Each and every day, whether we are at work or not, we are storing personal and sensitive information in our dental offices. The majority of this information is stored in our computers. And as we all know, computers are subject to attacks from hackers. The fact that we store personal and private information makes dental offices prone to cyberattacks and hacks. If you don’t protect yourself, you (and all of your clients) could become victims.
Why are Dental Practices prone to attacks?
On November 25, 2019, a ransomware attack on a Colorado IT company left hundreds of dental offices without access to their systems and patient data. Ransomware is a type of malware that shuts down access to all computer systems until a ransom is paid. Unfortunately, these attacks are far from uncommon, and dental practices are high risk.
But why is the risk so high? What do hackers want with dental information?
They want patient data. There’s a lot of information contained within patient data – social security numbers, payment information, credit card information, and other data that can easily be sold over the dark web. To a hacker, dental patient information is equivalent to gold.
Unfortunately, the advances of technology within our offices that allow us to improve patient care are also the ones that put us at increased risk of cyberattacks. All of these devices are connected to our networks and act as a gateway for hackers. And to make things worse, most of these devices are not designed to prevent attacks. So unless you go the extra mile to prevent attacks yourself, you’re leaving your client information extremely vulnerable.
Two types of attacks you need to worry about:
There are lots of different types of cyberattack, but as dental professionals, there are two that we need to worry about above all others:
- Ransomware attacks
Ransomware, as we mentioned above, is a method of attack that locks you out of your system until a ransom is paid. This type of software encrypts your files, emails, and other data, locking you out of everything. If the ransom is not paid, cyber attackers often advance to threatening to disclose your sensitive data to the public. Because ransomware attacks can result in a huge loss of productivity for the healthcare industry, most healthcare workers, like dentists, will pay the ransom – increasing the market for attacks even more.
- Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks usually come in the form of fake emails or links to malicious websites. When you click on the email or link, the cyber attacker gains access to all of your personal and valuable information. Everything from your usernames and passwords, to bank account numbers and credit card details, are vulnerable to this type of attack. If you run a dental office, all of your client’s personal information is at risk too.
So how can you protect yourself?
The key to protecting yourself and your dental office from cyberattacks is to a) be aware and b) invest in cybersecurity software. So many dental offices bypass cybersecurity as a necessary part of their dental practice. But without it, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to attacks.
Don’t be naive, and don’t think you aren’t a target – if you own a dental office, your information is valuable to cyber attackers. Invest in cybersecurity to prevent attacks – if you don’t protect yourself, no one will.