October marks the beginning of Cyber Security Awareness Month in Australia. This annual event serves as a critical reminder for all Australians to prioritise their online security and protect themselves from ever-evolving threats in the digital world. In 2023, the theme for this month is “Be cyber wise – don’t compromise.” This theme emphasises the importance of making informed decisions and implementing practical measures to enhance cybersecurity.
The urgency of cybersecurity best practices becomes evident when we examine the cybercrime landscape. During the 2021-22 financial year, Australia experienced a 13% increase in cybercrime compared to the previous year, with one cybercrime reported every seven minutes. Industry sectors such as healthcare were among the top targets for cybercriminals.
For these reasons, the importance of cybersecurity within the healthcare field cannot be overstated. General Practice clinics across Australia maintain vast electronic health records and provide an increasing number of medical services online, meaning the potential for cyber threats and data breaches has surged exponentially.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why it’s critical for GPs to strengthen online defences and protect sensitive data.
1. Patient Data Protection
Healthcare organisations deal with a trove of sensitive patient information, including medical records, billing details, and personal identifiers. This data is not only valuable to healthcare providers, but also to cybercriminals seeking to exploit such information for financial gain or identity theft. Being cybersecurity aware is essential for safeguarding privacy, ensuring patient trust, complying with data protection regulations, and maintaining compliance and accreditation.
2. Financial Implications
Data breaches in the healthcare sector can result in severe financial repercussions. For the average General Practice clinic, the cost of recovering from a breach – including legal fees, regulatory fines, or potential lawsuits – can be staggering. A proactive approach to cybersecurity, which includes robust defences and incident response plans, can significantly reduce financial exposure.
3. Reputation Management
Similarly, a data breach can tarnish a healthcare business’s reputation. Patients place immense trust in healthcare providers, and any compromise of their personal data can lead to a rapid loss of confidence. For General Practice clinics, maintaining cybersecurity awareness and staying proactive about data protection is essential to maintaining a trustworthy professional reputation.
4. Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Healthcare organisations are legally obliged to comply with data security regulations. For example, the Privacy Act (1988) sets forth stringent demands for the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information in the public and private sectors. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in legal consequences.
General Practice clinics need to meet even further data security standards in order to remain accredited by healthcare governing bodies in Australia. In short, staying cybersecurity vigilant is crucial for General Practitioners to remain compliant and avoid legal or regulatory penalties.
5. Technological Advances
Australia’s healthcare sector regularly welcomes new technological advancements that are designed to enhance patient care. While these innovations bring numerous benefits, they also introduce new vulnerabilities. As General Practice clinics take-up technologies such as telemedicine, wearable devices, and other digital solutions, the scope for cyber threats expands. Expert tech advice and support is integral to help stay ahead of potential vulnerabilities.
6. Digital Infrastructure
General Practice clinics also rely on digital infrastructure to provide diverse administrative services that support patient care. Cyberattacks targeting this infrastructure may have life-threatening consequences. By training employees to follow cybersafety best practices, healthcare organisations can protect not only data, but their patients’ overall wellbeing.
To sum up, in an era where cyber threats are always emerging, being cybersecurity aware is not an option — it’s a critical necessity for Australian healthcare practitioners.
Here are 5 tips your General Practice team can utilise to stay cybersecurity vigilant:
Update Devices Regularly:
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to enhance cybersecurity is by regularly updating your team’s devices and software. Cybercriminals are always searching for vulnerabilities in outdated systems. By enabling automatic updates, your GP clinic can ensure that devices are equipped with the latest security patches, making it harder for cybercriminals to infiltrate your system.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication:
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of protection to your team’s online accounts. By requiring multiple forms of verification, such as something only you know (password) and something you have (a smartphone), MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorised access to your accounts.
Backup Important Files:
Data loss can be a nightmare, whether it’s due to hardware failures, ransomware attacks, or accidental deletions. To mitigate this risk, it’s essential for your team to back up important files regularly. By creating backups, your business can ensure that sensitive data is safe and can be easily restored if the unexpected happens.
Use Passphrases and Password Managers:
Passphrases, which consist of four or more random words, are an excellent alternative to traditional passwords. Passphrases can help your team avoid the temptation of reusing passwords across multiple accounts. It’s worth investing in a business subscription to a password manager, which can generate and securely store unique passphrases for various accounts. This approach offers an added layer of protection and simplifies managing complex passwords.
Seek Expert Support and Guidance:
Cybersecurity is a complex, constantly evolving space. To offer peace of mind that your General Practice clinic is protected from cyber threats, it’s worthwhile speaking to an expert. The team at GPsupport can help you to understand your cybersafety risks, and can design and deliver a best practice solution for your clinic. We can help take the pressures and risks associated with potential cyber crime off your shoulders.
Cyber Security Awareness Month is not just a symbolic event, but a call to action. By adopting best practice cybersecurity measures — your General Practice can significantly reduce its vulnerability to online threats. Together, we can contribute to making Australia a safer place to connect and work online.
If you’re not sure how to best protect your healthcare business from cyber threats, GPsupport can help. Contact our expert team for tailored advice and assistance today.