Whether you graduated dental school in 1990 or 2019, cybersecurity for dental offices is an important topic for you as a practicing dentist. Most offices utilize the internet to run many aspects of the dental practice: emails, faxes, Voice Over IP phones, communications with insurance companies, patient communications, and practice management software systems, just to name a few. The internet is necessary for most dental offices to function, but it also can lead to problems if security isn’t set up correctly. CEO of Medix Dental IT, Tom Terronez, states, “I consider the internet a super high crime neighborhood.” The proper protection starts with setting up security that keeps the hackers out.
Listen to the Sprig Podcast: Cybersecurity with Tom Terronez of Medix Dental
Choosing a Dental IT Company
Choosing a dental-specific IT company is a smart move to make as a practice owner. Dental-specific companies are more likely to be familiar with practice management systems and the various third parties that integrate with our dental software. This can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting issues that come up with the day-to-day operations of a dental practice. Solutions can be reached quickly, to get the office back up and running. The IT company should also be familiar with the regulations regarding HIPPA compliance, internet security, and be able to provide comprehensive cybersecurity for the office. Some services that are necessary include firewall protection, antivirus software, data backup, and staff training.
Firewalls and Antivirus Software
Basic protection for the dental office starts with a high-quality firewall. A firewall can help protect the office from malicious attacks from various sources around the internet. Terronez says, ” If you don’t have a firewall, basically you’re protecting all your patient data, or your home essentially with, like a low fence and a basic door lock that you can use a belt buckle to get through. Having a good firewall in place is essentially building walls, putting cameras in place, alarms, armed guards, everything down. If you have a good firewall, that’s a comparison.” Due to the changes in technology, firewalls have a lifespan and need to be replaced when they no longer provide adequate protection for the dental practice.
Antivirus software is also recommended on computers. Using a layered approach can help protect individual computers which may be vulnerable to an attack. E-mail phishing scams are common, and it is a good idea to have endpoint protection should an employee accidentally click a bad link.
Setting Up Guest Wifi
It is strongly recommended that your office utilizes a separate guest wifi connection that is not connected to your practice management software. This is because some dental software systems do not encrypt patient data when they are sent from a workstation to the server. Thus, if a person is connected to the practice wifi they could potentially have access to patient data–leaving the practice vulnerable. It is recommended that the dental practice:
- Use three Wifi networks: practice Computers, Smart Devices in the office, Guest Wifi
- Change the Wifi Password often
- Turn off guest access during non-business hours
- Stay Up to Date
Hackers are always finding vulnerabilities in software platforms. Once they are discovered, developers work to provide updates to the software to prevent hackers from causing damage. Keeping software up to date is important, and your dental IT provider should be able to assist in the update process. Currently, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 are set to no longer receive critical updates after January 2020. This means that they will not be HIPPA and PCI compliant. Newer computers can be upgraded to Windows 10, but if the office has computers that are older than four years they may not be able to run the software without difficulties. It is recommended that the office checks with their IT provider to see what options are available for the current hardware in the office.
Get a Consult: Cyber Security for Dental Offices
Tom Terronez is the CEO of Medix Dental, which was founded in 2003. Medix Dental provides dental practices with IT support and consultation in practice technology decisions. Are you ready to find out if your office vulnerable?
Find out now: https://medixdental.com/