Training staff to stop hackers

Now that technological advancements exist all around us, sometimes a click is all it would take to hack, corrupt, and wipe out an entire database filled with important details and records of people.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the healthcare industry has been moving with its digital transformation efforts at an unprecedented speed. While technologies are making the lives of both patients and doctors easier by improving patient care, making clinical support more effective, they are also increasing the number of hacker attacks. Only last year European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) reported a 47% increase in cyberattacks on hospitals and healthcare networks. In healthcare where more than profits and reputation are at stake but actually safety and lives of patients, it is especially critical to stress the importance of healthcare security training for employees and clinicians.

But no need to panic, there are many ways to help strengthen cybersecurity. One important step on this journey is raising awareness inside the organization. Your efforts can range from implementing cyber security training for employees, healthcare security training to seminars and extra trainings that can help improve the staff's knowledge. In this article, you're going to learn how to train your employees to stop hackers and prevent cyber security problems.

Why is healthcare cyber security training so important?

According to IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Opening an email from an unknown sender or clicking on a video might not seem like a big deal but it can lead to serious consequences.

First, data leakage can affect patients’ safety and even lives. As you already know, every checkup, operation, and medical record requires you to fill out essential details and information about yourself. These pieces of information consist of your name, address, contact information, and many more. If leaked, the data can be used for crimes such as identity theft, data theft, or tax fraud.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes. Only in September 2020, 9.7 million healthcare records were compromised, according to HIPAA Journal.

Besides the reputation, cyberattacks also cost money and lots of it. In the first 6 months of 2021, the UK lost £1.3 billion to fraud and cybercrime.

And of course, let’s not forget that you need cyber security trainings if you want to stay HIPAA-compliant.

So what is the best defense against cybercrimes? Human intelligence. It all comes down to proper user behavior and understanding how to protect yourself and your business online.

Healthcare cybersecurity training process & steps

As mentioned before, there are many ways to equip yourself and your healthcare staff in terms of healthcare cybersecurity. Here are some steps you can take to make it happen.

Orient staff about responsibilities and obligations

Orientations and briefings will always be essential, especially when protecting important data. While cyberattacks can happen anytime, being well aware of data security and individual responsibility to protect data can lessen its likelihood. Keep in mind that everyone has a legal obligation to protect, respect, and be responsible for healthcare data and records confidentiality.

Practice proper response to notifications

Incidents happen, especially in the workplace. All you need is a keen eye and knowledge of responding to certain situations. Another way to elevate cybersecurity knowledge is by encouraging and reminding staff to report data incidents, unexplained errors, and other changes that seem off or fishy. Part of this is teaching them how to notice warnings, pick up on cues, and report a threat or situation immediately.

Integrate experiential learning

Experiential learning, which implies learning through experience instead of theory alone, is becoming standard practice in security awareness trainings.

With interactive games, escape rooms, and virtual reality simulations, employees are gaining first-hand experience by applying their knowledge to real situations. Experiential learning may include practicing how to handle a data breach, how to act in the event of a hack, or you create simulated phishing attacks.

Password protocols and choosing strong passwords

One of the first things to be taught during cybersecurity training for employees is that strong passwords are critical. Decide on passwords protocols and put them in place company-wide.

Consider two-factor authentication for the highest level of security. Also, have your employees change their passwords every three months.

Security training should also include brief do’s and don’ts of choosing a password. Passwords shouldn’t include any of the following:

  • Address (home and office)
  • Date of birth (persona, child, or spouse)
  • Phone number
  • Any information shared on social media (I.e. hobbies, favorite sports, etc.)
  • Common phrases

A strong password consists of 12-16 characters. It should include a combination of upper and lower letters, numbers, and special characters.

Brief staff about using unauthorized software

This is another crucial factor to keep in mind. To increase cyber security, remind your staff to avoid installing or using any illegal or unlicensed software on company gadgets. It can make your data vulnerable to ransomware which can corrupt important files or data.

Orient staff on responsible Internet usage

People are naturally drawn to things that capture their interest, which is exactly how malicious software is downloaded and released into your system. You can avoid it by orienting and reminding your employees about proper internet use, links that are likely to contain ransomware.

Introduce email policies

An email policy is a document that clearly states how the corporate email system should and shouldn’t be used. It ensures that employees are aware of their responsibilities and can be held accountable for the misconduct.

The success of email attacks heavily depends on the end-user. That's why email security awareness should be an integral part of any security training.

Social engineering and phishing

Social engineering as a form of hacking is appealing to the weakest chain of security systems – end-users. More specifically to human psychology. Curiosity, desire to be helpful or simply fear of getting in trouble are hacker’s loopholes. They are what makes this form of attacking a criminal’s favorite and of the most successful ways of getting inside the organization.

Phishing as a form of social engineering is becoming increasingly popular. It implies using email to get the target to click a link and expose themselves to malware or enter their private information. According to CISCO’s 2021 Cybersecurity report, about 90% of data breaches occur to phishing.

With that being said, it’s important to remember that effectiveness of criminals’ actions depend on how prepared are your employees for the attack. This requires constant education and raising awareness on the newest methods hackers use.

Plan ongoing trainings

Cybersecurity training should be viewed as your company’s best defense against possible attacks. The goals of these trainings to be clear, concise, and effective. However, it’s important to stress that they should not be considered a one-time event. According to the Advanced Computing Systems Association (USENIX), companies should organize cybersecurity trainings every 4 to 6 months. Studies have shown that in 4 months employees are still able to identify phishing emails. But as 6 months pass, they are more likely to forget what they’ve been told and fall for attackers’ tricks.

These are just a few tips and strategies, among many other things, that your organization can implement to raise cybersecurity awareness and make the most out of every healthcare cyber security training.

Some further recommendations on general healthcare cyber security

Strong cybersecurity is what keeps the healthcare industry ‘healthy’ and able to focus on the most important – treating patients.

Staff training though important is just a part of cyber security in the healthcare industry. There is still much more that can be done. Foremost, your company should have a strong cybersecurity culture and cyber security strategy or framework, which includes other things such as security assessment, cloud assessment, cloud cybersecurity, cyber resilience, and more inside. If your organization s using cloud computing services, you should prioritize its security. Additionally, consider working with third-party vendors for daily tasks or secure software development.

Valentina Synenka is a Chief Marketing Officer at Symphony Solutions, the Dutch-based Cloud & Agile transformation company that helps businesses in their path to digital transformation. Valentina has master’s degree in Economics and Psychology. For the last 10 years she has been leading the marketing and design department at the company, always staying on top of the Cloud and Cloud security industry trends and tendencies. To read more about digital transformation in healthcare and how cloud computing helps tackle urgent social needs, read the company’s latest whitepaper.