How to Protect Your Health Data from Cyberattacks and Breaches

Health data is one of the most valuable and sensitive types of information that we have. It can reveal our medical history, diagnosis, treatment, prescriptions, allergies, and more. It can also affect our insurance, employment, and personal relationships. That’s why it’s so important to protect our health data from cyberattacks and breaches, which can expose our data to hackers, identity thieves, fraudsters, and other malicious actors. 

According to a report by IBM, the average cost of a data breach in the healthcare sector was $7.13 million in 2020, the highest of any industry. Moreover, the healthcare sector is identified as particularly vulnerable to digital data breaches and damages caused by the illegal use of personal and confidential information, as Marta Meisner, a cybersecurity expert, wrote in her article. 

So, how can we protect our health data from cyberattacks and breaches? Here are some tips and best practices that you can follow:

  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication. A strong password is long, complex, and unique. It should not contain any personal information, such as your name, date of birth, or pet’s name. It should also be different from your other passwords so that if one account is compromised, the others are not. Multi-factor authentication is a security feature that requires you to provide an additional piece of information, such as a code sent to your phone or email, to access your account. This adds an extra layer of protection, as hackers would need both your password and your device to log in.
  • Be careful with phishing emails and links. Phishing is a type of cyberattack that tries to trick you into revealing your personal or financial information or clicking on a malicious link or attachment, by pretending to be someone or something you trust. For example, you might receive an email that looks like it’s from your doctor, your insurance company, or your health app, asking you to update your account, verify your identity, or view a test result. However, if you click on the link or attachment, you might end up downloading malware, ransomware, or spyware, which can infect your device and steal your data. To avoid phishing, you should always check the sender’s address, the subject line, the spelling and grammar, and the tone of the email. If something looks suspicious, do not click on it, and delete it immediately. You can also contact the sender directly to verify the authenticity of the email.
  • Encrypt your data and use a VPN. Encryption is a process that scrambles your data into an unreadable format so that only authorized parties can access it. Encryption can protect your data both in transit and at rest, meaning when it is being sent or received, and when it is stored on your device or in the cloud. You can encrypt your data by using encryption software, such as BitLocker or FileVault, or by choosing services that offer end-to-end encryption, such as Signal or WhatsApp. A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that creates a secure connection between your device and the internet, hiding your IP address and location, and encrypting your traffic. A VPN can help you protect your data when you are using public Wi-Fi, which can be easily hacked or monitored by cybercriminals.
  • Review your privacy settings and permissions. Privacy settings and permissions are the options that you have to control how your data is collected, used, and shared by the apps and services that you use. For example, you can choose what kind of data you want to share with your health app, such as your location, your contacts, or your camera. You can also choose who can see your data, such as your doctor, your family, or your friends. You should review your privacy settings and permissions regularly and adjust them according to your preferences and needs. You should also delete or deactivate any accounts or apps that you no longer use and request a copy or deletion of your data if possible.
  • Educate yourself and stay updated. Cybersecurity is a dynamic and evolving field and cyberattacks and breaches are becoming more sophisticated and frequent. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself and stay updated on the latest trends, threats, and solutions. You can read blogs, articles, newsletters, podcasts, or books on cybersecurity, or take online courses or webinars. You can also follow reputable sources, such as the National Cyber Security Centre, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or the World Health Organization, for guidance and advice. By being informed and aware, you can better protect your health data and yourself from cyberattacks and breaches.

Protecting your health data from cyberattacks and breaches is not only a matter of security, but also of privacy, trust, and dignity. As Garry Lea, the CEO of Global Triangles, a leading health data analytics company, said: “Health data is more than just numbers and codes. It’s a reflection of who we are, what we feel, and how we live. That’s why we need to protect it with the utmost care and respect, and empower ourselves and others to do the same.”