Ways to Protect Your Clinical Diagnostic Lab From Cyberattacks

Healthcare LIMS for Diagnostics

July 14, 2022

In the last couple of decades, the world has seen a digital transformation and the use of new digital technologies and tools to boost efficiency. A large number of businesses have shifted away from traditional procedures and embraced digitization as a result of this technological revolution.

Healthcare has not been left behind in this transformation and has evolved as an independent and self-sufficient industry. Because of the sensitive data of patient healthcare, social security numbers, and demographic information, clinical diagnostic labs are one of the primary sectors constantly threatened by cybercrimes.

Cyberattacks: A Threat to the Digital World

As businesses become more reliant on technology and innovation, and as the Internet becomes more accessible globally, it is no surprise that cyberattacks are becoming more prevalent. According to a recent source, 22 billion records were exposed in the year 2021. Cyberattacks have affected the records of 40,099,751 persons in 2021 in the healthcare industry alone. As the number of data breaches rises year after year, the real question isn't 'Is my data safe?' but rather 'Until when is my data secure?' With the availability of home testing, genome testing, and work-from-home options, clinical diagnostic labs must operate at a higher level of security and safety.

According to a survey, the total cost of detecting and rectifying a healthcare data breach has increased by 30% in the last two years. A single data breach can cost an average of nine months to retrieve the data. Apart from income loss, a stain on the company's brand, and, most significantly, the trust of stakeholders and shareholders also gets compromised in the process.

Act Before it’s Too Late: Protect Your Crucial Data

Because of the crucial nature of its services, the healthcare industry has become one of the easiest targets for cybercriminals. When people go to a lab for a test, they are not just looking for the results of the test; they have also entrusted the organization with their personal information, and it is the lab's moral responsibility to protect it.

Although it is impossible to prevent cybercrime or data breaches, a lab must take effective actions to keep its data safe and secure at all times.

Four Ways to Implement Cyber Security in an Organization:

1. Yearly Risk Assessment

It is a fundamental and crucial stage in assessing a lab's cyber security. There are three factors in a standard risk assessment.

  • Determination of possible risk factors: This comprises a list of potential dangers to a lab's critical systems and sensitive data. The assigned team determines all vulnerabilities, threat sources, and threat events that potentially indicate future damage.
  • Segregation of data based on associated risk elements: Once the potential risk elements have been identified, the team can organize the data based on the risks associated with it. It can be classified into three broad categories:
  • a. High-risk data

    b. Medium risk data

    c. Low-risk data

  • Risk mitigation action: Once the potential risks and their severity have been identified, a specific action plan is required to address all risk factors. Labs must ensure taking regular data backups, performing firewall validation, and enforcing staff to regularly update data access passwords.

2. Consistent Employee Training

According to Willis Towers Watson's research, 66% of cyberattacks are caused by in-house employees' incompetence. A click on a random link sent by an unknown user and downloading files from unauthorized sites are a few of the common behaviors by lab staff that sometimes result in spear phishing and watering hole domain attacks. To prevent these incidents, lab personnel must receive regular training on a timely basis that teaches them the fundamentals of cyberattacks and how to prevent them. Making cyber security a part of a lab's culture will aid in reducing future attacks.

3. Regular Audits

It is not always required to spend a lot of money on cyber security; instead, you may employ an expert to audit the security and safety of your lab data. If you're a clinical diagnostic lab on a tight budget and don't know where to start with cyber security, hiring a consultant and paying for their services is a great option.

4. Implement Cyber Security Technologies and Tools

To reduce cyberattacks, implementing a successful cyber security technology for a diagnostic lab can also be a good option. Using a tried-and-true solution reduces the risk associated with cyber security and aids in the implementation of a security layer to safeguard lab data.

How Can a LIMS Protect Your Diagnostic Lab from Cyberattacks?

Clinical diagnostic labs usually deploy a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to ensure data privacy and overcome data management challenges. A LIMS maintains a complete audit trail of all lab processes and helps traack unauthorized access. For foolproof security, a LIMS should also support two-factor authentication (OTP and password-based) and temporarily lock user accounts if it detects repeated failed login attempts. A cloud-based LIMS is prone to cyberattacks as it is connected to the Internet. Therefore, labs should ensure that the LIMS has all security mechanisms in place to safeguard data. A LIMS should be capable of scanning files for viruses and authenticating laboratory activities through digital signatures. Furthermore, a LIMS system should be able to assign role-based access to staff to enable only authorized staff members to access lab data. A diagnostic lab should zero in on a LIMS vendor that offers automatic data backups at disparate geographical locations to prevent data loss in case of natural calamities, such as floods.

Conclusion

Digital transformation has increased the risk of cyberattacks as it becomes easy for hackers to hack the systems connected to the Internet. Clinical diagnostic labs are more concerned about cybercrimes as they store sensitive patient data. However, preventive actions such as yearly assessments, periodic employee training, regular audits, and innovative technologies and tools can help minimize the risk of cyberattacks. Moreover, a secure, cloud-based LIMS is a reliable solution for labs to overcome all potential cybersecurity risks.

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