There’s no denying the fact that with today’s lightning-speed computers and ever-present mobile devices, vast amounts of our sensitive personal health information reside. Medical records, insurance details, test results, and other data stored or accessed electronically need stringent protection. Health data privacy and security should be a top priority for anyone who uses a computer or mobile device to manage their medical care. A data breach could have devastating financial, emotional, and health impacts.
Computer security requires ongoing vigilance and good habits, especially for medical data. There are important measures everyone should take to bolster health data security on their computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This article outlines 7 key ways you can protect your sensitive health records, insurance information, and other private data in the digital sphere. Following these critical guidelines will help prevent your computer from becoming a gateway to identity theft and fraud. The policies below are simple actions with a major impact in locking down health data.
1. Use Strong Passwords
Creating strong, unique passwords is one of the easiest and most important steps to securing your health information online. Avoid common or easy-to-guess passwords like “password123” or “healthcare”. Instead, generate complex passwords for each health-related account using a combination of at least 12 characters, with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Password manager apps can generate and store strong passwords securely. Enable two-factor authentication when available for an added layer of security beyond passwords.
Change your passwords periodically, at least every 90 days, to stay a step ahead of hackers. Never reuse the same password across multiple health accounts. If one account is compromised, this prevents a cascade effect across all your sensitive data. Keep your passwords private – don’t share them with others or write them down where they could be accessed. Take your health account passwords seriously – strong passwords are a vital first line of defense for your private data.
2. Install Antivirus and Firewall Software
Antivirus and firewall programs create a barrier between your computer and outside threats trying to get in. They can detect and remove malware, block suspicious network traffic, and prevent unauthorized access. Make sure to keep them updated to protect against the latest risks.
3. Encrypt Sensitive Files
Encryption scrambles data so only authorized parties can view it. Encrypt files and folders containing medical records, insurance information, or test results. This protects your data in case your devices are lost, stolen, or hacked.
4. Back Up Your Data
Back up critical health data and files regularly either on an external hard drive or a secure cloud-based service. This provides access to your information if your computer is damaged or compromised. Store backups securely and keep them up to date.
5. Avoid Unsecured Public Wi-Fi
While it may seem like everyone has a computer these days, that’s not always the case. A substantial number of consumers still use medical chat windows and other methods of communicating in universal forums. However, public wireless networks in coffee shops, hotels, and airports come with security risks. Avoid accessing or transmitting health data over unsecured public Wi-Fi which could allow snooping by cybercriminals. Stick to cellular data or use a secure virtual private network (VPN).
6. Beware of Phishing Scams
Don’t click suspicious links or attachments in emails asking you to log in to health-related accounts. Phishing scams try to steal your login credentials to access private data. Call your provider directly if concerned about account security.
7. Dispose of Devices Securely
Before recycling, selling, or discarding old computers and mobile devices, completely wipe all health information. Use secure deletion programs to overwrite sensitive data so it can’t be recovered. Removing health data properly reduces the risk of identity theft.
Protecting your medical information requires vigilance in identifying risks and consistent safe computer habits. Following these important tips will help keep your health data secure and private. Be proactive about your computer security to maintain control over your sensitive personal information. Prioritizing your digital security is crucial in the age of electronic health records and online healthcare services.