Ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector were a major trend to emerge from 2018.
Little to no tolerance for system downtime leaves this industry particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
Losing access to data in this instance is more than just a headache; it poses a threat to the health and wellbeing of the people in your care.
Healthcare systems serve partially as a repository for personal data.
Much of this data is classed as sensitive information or health information under Australian Privacy Law.
This increases the severity of repercussions in the case of a breach or loss of data.
The need to minimise downtime combined with the sensitive nature of information stored makes healthcare a prime target.
With average ransom demands doubling in 2019 it is vital to have best practice data security and backup procedures in place.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is essentially software that attacks your computer and encrypts files to make them inaccessible.
Paying the ransom provides you with a decryption code that allows you to regain access to your data but there is no guarantee.
Not opening attachments and deleting any correspondence received from unknown email addresses can protect individual computers from being attacked.
However, organisations that store data on their own servers can still fall victim to server-side attacks.
The importance of continuity of care
As mentioned, healthcare and more specifically, aged care systems store a wealth of personal data.
Staff require ongoing access to this data in order to provide person-centered care to each consumer.
Loss of access to this data is a compromise on both consumer safety and quality of care.
Staff rely on access to consumer profiles, notes, and care plans to deliver a high standard of care that is in accordance with individual preferences.
This is an essential component of demonstrating consumer choice under the new Aged Care Quality Standards.
Many aged care consumers are on time-critical medications.
Without access to medication data, staff cannot administer these medications in the tight window they have.
This leaves the consumer at risk of being left in pain or experiencing other debilitating side effects.
Any consumers with Parkinson’s disease become an increased falls risk if they do not receive their medication on time.
An accreditation risk
The consequences of a ransomware attack extend beyond those experienced immediately by your staff and consumers.
During accreditation, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will assess your information systems.
You will be required to demonstrate that your information system stores information securely and that processes are in place for the backup of records.
If a ransomware attack leaves you unable to recover all of your data you risk receiving a non-compliance in this area of your accreditation.
Backing up data securely
A clear, well-established data backup plan can minimise the damage caused by a ransomware attack.
Your plan should include:
- Performing a daily backup of all data files
- Storing backups externally as a mandatory step
Best practice recommends to take daily backups and to store these backups externally.
If you have done this and fall victim to a ransomware attack, your systems can be restored from a recent backup.
The more recent the backup, the less data you will lose.
Storing backups externally is a crucial step. This could be either offsite or on a machine that is appropriately firewalled.
This protects the backup from corruption in an attack on your computer.
Keep Windows up to date on all of your computers.
These popups requesting that you perform an update can be a nuisance, but they typically contain security updates that you want to have installed.
Keep records of server configuration up to date.
If you need to perform a bare metal recovery (a complete system reset), you may need to reconfigure your server.
Keeping this record in a secure place will help to minimise downtime.
Our experience with ransomware
As a care system provider, we are on hand to provide technical support to our client base.
In a recent case, one client experienced a ransomware attack that directly targeted their servers.
As this client was hosting their data on their own servers, all of their data was encrypted, including consumer care records.
In the absence of an internal IT team, the client was using IT consultants to manage their data security.
Unfortunately, their consultants had not been taking daily backups.
The consultants initially attempted to recover files by paying the ransom demand. However, the decryption code failed to unlock all of the data.
At this point, AutumnCare became involved in recovering the data.
We were able to restore all of the client’s data using their last taken backup as well as AutumnCare’s unique recovery function.
Without this function, all data recorded since the last backup can be lost.
Our client has now recovered their entire database and has resumed operations as per usual.
They have also moved to AutumnCare’s cloud-based solution. We will now be responsible for performing daily backups to avoid any repeat occurrences!
Keep it in the cloud
If you have an IT department, they will be able to perform daily backups alongside other tasks required to keep your data secure.
Without an internal IT team, it can be daunting to know where to begin with data security.
As we have seen from the above, IT consultants are not always the ideal solution.
Cloud-based systems offer a reprieve from needing to worry about any of this.
If you would prefer to leave IT to the experts then a cloud-based system may be the right fit for you.
In this instance, your care system provider will perform daily backups and store these securely, as well as conducting other data security and maintenance measures.
This is performed in the background, leaving you free to get on with your work.
Get in touch to find out more about our cloud-based care management solution.
Alternatively, phone 1800 987 870 to speak directly to a member of our team.
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