July 18, 2024

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Cybersecurity & Health Info: How to Protect Your Medical Data

We live in an incredible time. Smartwatches monitor our health and apps can track every meal. Technology and medical data are remarkably interconnected. But the advancements in digital health monitoring come with a major problem — cybersecurity threats. 

As we consume and adapt to the latest innovations, we fall short and expose our most personal details — our health data — to potential breaches. So, let’s explore how the latest technology can help avoid that calamity.  

Let’s understand why our health data is so sought after and find out what you can do to keep it private and safe.

While the data collected is in the form of zeros and ones, it represents much more. The data tells our personal health story. For doctors, this information is invaluable. It lets them see bigger health trends, which allows them to offer more personalized care to each patient.

For tech companies, this data is a chance to innovate. Think of apps that don’t just record what you eat but also give you tailored advice based on your unique genetics. It’s also a chance for them to monetize you. The more medical data they hold about you, the better they can target you for their advertisers.

However, this wealth of information can attract cybercriminals. If they get their hands on our data, the consequences could be disastrous, ranging from privacy invasions to financial scams. 

Aside from the financial damage a company can sustain, which can put them out of business, the personal ramifications are huge. I recently spoke with some therapists who confirmed that patients have been psychologically devastated by the fact that their personal information has been stolen in a hospital breach. 

  • Lorraine (not her real name) is considering moving. She was treated at the hospital for a condition kept secret from her tight-knit community. 
  • Michael (not his real name) is a religious leader in his area. His wife is horrified of what will happen if her community finds out about the medical treatment her husband went through recently, which no one outside the immediate family knows of.
  • Sara (also not her real name) lives in a religious community and is devastated. She was recently treated for a sexually transmitted disease. If this data is released by the hackers, she will become ineligible for marriage.

When it comes to a hospital breach, or for that matter, any company breach, most of the responsibility and capability to protect the data lies with the institution itself rather than the individual. So, there’s nothing much one can do about it. 

Having said that, one indirect way consumers can influence institutions is through collective pressure and advocacy. If patients collectively demand higher cybersecurity standards and prioritize institutions that demonstrate better medical data protection, it can encourage hospitals and healthcare providers to invest more in cybersecurity infrastructure and practices.

The crux of the matter is while individuals cannot directly control the cybersecurity practices of large institutions, they can influence change by being conscious consumers and advocating for stricter regulations at a policy level. 

We know companies don’t want to spend money on things they don’t consider necessities. In today’s world, cybersecurity in most organizations isn’t prioritized to the extent it should be. With the help of local and federal governments and congresspeople, you as a consumer, can move the needle. It will not happen overnight. It will take time, and we will go through a lot of data breaches until we get there. But as consumers, we need to start this journey.

We live in a data-driven society, and most of us are not aware of the implications on our lives should this medical data become publicly available. To make our online world safer, we need to understand it better. Even though the details of online safety can feel confusing, they touch many parts of our lives, from shopping to health records. For us, the best defense is knowing more.

How Do We Learn More About It?

1. Stay Updated With News

Not all of us are interested in tech news, specifically data breaches in other parts of the country or the world. Here’s an example: Why we should care about a virus outbreak in China? It’s so far away from us, right? Keeping up with the latest technologies and news will not only make you a more interesting person to talk with but it will keep you at the forefront of technology and its implications on our day-to-day lives. 

2. Community Workshops

Many local institutions provide free workshops on the digital landscape. It’s a hands-on way to grasp cybersecurity basics and its wider implications. Don’t have one in your community? It’s a great idea to start one. Speak with some of the local IT and cybersecurity companies to start a monthly meetup/training on cybersecurity.

3. Online Courses

Platforms such as Coursera host beginner-friendly courses on cybersecurity. The aim isn’t expertise but informed awareness.

4. Tech Talks and Webinars

We live in a time that offers an abundance of virtual events. Listening to industry professionals can provide a clearer picture of the cybersecurity world.

5. Educational Advocacy

Push for cybersecurity discussions in schools. A foundation laid early fosters a future generation that’s both tech-savvy and security-conscious.

Knowledge Isn’t Just Power

In cyberspace, knowledge is mostly protection and security. By educating ourselves, we’re better positioned to demand the digital safety we deserve and bring about a new direction in how organizations view and invest in cybersecurity.

Picture of By Amir Sachs

By Amir Sachs

Amir Sachs, Founder and CEO of Blue Light IT (Boca Raton, FL): Amir Sach is a renowned cybersecurity expert providing invaluable advice to small and medium-sized companies worldwide. Sachs has over 25 years of experience in mitigating cyber threats. Sachs founded Blue Light IT in 2003.

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