Dental Offices Under Cyberattack
Updated: May 11, 2022
Cyber threats and attacks are only increasing in 2022, especially for dental offices, DSOs and healthcare providers.
We’ve all heard about how healthcare providers have become a favorite target for hackers and this trend will continue moving forward. More specifically, dental offices have become an even more frequent target for ransomware, data breaches and account takeovers as patient health information (PHI) data has become more valuable for hackers. Based on this report by a prominent health industry cybersecurity firm, it’s clear that dental offices will be the target of these increased cyber-attacks.
Dental Offices Rely on Technology
Today’s dental offices are more reliant on IT and technology than ever before with much of their front-office and patient care solutions being driven by technology. These dental IT systems include appointment scheduling, billing, charting, clinical procedures, electronic medical records (EMRs), and more.
Typical cyberattacks on dental offices include data theft, ransomware, and malware attacks that can seriously compromise and even shut down the dentist’s network.
Why Are Dental Offices Becoming a Key Cyber-Target?
Many independent dental offices and smaller Dental Support Organizations (DSOs) may be more vulnerable to a cyber-attack, given their lack of sophisticated cybersecurity protection systems and training as compared to larger, more established organizations.
Hackers believe that many dental offices have not made the investments in cybersecurity, both financially and in terms of employee cybersecurity policies and training--knowing that only one mistake from only one employee could make the entire network vulnerable. Cybercriminals also understand that dentists possess a treasure trove of patient records with valuable Personal Health Information (PHI) that can be sold on the Dark Web at a price that exceeds the value of a stolen credit card number based on this report by NBC.
Remote Workers at Risk
Dental offices and DSOs have also seen an increase in security breaches through mobile devices and home computers. This is due in part to COVID work-from-home policies for dental office administrators, and the use of their own personal computer, iPad or smartphone to conduct business. These remote devices and computers make for an attractive target for cybercriminals, especially given the possibility of accessing sensitive PHI data.
Many cyberattacks start with tactics that employ phishing attacks through email, social media, and messaging platforms. Account Takeovers (ATOs) are also on the rise using these tactics. A large number of these security breaches are partially due to lost or stolen mobile devices, tablets, and laptops.
Cyberattacks are Expensive
The cost of a cyberattack on your dental office can be extremely high not only from a financial standpoint, but in damaged reputation, potential fines for HIPAA violations, and the loss of patient trust.
If the cyberattack affects more than 500 individuals, the dental office will have to notify every patient of record that a breach has occurred, according to the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.
The financial penalties for HIPAA violations can be very costly to a practice, ranging from $100-$50,000 per violation. Plus, it can be long and arduous process to repair the damage to your practice’s reputation and to regain the trust of your patients.
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To summarize, dental offices and DSOs are under increasing threats from cybercrime as dental patient PHI has become more valuable. However, there are steps a dental office and DSO can take to ensure their dental IT and technology are protected from these threats. Read more in my blog that discusses the 6 key steps to take to protect your dental office and DSO.
About the Author: Tommy Wald is CEO of RIATA Technologies, a full-service IT provider located in Austin, TX. He can be reached at TWald@RiataTechnologies.com.
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