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Data Protection Remains a Key Clinical Concern

There is a rash of data theft. The New York Times detailed one such incident involving the hijacking of systems data and more than 100 years of municipal records from a Florida city.

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There is a rash of data theft. The New York Times detailed one such incident involving the hijacking of systems data and more than 100 years of municipal records from a Florida city. Following the breach, city employees found that neither their computers nor phones were working. Soon thereafter, the city received a demand for $460,000 to free the data. The culprit appeared to be a “Triple Threat” ransomware attack. The city opted to pay the demand, in part because it had insurance that covered the theft. Several other Florida municipalities opted to take the same approach after their records were locked.

Faced with a similar situation, Atlanta officials refused to pay a ransomware demand for $51,000. As a result, the city’s mayor estimated it has cost at least $7.2 million to bring the system back online. In addition to cities, hospitals and other health care facilities have been targeted. As a result, there has been a rush to increase security and train employees to be on the alert for malware, which often appears as an attachment to an email — in many cases, from a familiar source, such as a colleague or coworker.

There is a general assumption that malware like this has been used by foreign powers to exploit software vulnerabilities worldwide. Regardless of the source, this is a vexing problem that deserves attention, especially from a clinical perspective.

Is it possible these attacks could be directed at dental offices? Although the probability is low, the obvious answer is yes. In light of these concerns, how can clinicians protect their data? I asked our IT specialist, but his answer was not comforting. “If they want your data, they will get your data,” he said. But you may be able to make it enough of a hassle to invade your system the hackers will look elsewhere.

THIS IS A VEXING PROBLEM THAT DESERVES ATTENTION, ESPECIALLY FROM A CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE

Your choice of computer may reduce the chances of an attack because most malware is written for PCs. Having your server on a separate computer may also help protect against hackers, as will the use of a good antimalware program. Arranging for cloud backup on a daily basis is also prudent. With this approach, a practice will be able to reintroduce data into their system in case of an attack, and also protect it from being destroyed by accident or computer theft. Of course, one of the simplest and most important ways to protect data is to inform the staff of the potential threat, and to always use caution when opening attachments.

Loss of data can be devastating, but the more we are prepared, the less we suffer

Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

 

From Decisions in Dentistry. October 2019;5(9):6.

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