How to Secure Patient Data with Security Testing?

ImpactQA
3 min readDec 22, 2022
ImpactQA — Secure Patient Data with Security Testing

With operations migrating to the cloud, the global scale of cyber-attacks has increased. The most common type of data storage is a digital record. However, the requirement to implement additional security measures has been raised as a troubling concern.

Within the healthcare sector, patient data has been compromised in the past couple of years. As per the records for 2018, hackers constantly attempted to gain access to the medical records of hundreds of thousands of patients at once, with each patient record exposure costing up to $400.

Most things have stayed the same since then, as 36% of healthcare organizations in the United States have experienced a data breach, according to Software Advice’s 2022 Healthcare Data Security Survey.

Such figures are alarming and have pushed global healthcare organizations to find better ways to protect data.

What Type of Patient Data is at Risk?

When it comes to patients, the type of data recorded by healthcare organizations includes:

  • Health records
  • Claim data
  • Clinical trials
  • Address & contact number
  • Bank records
  • Payment methods
  • Data from implantable medical devices — such as a pacemaker

Ways to Ensure Secure Patient Data

Security Testing & Automation

The first step is thoroughly examining the systems to identify vulnerabilities that could compromise patient data. The implementation of security testing and automation is required to complete this task. In addition, using test automation improves the efficiency of infrastructure security.

You get to identify the primary bottlenecks in individual system components. Furthermore, any discrepancies in the integration of the platform and application are identified.

Launching Simulated Cyber Attacks

Securing healthcare apps and data is vital on all grounds. Vulnerabilities can be found with automated tests, but there is no 100% guarantee that a possible breach can be avoided. Therefore, cybersecurity experts should stage a fictitious breach or attack to prevent data exposure. Such a procedure involves SQA injections, open firewall ports, and URL redirects.

These simulated attacks must be repeated several times to identify potential vulnerabilities that may emerge as the system is updated. Preparing a case scenario is critical, with automation serving as the primary motivator for tweaking more variables and evaluating the app promptly and efficiently.

Fulfill HIPAA Requirements

To comply with HIPAA regulations, healthcare organizations must adhere to the industry’s standards for securing their healthcare data. In addition, organizations and entities must carry out internal risk assessments by the HIPAA Security Rules to successfully implement security standards.

The security rules should be applied across the three central segments — Physical, Administrative, and Technical.

Steps to Implement Patient Health Data

  1. Proper Awareness for Healthcare Staff: Educate employees on cyber-attacks, including the most common ones, such as phishing. Staff can be taught the importance of PHI (Protected Health Information) and how a breach can cause harm.
  2. Deploy Physical Security Measures: Implement facility access controls to restrict access to specific areas where PHI is stored and accessed.
  3. Control Data Access: User authentication needs to be strengthened, limit access to specific systems and devices, strengthen password security, etc.
  4. Put in Place Data Controls: Control dangerous actions such as attempting to copying data on external drives, extracting patient files, or printing information that is already marked as sensitive.
  5. Proper Encryption: All healthcare software and apps need to be ePHI encryption that falls in line with HIPAA Security Rule
  6. Safeguard Wireless Networks: Ensure compliance for wireless networks and messaging platforms like WhatsApp and similar apps.
  7. Frequent Rounds of Risk Assessment: Risk assessment to comply with HIPPA guidelines that extend to business associates and third-party providers
  8. Backup Patient Data: Regular backups are a must to avoid any mishap

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