Healthcare News & Insights

Staffers on smartphones: Weighing the risks

In the hospital setting, mobile devices are making physicians’, nurses’ and clinical staff’s jobs easier when it comes to efficiency of care. But they can pose serious risks for data breaches.

Just how much of a risk do they pose?

To find out the answer to this question, Symantec, a provider of security, storage and system management solutions, lost 50 smartphones … on purpose. The phones were left in very public places in five major cities. And the devices were loaded with simulated corporate and personal data, as well as software that allowed the company to monitor phone use.

Here’s what was discovered:

  • 96% of the phones were turned on by their finders
  • Nearly half of the finders tried to access the phone owner’s bank account
  • 60% of the finders tried to view social media info and email
  • 80% of finders tried to access corporate info including files marked as human resource salaries, human resource cases and other corporate info, and
  • 50% of the people who found the phones tried to return them.

So if your hospital uses mobile devices, what can you do to protect the data on them?

  • Develop and enforce security policies for employees using mobile devices for work. For example, all mobile devices must have password-enabled screen locks.
  • Don’t just focus on securing the device. The patient data on the phone must also be protected no matter where it’s exchanged.
  • If a mobile device is lost, have a formal process in place so everyone knows what to do.
  • Integrate mobile device security and management into the overall facility security and management, and
  • Take inventory of the mobile devices connecting to your hospitals  network.

Simply having a password on the phone and the ability to remotely wipe data off the phone, could have prevented most of the problems that arose in the Symantec study.


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