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        Top Cybersecurity Threats to Your Dental Practice and How Managed IT Services Help

        Dentist manages cybersecurity 491427986
        Most modern businesses, including dental practices, don't think twice about the investments and measures they need to protect their assets. Often, that means the tangible items, like inventory and equipment, that enable them to conduct business on a daily basis. However, for any dental practice, your most valuable asset is your data. From providing superior care to ensuring long-term patient relationships, healthcare data is the backbone of your dental practice. Not only is your data valuable to you, it is also a coveted asset by cyber criminals. Unfortunately, too many dental practices and organizations overlook the importance of security. To do so is not just risky, but also costly.

        Protecting your data doesn’t have to fall on your already overwhelmed team. In fact, there are proactive measures, and assistance, to help you build the strongest security stance possible, protecting your patients, your practice, and your data.

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        Why Dental Practices are Security Targets

        Over the past few years, cybersecurity and government organizations alike have warned dental practices and dental organizations of the potential for cybersecurity attacks. While those attacks have varied in methodology, the principle target remains the same: data.

        Like many healthcare providers and organizations, dental practices rely fairly heavily upon electronic health records (EHR) which contain private and sensitive personal information. That Protected Health Information (PHI), as well as, potentially, credit card or banking data, is valuable to hackers who are looking to either use or sell that data on the dark web or hold your dental practice data for ransom.

        Further, many dental practices, especially smaller ones, pay little to no attention to cybersecurity. As a result, many small practices leave themselves, and their patient data, vulnerable to attack. However, believing one’s practice is too small to be attacked is precisely what makes them a great target.

        While providing dental care is your primary focus, ensuring the privacy of your patients and security of their data is not only required by HIPAA law, but it’s also fundamental to building the kind of trust and relationships that improve patient care.

        hacker trying to access with credentials 3254183354 Top Healthcare Cybersecurity Threats for Every Dental Practice

        From data breaches to phishing attacks, every dental practice and dental service organization (DSO) are under an unprecedented amount of pressure to improve their security stances. The increase in attacks on practices of all sizes, and even the ADA itself, should have both dentists and practice managers brushing up on the threats out there as well as how to protect your practice and your patients.

        Malware

        What it is: Malware, or malicious software, comes in several forms and has a variety of ways of entering your system. Whether it’s via downloaded files, followed web links, email phishing scams, or through infected installed software (supply chain attack), malware’s primary goal is to gain access to your information by hijacking and disrupting your network functions.

        How to protect: As with most cyberthreats, the first line of defense is education. Cyber criminals capitalize on human error. Make sure your team knows not to:

        • Click on suspicious links (especially in emails)
        • Download unknown files
        • Visit non-secure, non-essential websites on secure computers
        • Monitor and limit the use of portable storage devices
        • Use a HIPAA-compliant, highly-secure email that protects your inbox from unknown, unauthorized senders

        Ransomware

        What it is: Ransomware is, essentially, malware that gains access to your data, then encrypts or locks it so your team can’t access files or systems essential for your business. The goal is to then hold your data, and your business, for ransom. In addition to holding your data hostage, the attacker can also steal your data for use or sale or destroy it. This summer, updated information was released about the successful April 2022 ransomware attack on the American Dental Association. The ADA confirmed that personal information tied to member names was stolen. 

        How to protect: Much like malware, ensuring your team is aware of the risk and is taking preventative measures is crucial. However, as with all robust security programs, dental practices should also be employing firewalls and virus protection, ensuring those are kept patched and up-to-date as well.

        Phishing 

        What it is: Phishing attacks are usually very convincing fake emails meant to impersonate trusted organizations, vendors, partners, and others. In fact, some sophisticated versions appear as part of an email thread, which convinces the recipient they’ve already interacted with the sender. Phishing emails can help malicious actors gain access to your system by having your team willingly reveal security credentials. An especially sinister form of phishing is called “spear phishing,” where cyber criminals gather specific information about you online to more closely personalize emails in order to gain your trust. All phishing emails typically include links that, when clicked, install malware onto your system or request a person to update or provide security credentials (like a login/password combo) that then creates and opens a door into your network.

        How to protect: Again, education and training are your first line of protection. But, to increase your security, consider employing HIPAA secure email as well as other software security measures. 

        Data Breaches

        What it is: A data breach involves unauthorized access, theft, transmission, copying, or sharing of protected or sensitive data. Healthcare breaches, including dental practices, have grown steadily over the past few years and that pace isn’t slowing. In fact, thus far in 2022 breaches have nearly doubled when compared to the same time period in 2021.

        It’s important to understand that data breaches aren’t always the result of stolen data. In fact, most data breaches occur as a result of user behavior, either negligent or malicious. In fact, 82% of data breaches are the result of negligent users who either unwittingly expose data or who provide access to systems or networks through lax security procedures and processes. This includes failing to limit access to sensitive files.

        How to protect: It bears repeating, as it’s one of the most overlooked security steps, that educating your staff is critical. Not only should they understand the risks and consequences of data breaches, but they should be well-versed in your security procedures and protocol. Those procedures and policies should be clearly established in a data governance policy that addresses access, storage, sharing, and transmission of sensitive data.

        Additionally, you will want to make sure your systems are secure and HIPAA compliant, and your systems and data have a regular and reliable, off-site, backup. Finally, you may also want to consider remote monitoring and the assistance of an IT managed service provider (MSP), especially one that specializes in healthcare and security.

        What is an MSP?

        An MSP, or managed service provider, provides IT services for businesses and organizations. Those services can range from managing and maintaining hardware, software, data storage and IT Security. Typically, MSP’s are used by organizations whose primary function is not in the IT space, which saves them from having to hire IT experts to manage their network. Further, MSPs can be a major cost-saving measure as it ensures your organization has up-to-date hardware and software, including security, and that your IT infrastructure is monitored and in working order. 

        IT Help Desk at MSP 493462739How an MSP Can Help Keep Your Dental Practice Safe

        You’re in the practice of dentistry, not IT, and that means, as hackers and malicious actors are well aware, IT often takes a backseat to patient care and practice management. Your priorities shouldn’t put you at risk and that’s where an MSP comes in.

        Not only can an MSP ensure your firewalls and antivirus software are up-to-date and patched as needed, but they can also ensure that your data is stored securely and adheres to HIPAA compliance. As part of this practice, they also proactively ensure the hardware you’re using is state of the art and can handle the security mechanisms needed to ensure your data is protected, including a reliable backup and disaster recovery.

        Those proactive measures are also applied to maintenance and repair. In short, you have a tech support team at your disposal without hiring an IT team and adding to your overhead. That also means, when you need troubleshooting or tech support, you’ve got a team to call. As a result, your dental practice saves time and money while getting the service and support that’s vital to your practice, your patients, your security, and your HIPAA compliance.

        Many MSPs specialize in different industries, so finding one that understands healthcare and your dental practice or DSO is vital as not all MSPs are well-versed in HIPAA compliance. Further, you want to be sure you’ve got an MSP who can also help provide the data governance and IT security expertise and advice.

        If you’re ready to talk about how an MSP can help protect your practice, get in touch with the iCoreConnect team. As a software and service provider, the iCoreConnect team specializes in dental practice and healthcare, ensuring they understand your unique needs and how to meet them.
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