Healthcare organizations are in the business of storing, sharing, and processing sensitive patient health information (PHI). This requires stringent data protection and cybersecurity safeguards. When it comes to wireless networks, these safeguards demand even more scrutiny, owing to the often lax state of defense seen in wireless networks and devices. Rapid modernization in healthcare driven by IoT devices, mobile health, and cloud adoption has made it critical for related industries to consider wireless security issues and solutions.
Wireless Security Issues and Solutions for Healthcare
Recent years have brought much-needed technological innovation to care delivery and data transmission, but threats have also exceeded the pace of cybersecurity advancement in the healthcare industry. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and mobile health (mHealth) have undoubtedly created a paradigm shift in how caregivers and patients view healthcare. Still, they have created new wireless security challenges as well.
With organizations migrating to the cloud and implementing and managing overlapping internal wireless networks, there has been a rise in network security challenges and solutions in response. To adequately protect their patients’ data and even their lives from sophisticated cyberattacks, healthcare organizations need to educate themselves on:
- The sources of wireless security issues
- Commensurate wireless security solutions
Sources of Wireless Security Issues
Healthcare is increasingly going wireless, with healthcare organizations expanding the scope of both internal and external wireless networks and building an ecosystem consisting of IoT and mobile devices (among others). The associated network security problems and solutions revolve around these technologies and how they’re transforming the healthcare landscape.
Many of today’s healthcare devices and equipment are part of what is known as the Internet of Things or the Internet of Medical Things, specifically. From wearables and implants to bedside monitors and diagnostics devices, this wireless network is prone to cyberattacks.
Hackers can even target access points like printers that aren’t always adequately secured.
For example, at a 2011 Black Hat conference, an insulin pump was hacked remotely and could have been modified wirelessly to kill patients, likely without detection. Dangers posed by hackers are real and can be even more severe than data theft.
Portals and mobile apps are mainstays of today’s patient-centric healthcare experience. Patients access medical records, diagnostics, medicines, and appointments on their mobile devices. And with this widespread mobile adoption come increased network security risks.
Hackers can initiate endpoint attacks on patients’ devices and gain access to sensitive medical or payment information in the absence of comprehensive security safeguards.
Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) are commonplace in virtually every healthcare organization; the modern enterprise contains a tapestry of several wireless networks.
As such, confidential patient data is potentially accessible from various entry points.
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are common with WLANs, as they’re the most easily penetrable parts of an organization’s network. Adding to WLAN threats are internal personnel’s unauthorized access of connected devices, systems, data, and other IT resources maliciously or accidentally.
Third-Party Management and Hosting
The prevalence of healthcare organizations adopting cloud services adopted removes some degree of control over architecture and management, necessitating additional security measures and policies.
Although most cloud providers offer cybersecurity safeguards, one should never rely on them blindly. Hosting sensitive data on third-party cloud servers naturally increases risk exposure, as hackers have many more avenues of accessing data without network security.
Cloud security must account for both internally and externally hosted cloud architecture.
Top Wireless Security Solutions for Healthcare
The HIPAA Security Rule mandates organizations to implement robust security systems to comply with HIPAA guidelines for protected health information (PHI). Namely, all access to patients’ personally identifiable information (PHI) must be tightly restricted to authorized use cases.
Wireless security solutions in healthcare need to abide by HIPAA’s Rules.
Nonetheless, many of the same tools used in other industries, such as required protections for credit card data, are directly applicable or easily adaptable for healthcare-specific needs.
First and foremost, your employees should develop and maintain a robust culture of security, considering they’re handling PHI. Often, the most significant and detrimental threats to your networks arise due to human error and a lack of sensitivity to data security.
Cybersecurity awareness training services by a reputed security services provider can instill a sense of responsibility in your employees and help prevent a majority of social engineering attacks.
Antivirus and Anti-malware
Antivirus and anti-malware are other fundamental defenses to employ against malicious code wreaking havoc inside your networks. Unfortunately, social engineering scams are on the rise and become increasingly sophisticated day by day; training is often not enough to stop them.
By implementing architecture such as up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware programs in your devices and servers, you’re blocking at least one major entry point that hackers can exploit. This ensures that systems have another layer of protection in case of human error.
Data encryption is a must when dealing with any confidential data but even more so in the case of sensitive patient information. Similar to how antivirus protections build in additional protection to hedge against human error, encryption is most beneficial in cases where data has been compromised or runs the risk of being breached. Hackers who obtain encrypted data are unlikely to crack the encryption and access (i.e., read/modify) its contents.
End-to-end encryption using the latest AES-256 standard will ensure your PHI transmission is impenetrable to malicious agents on the lookout for stealing lucrative health information.
Healthcare entities should note that a HIPAA data breach constitutes “unauthorized access.” Resultantly, PHI encryption can help prevent a cybersecurity incident from becoming a compliance violation by ensuring that the data is incapable of being accessed even if obtained by unauthorized parties.
Penetration testing is an advanced yet essential measure to ensure network security.
“Pen-testing” works by simulating cyberattacks of varying intensity and observing how your system responds to them. The test gathers data on all movements a hacker makes to enter into networks or move about once inside. This data then informs reparative action to ensure a real attacker could not exploit your systems the same way. Here, offense begets defense.
Penetration testing services can help you test your firewalls, mobile devices, web applications, and cloud environments to help ensure comprehensive, end-to-end IT environment security.
Identity and Access Management
When dealing with PHI, it’s imperative to control access to that data among your internal staff. Effective identity and access management (IAM) empowers granular authentication and access specifications across all systems and individuals within your organization. Sophisticated IAM solutions will also monitor and log user activity to automatically compile audit and investigatory trails for review.
For example, your organization may employ multifactor authentication for PHI. To gain access, an individual would need to provide at least two of the following identifiers:
- Something only they know (a password)
- Something only they are (a biometric)
- Something only they have (a device)
Your organization may stipulate that non-sensitive data bears no MFA requirement.
Sensitive data and systems connected to it should be segmented away from those that process less-sensitive information. This effort prevents cybercriminals’ effortless navigation across your IT environment.
One of the most effective wireless security solutions is to segment networks based on the data security needs via tagging or other metadata. Through software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN), you can apply security protocols granularly, ensuring illicit access to one of them won’t jeopardize the others.
However, there are some SD-WAN security concerns to should consider.
Not every SD-WAN provider offers advanced features like next-generation firewalls or web filters, data loss prevention, and integration with the rest of your security infrastructure.
Threat and Vulnerability Management—Total Wireless Security
Given the host of wireless security challenges in healthcare, organizations need to take a holistic view of their network defenses. RSI Security’s threat and vulnerability management services include protections tailored to healthcare providers’ specific needs and means.
Our suite of IoT security, penetration testing, endpoint protection, and threat lifecycle management services offers 360-degree wireless security protection to all of your networks.
Contact RSI Security today to learn more about wireless security issues and solutions.