Cybercrime a potential liability for clinics

Published on August 14, 2019

Ransomware, phishing, and other forms of cyberattack are projected to cost businesses $6 trillion annually by 2021, according to the Cisco and Cybersecurity Ventures 2019 Cybersecurity Almanac.

Experts say the health care industry, with its troves of patient data and relatively weak protections, is an especially appealing target for cybercriminals. Veterinary practices share these vulnerabilities, says Dr. Lance Roasa, national president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association.

The threat of this sensitive data being stolen is significant, especially when veterinarians are not proactively preventing this type of threat or are not prepared to deal with the ramifications of an attack swiftly.

Dr. Lance Roasa, national president, American Veterinary Medical Law Association

These offices are responsible for a large amount of data, including names, addresses, pets' information, controlled substances and medications that have been prescribed or dispensed, credit card information, and even banking information, Dr. Roasa explained.

"The threat of this sensitive data being stolen is significant," he added, "especially when veterinarians are not proactively preventing this type of threat or are not prepared to deal with the ramifications of an attack swiftly."

Many small-business owners believe they're not worth a cybercriminal's time, which is what makes them a perfect target, experts say. In fact, 43% of security breaches involved small businesses, according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

To help practice owners avoid the legal nightmare of a data breach, the AVMLA in June hosted a webinar with speaker Mary Ellen Seale, founder of the National Cybersecurity Society, a nonprofit organization established to educate small businesses on best practices for information technology security and advise them on the type of products and services they need to protect themselves.

Seale previously spent several years in the federal government as a cybersecurity specialist and understands how destructive a cyberattack can be, especially for small businesses. Phishing scams, she said, are among the most common cyberattacks on small businesses.

"A business receives an email that looks legitimate, they click on the malicious link, and their computer becomes infected. The best defense is learning how to evaluate phishing emails and refraining from clicking on a link in an email from an unknown sender," she said.

Other ways of bolstering cybersecurity include using complex passwords that are frequently changed and having a highly sensitive and secure internet security firewall system in place. Dr. Roasa recommended veterinarians visit the National Cybersecurity Society website for resources and website vulnerability evaluation.