Hackers are everywhere and increasingly sophisticated. Cloud PACS keep your images safe.
- Many doctors’ offices disregard security best practices and connect their PACS servers directly to the internet without a password
- These unprotected servers not only expose medical imaging but also patient personal health information
- Exposed medical information puts patients at greater risk of insurance fraud and identity theft
- Learn how to secure your patient’s images with firewalls, controlled access, and strong, secure passwords, among other security measures
- Cloud storage just might be your best option
Far too many hospitals, medical offices, and imaging centers have insecure medical image storage systems, which means that anyone with an internet connection and free software can access private medical images. In fact, 2020 saw a massive data breach – hackers gained access to over 1 billion images belonging to patients across the globe.
About half of these hacked images – X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans – belonged to patients in the United States. However, many hospitals and other facilities have done nothing to protect private information from future breaches. In fact, healthcare data breaches rose 55% in 2020 over 2019, and the cost of a breach rose an average of 10%.
Healthcare data breaches pose a number of threats, exposing not just images but also private information that puts patients at risk of both insurance fraud and identity theft. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest security threats, how to secure patient images, and how moving to the cloud is your best option for secure medical image storage.
PACS and security issues
DICOM standards are designed to make medical images easy to store and share with other practitioners. These images are usually stored in a PACS that usually connects to internal clinical information systems and medical devices. This can provide a way for hackers to pose a threat to the confidentiality of the PACS system.
Yet, there are still many healthcare practices that ignore security and simply connect their PACS server to the internet without even requiring a password.
On-premises PACS systems pose unique challenges to securing medical image storage, including:
- Constant monitoring and control of internal user accounts to identify unusual behavior
- Monitoring and controlling external user access
- Securing all connections within the internal system
- Monitoring and securing all connections to and from external systems
Another challenge is ensuring security without adversely affecting system performance. So, how can your healthcare practice secure its PACS and the other private data entrusted to you by patients and governed by HIPAA regulations?
Facilitating secure medical image storage
HIPAA doesn’t specify the technology you must use to protect patient information. However, it does require you to make sure patient information is secure, can be accessed only by authorized people, and is only used for authorized purposes.
Meeting these challenges with an on-premises PACS can be complicated. However, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers a 386-page publication for securing your PACS that recommends:
- A defense-in-depth solution that includes network zoning that allows granular control of network traffic and limits the ability to communicate to the minimum necessary.
- Employs access control mechanisms — including multifactor authentication for providers, certificate-based authentication for imaging devices and other clinical systems, and structures that limit remote vendor support for imaging components.
- Leveraging technology that provides real-time threat and vulnerability management. It also recommends hiring a managed security solution provider.
In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services offers these five security tips for medical image storage:
- Install a firewall
A firewall can be either software or hardware, but functions to scrutinize all information coming into your system from the outside and determine, based on your criteria, if that data should be allowed into your network. Firewall configuration can be complicated to set up correctly and should be done by a trained technician.
- Practice good system hygiene
Make sure software is updated to the latest version and all operating system security updates are implemented. Also, uninstall any unnecessary software and disable both remote file sharing and printing. Hire technical assistance where required.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date
Malicious actors use viruses and other code to invade your devices and network by exploiting vulnerabilities. Once installed, keeping it up-to-date is vitally important, as hackers are developing new means to gain access to your data.
- Control access
Controlling access means setting permissions for authorized users, as well as identifying which files they can access. These can be set up on an individual basis or via role-based access.
- Insist on strong, often-changed passwords
We’ve all read about people who use “password” or “12345678” as passwords. While a strong password won’t prevent hackers from trying to get into your system, it can serve as a deterrent. Strong passwords contain at least eight characters, but longer is better, and they should include an unpredictable combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
Strong passwords should not include any words found in the dictionary or any personal information whatsoever, including anything that might be found in a social media account.
Other tips include encryption and controlling physical access. All of this takes a lot of work. For the most robust, worry-free security, your best option is a cloud storage solution, as recommended by the NIST.
Cloud medical image storage: Security with easy access
Storing secure medical information in dedicated PACS storage not only offers encryption when data is at rest and when it’s being transferred, it also means you can continue doing business even in the event of a disaster. Cloud-based PACS secure controlled access from any location and any device for image sharing with other practitioners. TLS encryption means you can share files with confidence without the expense of maintaining specialized software, hardware, and technical personnel.
There’s also no worry about storing large files, and cloud medical image storage vendors must be compliant with HIPAA and the FDA, as well as meet DICOM standards.
It’s incumbent upon you as a medical practitioner to keep all patient data secure. The cloud offers a secure, compliance-assured option for keeping medical images safe from cybercriminals and puts the responsibility for cybersecurity squarely on the shoulders of experienced professionals.
Store XR – worry-free security in a cloud PACS
Don’t be at the mercy of cybercriminals. Store XR offers TLS encryption, data at rest encryption, and can be implemented in any cloud.
Cloud-based PACS means more than just security. It means scalable storage and enterprise-level archiving, all with a user-friendly interface. It’s time to get secure with Store XR. Get in touch today.