How to Protect Your Practice & Patients from Hackers
As a wellness clinician, you’re an expert at getting amazing results for your patients. You’ve gone to school, opened a clinic, and continue to serve your patients day in and day out. Your bread and butter is providing exceptional care that improves the health, wellness, and quality of life for others.
And if you’re like me, this means that there are parts of running your practice that feel a bit foreign – like how to implement new technologies or make sure your cybersecurity is up to speed.
But in this day and age where so much of what we do is online, protecting your patient and business information is more important than ever. Let’s talk first about how easy it is to get hacked and what you can do to protect yourself against it.
How Easy Is It to Get Hacked?
Think about when you last booted up your computer, cracked open an email, or logged in to a website you love. Did you:
- get in a hurry and accidentally click the link in that urgently-written email from your “bank”?
- type in one of your three go-to passwords that you always use?
- accidentally click that annoying pop-up?
Today’s hackers are tricky. There’s big money in gaining access to your computer. And once they get a foothold, they can access every computer on your network, PLUS other hardware you may have operating within your practice.
To prevent this from happening, there are three key areas you may want to consider protecting.
How to Protect Your Practice
Bolstering your anti-virus software isn’t enough. Here are three key areas that need extra-special safeguarding:
- Your modem/router. Your router is the gateway between the internet and your computer. And when your internet service provider installs your modem/router, it usually comes with a default password. Guess how easy it is to find out what these passwords are? Just go to Google, type in your model number followed by “default password.” You’ll be shocked to find your password listed for the whole world to see. Not good.
- All hardware. Because the internet is a bi-directional roadway that carries information both in and out of your practice, you want to make sure all of your technology is protected – especially if it’s connected to the internet (i.e. your printer). If it can talk to the internet, you need to protect it.
- Any software. Software companies issue updates and security patches very often. It may be tempting to put off the software updates until later because it often requires restarting your computer. But doing so can leave gaping holes in your system security, leaving you open for possible cyber attacks.
So the question is, how do you protect your devices from the hackers?
Tips to Beef up Your Security
If you need some practical steps to start protecting your practice (say that five times fast), I’ve got you covered. Here are some tips to get you going:
Change your default passwords. As soon as possible, change the default password on your modem/router to something more complex and hacker-proof. For more details on how to do this, check out podcast number 021 with cybersecurity expert (and healthcare practitioner) Jeff Evenson. He walks us through the exact steps to take in an easy-to-understand way.
Make your passwords hack-proof. Try to use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols for your password. Instead of easy-to-guess words or short phrases, make your password an entire sentence and swap out some letters for symbols.1 For more on password protection, check out this podcast.
Use your own equipment when possible. When possible, exchange your own equipment, like a modem/router, with one you purchased yourself. This will add yet another layer of protection, even from the provider themselves. Using your own hardware allows you more control over things like Wi-Fi access, providing guest Wi-Fi, and so on.
Create a detailed log of all your hardware and software. Every so often, a big news story comes out about some computer incident or data breach. How would you know if your equipment or software programs were affected? Well, by keeping a log of the hardware you own and the software that’s loaded on each device, you’ll know exactly what to look for. This will help you determine if you’re at risk so you can install any necessary patches as quickly as possible. When creating the log, make sure to include important details like the make or model of your equipment or software, how old it is, etc.
Small Steps Lead to Big Progress
I know this can feel like a lot, especially if technology isn’t your thing. If your head is swimming, and you don’t really know what to do next, here’s a super-simple breakdown:
- Log in to your internet provider online account and change the password on your modem.
- Download the hardware log (see link above) and write down every piece of equipment in your home and/or clinic that can connect to the internet.
- Download the software log (see link above) and write down the most recent software version on each device. If you don’t know where to find it, a quick internet query should provide what you’re looking for. (For example, search for “How to find software version on HP Printer 5600 series.”)
- Update any software from the parent company website (e.g. www.hp.com) rather than resellers or other random websites. These could be hackers in disguise.
Start at the top and work your way down. Be sure to schedule in some time this week to make sure it actually gets done. Otherwise, it will end up on your never-ending “to-do” list.
These small steps will help get your practice more secure and will continue to build you and your patients’ peace of mind. And that, my friends, is worth its weight in gold!
1. (n.d.). How to create a hack-proof password – Norton. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-create-a-hack-proof-password.html