aimed at finding vulnerabilities within the technology.
But security analysts and those in the healthcare industry aren’t going to stop using technology; they’re going to instead learn more about security systems and software. From encryption to building closed networks, companies and organizations are taking the necessary steps to ensure that patients, doctors and healthcare facilities are inoculated from lax security for medical technology.
It’s hard to read this article and not wonder how secure your medical records are, and it’s a completely valid concern. However, the security industry is on the right track, developing more sophisticated security systems that focus securely on the needs of the healthcare sector, with a lot of these systems already hitting the industry and being used commercially.
So, rest easy – your information is in good hands.
To learn more about securing your healthcare records, click here.
About the Author: Rick Delgado is a freelancer tech writer and commentator. He enjoys writing about new technologies and trends, and how they can help us. Rick occasionally writes for several tech companies and industry publications.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this and other guest author articles are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.