Cybersecurity: Essential steps for protecting your patient data

Dental practices have been increasingly targeted by ransomware and other cybersecurity threats over the past few years. There is a common misconception that small practices are not at risk, but unfortunately, they make the perfect target for threat actors. They often do not have the resources or specialized knowledge necessary for preventing an attack or quickly detecting and putting a stop to one.

It’s impossible to overstate the damage that cybercriminals can cause once they gain access to your information. From federal fines and ransom payments to operational disruptions and reputational damage, falling victim to a cyberattack can be the downfall of the business you’ve worked so hard to establish.

Criminals are working overtime around the world to steal data that will enrich them — and destroy you. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to avoid the impacts of a cyberattack.

Start with assessing your systems

Consider whether you have the right tools and protocols in place to ensure your patient data is secure. For example, every practice should have the following:

A solid firewall

That consumer security software that came with your laptop? It’s no longer enough. Cybercriminals are going after more than just individual workstations — they’re now after servers, too. This is why you need to be sure that every element of your system is secure. 

Email security tools

Acquire a good spam filter. This should be your first line of defense against phishing and other, similar attacks. It will offer a far stronger defense than the one built into your e-mail account.  

Backup technology

Store your files in more than one place, ideally off-site in the cloud. This is a simple and undeniably effective measure for minimizing disruptions. Make sure that everyone saves everything — from patient records, including X-rays, to payment data — to the cloud. Vendors, not users, manage updates for cloud applications. This means that these are automatically upgraded and human error can be avoided.

Like patients, your IT needs ongoing care. Ensure your systems are well maintained and meet compliance standards. Furthermore, avoid putting off updates as these often contain important patches for vulnerabilities that could create a back door for criminals to access your data.

Educate yourself

There are clear trends in cyberattacks. The minute one bad actor finds a lucrative way to steal data, others will join in. Regularly check for updates in cybersecurity news, specifically in regard to the dental industry. 

A great resource for the latest threats and best practices is the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. They regularly provide information and advisories related to cybersecurity and compliance on their social media accounts and at The more informed and up-to-date you are, the safer your practice, and its data, will be.

Ensure your employees are well informed

In 2021, 39% of data breaches in the healthcare industry were connected to internal actors and most of the time, they were a result of a genuine mistake. In fact, incidents that originate inside the practice are 2.5x more likely to occur as the result of human error than intentional malice.

Devices outnumber people in healthcare 3-to-1, creating infinite opportunities for one wrong action to open Pandora’s box on your business. Taking the time to educate your staff can make a huge difference. In fact, one study found that proper training can reduce the risk of falling victim to a cyberattack by 50-75%.  

Keep in mind that a one-off training session is not enough. Phishing, for example, is one of the biggest threats facing the industry and one study determined that employees who undergo training on a monthly basis are 34% more likely to recognize the risk of clicking on a suspicious email.

Lock down all devices

Mobile phones, tablets and laptops come with a unique set of challenges, in large part due to their mobility. If a phone is misplaced or stolen and lacks the proper security settings, the consequences could be dire. Setting up a passcode and utilizing multi-factor authorization whenever possible will help protect your information. Furthermore, evaluate your current permissions and limit employees’ access to the parts of the system each needs in order to do his or her work. That way, you lessen the ways in which cybercriminals can infiltrate your data.

Contact us today to learn more about how our cybersecurity specialists can help you!