Recently, Aspen Dental, one of the largest dental service organizations in the United States, was hit with a major cyber-attack that affected 1,000 of their practices nationwide. This has left patients stranded and raised questions about network security and HIPAA compliance.
The incident underscores how vulnerable the dental industry is to malicious actors who can gain access to sensitive information and disrupt operations. It also highlights the need for dental practices of all sizes to implement robust security measures to protect their data from unauthorized access or theft.
In this blog post, we will discuss this recent cyber-attack on Aspen Dental, its implications, and what dental practices can do to protect themselves from similar attacks in the future.
What Happened in the Aspen Dental Cybersecurity Breach?
While the investigation is still ongoing and there is no adequate measure of just how severe this incident is, there are several ramifications that have already taken place. The ramifications of this cybersecurity breach include:
- More than 1,000 dental offices affected
- Scheduling systems, phone systems, and other business applications became inoperable
- Many disgruntled patients as they were unable to connect with offices or receive care needed
- Possibility of over 2 million patient records under attack
At this time, it is still unclear whether patient information has been compromised as Aspen Dental stated in a press release, “Our investigation into the scope of the incident is in its early stages and remains ongoing. If it is determined that any sensitive, personal information may have been involved in the incident, we will notify those individuals in accordance with applicable law and as quickly as possible.”
If the investigation unveils compromised patient information, the incident could be the biggest healthcare breach this year.
Why are Dental Practices Prime Targets of Cyber Attackers?
Dental practices are often the prime targets for cyber-attacks in the healthcare industry due to the valuable data they hold, especially Protected Health Information (PHI) of patients. PHI includes personal information such as medical history, social security numbers, and financial information. This data is highly prized by cybercriminals, who can sell it on the dark web for profit or use it for identity theft and other fraudulent activities.
Factors that create a vulnerable network and act as gateways for hackers include:
- Outdated software systems
- Insufficient security measures
- Weak passwords or not implementing multifactor authentication
- Lack of employee training on cybersecurity best practices
- Inadequate resources allocated for IT and cybersecurity
These implications are why the healthcare industry (dental practices included) accounts for 79% of reported breaches across all industries. Where in 2022, according to Compliancy Group, an average of 1.94 large-scale healthcare breaches were reported daily.
How can Dental Practices Safeguard Against Cybersecurity Incidents?
Dental practices, like any other healthcare facility, must take extra precautions to safeguard against cybersecurity incidents.
One important step is providing comprehensive cybersecurity training for all staff members. Human error accounts for a large portion of cybersecurity incidents. According to Verizon's 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, 82% of breaches are attributed to the human element. Cybersecurity training can help staff identify and avoid common cyber threats, such as phishing scams and malware attacks.
Additionally, it’s essential to ensure the practice’s IT infrastructure has multi-layered network security to ensure data is safe while in storage and during transmission. These network security layers should include secure file sharing, vulnerability assessment and analytics, patch management, antivirus and antispam software, email security (archiving, encryption, hosting), data encryption, privacy controls, firewalls, and web protection.
Lastly, dental practices should undergo regular HIPAA security risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with federal regulations. These assessments are not a one-time event. They are continuous and should be completed annually or when major changes occur – such as technology or business operation, recent security incident, or change in ownership. Undergoing regular risk assessments helps dental practices uncover deficiencies in their current security protections.
By taking these proactive measures, dental practices can protect patient data and prevent costly cybersecurity incidents.
Are you a dental professional in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington seeking a more secure network for your dental practice? Look no further! Pact-One is here to help keep your dental practice and patient data secure with multilayered network security solutions that are tailored to your practice. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.