Is Your Dental Practice Protected In The Event Of A Ransomware Attack?
A widespread malicious software attack recently forced some local dental offices to cancel or reschedule appointments thanks to a ransomware-induced lockdown of their IT systems.
Patient Care Grinds To A Halt
July 3rd, 2019 proved to be a rough day for several Portland-area dental clinics. Staff at these offices found themselves unable to access their dental software, making it impossible to retrieve patient charts, appointment calendars, and other vital programs. The data itself does not appear to have been compromised, but this complete lack of access still created serious complications for these clinics.
It’s not known how many clinics were hit, but a few of have been identified, including Lower Columbia Oral Health and Arbor Dental offices in Longview and Vancouver. Lower Columbia, who were the first practice to speak publically about the attack, cancelled all appointments on July 3rd and only saw a limited number of patients over the following week.
Ransomware typically finds it’s way into IT systems through phishing emails, malicious attachments, or by hackers exploiting software and application flaws. It’s unknown how this particular attack was carried out. What is known is that most of the affected practices are clients of the same IT provider, whose outgoing phone message states “We’re working to recover backup data, but due to the size and scale of the attacks we’re not optimistic about a full or timely recovery.”
Ransomware Is An Ongoing Concern For Healthcare As A Whole
As worrisome as this attack is, it’s far from the first time ransomware has hit multiple targets in quick succession, and it certainly won’t be the last. That is a terrifying prospect for any business, but for dental practices, HIPAA makes it that much worse. Unhappy patients and hefty fines can do a lot of damage when you’re already scrambling to fix something as serious as ransomware.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Taking a savvy and proactive approach to your IT security measures and working to keep both yourself and yourself up to date on the latest threats and scams can go a very long way towards keeping your practice out of the headlines. Working with a Managed IT Services provider who has experience with healthcare IT and HIPAA is also a great way to protect your practice.
The dental industry comes with it’s own unique set of IT and security challenges, and an IT provider who offers generic business IT solutions can’t always manage your technology effectively. Understanding the ins and outs of basic dental practice operations is a must-have qualification for today’s clinics. When your provider knows what it means to be a Business Associate and takes that responsibility seriously, you can be that much more confident in your cybersecurity posture.
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