While cybercriminals may have paid lip service to stopping their ransomware attacks on healthcare providers during the pandemic, that never really happened. According to Health IT Security, the U.S. healthcare sector was the most targeted globally in Q3 2020, with attacks doubling year-over-year. And the costs are measured in millions of dollars and increased risks to priceless patient privacy (and your reputation).
That’s why, with the arrival of the new year, it’s a good time to take a look at how you can prevent your healthcare organization from suffering the damages that result from ransomware. With that in mind, here’s a list of ransomware prevention strategies that you need to consider as you look to keep both your and your patient’s private data safe.
1. Filter Inbound Emails
There are lots of choices for email filtering solutions that can serve as your first line of defense. Look for software or filtering services that proactively scan and block spam, virus, and other threats in real time, before they can wreak havoc. Some use artificial intelligence (AI) to keep up with new threats and adapt defenses, while others use a Bayesian filter to detect and block personalized spam emails. It’s also worth choosing a solution that is easy to manage via a web browser, with customizable settings. Assess your options, and if you don’t have a filter in place, do it now.
2. Keep Firmware Up To Date
Software patches are frequently driven by newly discovered vulnerabilities. Establish a plan for regular assessments to confirm that all of your critical applications, databases, and servers are running the latest firmware. And immediately patch any that aren’t.
3. Evaluate Your Security Systems and Firewalls
With more and more remotely connected devices—including IoT devices that present new potential vulnerabilities—healthcare organizations need to make sure that their endpoint security systems and firewalls are working as expected. You also need to make sure that these protections are sufficient to keep your data secure, compliant, and available at all times. For organizations with remote workers, it’s more important than ever that these users connect to your network via a secure virtual private network (VPN). Along the same lines, make sure all patient records and patient processing systems are protected by encrypting all of your data—both at rest and in transit.
4. Train Your People
Cybersecurity education should be a core element of your overall data protection strategy. Train your team members so they can spot suspicious emails, attachments, or SMS attacks. Make sure they understand that they should never click on a link or download an attachment unless they are certain it is from a known sender. And give them a general understanding of best practices for protecting your devices and data.
5. Take Regular Backups
The best way to mitigate the fallout from a ransomware attack is to be prepared. That means backing up your data frequently and replicating copies both to an offsite location and the cloud. See StorageCraft’s new take on the traditional 3-2-1 backup rule for guidance. You’ll need to establish your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO), and make sure your backup solution can meet them. Also, look for a backup solution that takes regular, immutable snapshots that can’t be deleted or altered, preventing crypto-ransomware encryption. That way you’ll know your backed up data is always safe and recoverable.
6. Count On The Cloud
Cloud storage gives you fast access to offsite data and is one of the pillars of a sound backup strategy. Cloud storage can also be less expensive than on-premises storage while adding an additional layer of protection. And, while even cloud-based data can be infected with ransomware that’s uploaded with a backup, sound backup practices—see #5 above—can overcome just about any attack.
7. Don’t Pay The Ransom
While an attack will clearly cause major problems, we recommend that you never pay a ransom. Cybercriminals often don’t give you access even if you do pay. It’s worth considering getting ransomware insurance to help mitigate the damage. Better yet…
8. Be Proactive
While all of these strategies are important for protecting against ransomware, you may still fall victim to a successful attack. That’s where planning makes the difference. With the right hardware, software, and best practices in place, you can recover quickly with minimal damage done. We suggest it’s time for every healthcare organization to get a serious security check-up that ensures you have a healthy security posture that can withstand even the most sophisticated ransomware attacks. A good place to start is a demo with a StorageCraft engineer who can explain your options for getting there.