It is not uncommon, in today’s age, to do large amounts of personal business online. This includes discussing or sharing medical records. You may think that any place that shares your medical records online would invest in intense digital security, but you would be surprised.
It takes just a small mistake on the part of the health organization working with your records and your data can be breached. In fact, there have been multiple examples of large medical organizations allowing thousands of patient’s information to be leaked.
In 2010, Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital were victims of cyber security attacks involving the theft of close to 6,800 patient records. A Temple University doctor had his laptop stolen which contained the private medical files of nearly 4,000 patients. These are just two of way too many examples.
Part of the problem is that these records are being protected by individual not properly trained in digital security. Medical professionals all know about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) — a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
They know that you don’t share medical information to anyone that isn’t approved of in writing by the patient. But even that standard is often broken by some medical professionals. So, if some people in the medical industry are willingly leaking information, just imagine how often information is leaked accidentally.
So, what can you do? As with most instances of digital security, it is best to take matters into your own hands. The only person who will always, 100 percent of the time, advocate for you – is you. It is vital that you do everything you can to protect yourself and your data when going online. This can prevent others from ascertaining your location, medical data, personal data, and much more.
Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can protect yourself in the digital realm:
Be aware with whom you are communicating
It might be obvious that you shouldn’t send personal information to strange email contacts or social media profiles, but not everyone considers the authenticity of medical websites. Often times people will look up medical advice and find themselves sharing personal details with any random website that offer to let you chat with a “real” medical professional.
These websites can not only put your medical information at risk but also your credit card information since we guarantee you won’t get to chat with anybody without coughing up your card number.
Beyond that, it is also important to consider the applications your medical facility is using to share your information. Before agreeing to access your data digitally, look into the software they are using to ensure it is considered respectable and safe.
Use password best practices
This is a big one. We know there are a lot of readers out there who have the passwords for all of their important logins exactly the same — probably one of your kids’ names or your anniversary date.
If you want to ensure your digital security you should stop this habit right away. Keeping individualized and secure passwords is one of the easiest ways to protect your digital information.
You want your passwords to be unique and have a substantial amount of characters. This makes it difficult for your passwords to be hacked, and if one is hacked it doesn’t compromise all the rest.
The top suggestion for the character count is 11 or more characters.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
One way to keep your data safe is to avoid accessing your personal information from public Wi-Fi. This is something people often don’t think about.
Maybe you are sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a doctor’s appointment. You need to fill out your prescription medications list and decide to access your medical records to be reminded of that overly complicated name for your blood pressure medicine.
Public Wi-Fi is incredibly unsafe and one of the easiest ways for hackers to access your data. If a hacker attacks you at the right moment they could have access to all your sensitive medical information.
Use a virtual private network
This is the all-inclusive protection method!
A VPN (virtual private network) can protect you from digital crime and privacy infringement by providing you the protection of military level encryption, a private IP address, and a safe tunnel for all of your online activity.
VPNs are so well-versed in digital safety and anonymity that they can even protect you while accessing public Wi-Fi.
If you are in the market for a good VPN, check out a review of PIA VPN.