Healthcare News & Insights

4 keys to physically secure IT equipment

Protecting electronic health data doesn’t just mean keeping hackers off the network. Healthcare organizations must also focus on the physical security of equipment holding patient information. 

In addition to electronic hacking attacks, data thieves can get their hands on sensitive information by stealing computers, storage drives, mobile devices and other hardware.

That’s what may have happened recently at three Atlanta-area doctor’s offices. Three different OB-GYN practices have been targeted in recent laptop thefts, WSBTV.com reports.

According to the practices, the thefts in these cases weren’t motivated by a desire to steal information, but rather for intimidation. The doctors say they’re being targeted because they’ve spoken out against a controversial bill being considered in the Georgia legislature imposing new regulations on abortion.

In one of the cases, the stolen computer contained just the doctors’ personal information, and no data about patients. Reports didn’t say what was contained on the other stolen laptops.

Here are some steps healthcare organizations can take to prevent patient health information from being compromised due to hardware thefts:

  1. Encrypt devices — Any mobile or portable storage device holding patient data should be encrypted, because of how easy it is for those gadgets to be lost or stolen. But organizations can also consider encrypting sensitive data held on laptop or desktop computers.
  2. Lock server rooms — For organizations with data centers on site, the rooms holding servers should be equipped with a locked door — and someone in charge must make sure employees are actually using the lock.
  3. Wipe decommissioned equipment — Criminals can find a lot of valuable data by getting a hold of machines and drives organizations have gotten rid of without wiping properly. A good security plan should include a process for making sure that data is gone before old hardware leaves the premises.
  4. Secure workstations — Organizations can consider using cable locks or other devices to keep laptop and desktop computers attached to office furniture.

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