How to Protect Yourself and Your Private Practice from Cybersecurity Threats

Protecting Yourself, Your Investment & Your Patients

Over Thanksgiving, I had an experience that is taking my concern about cybersecurity to another level. I’ve always considered myself pretty tech-savvy, but this weekend I almost fell for one those phishing gimmicks. You know the one where some unsavory individual claims to have hacked your computer, and says they’ll share your personal, financial and other information with the world unless you pay $600 in Bitcoin within 30 hours. 

My immediate reaction was panic, and a search to see how much bitcoin I actually owned, (which wasn’t much). Then, I settled down and decided to do some research. First, I found that it was very unlikely my Apple devices were compromised in such a way. Then, I learned it was a very common scam.  

The whole experience, however, left me feeling vulnerable and really wanting to up my game when it comes to cybersecurity. So, I changed all my passwords and did some reading. Here are some of the things I learned.

What You Can Do 

  • Don’t mess around with lazy passwords. Include numbers, capitals and special characters. Use password generators, if available, and change your passwords from time to time. 
  • Don’t use unsecured wifi, just hotspot from your phone. Using free wifi in a coffee shop or hotel is just not worth the convenience, it leaves you vulnerable to attack.  Never access your cloud-stored files on public wifi unless your device is secured.
  • Password protect your computer and utilize your FileVault on Macs, to encrypt all your data. FileVault is built into all Macs, free of charge. 
  • On PCs, use antivirus, ad blockers, and antispyware to prevent viruses and spyware from being installed on your device. 
  • Share wisely. Most cloud storage options, like Google Drive, offer layers of protection for your data, but your network security, your password, and those you share documents with may be the greatest vulnerability to your system. 
  • Keep your mobile device, and others, updated with the latest software. Attacks on mobile devices continue to grow, including the new mobile malware variants, which have seen a 54% increase. 

Cybersecurity For Your Practice

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to attacks. According to Barkly, a cybersecurity specialist, small businesses are often open to more and different kinds of attacks than larger businesses that are protected by their complex computer networks and systems. Attacks on larger businesses are more likely to go unnoticed than attacks on smaller visits. Some of the statistics offered by Barkly about small business include:

  • 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.
  • On average, each user at a small business (fewer than 250 employees) receives nine malicious emails per month.
  • 92.4% of malware is delivered via email.

What you can do to protect your practice:

  • Use SSL encryption on all your website pages
  • Require employees to use complex passwords and change them frequently
  • Make sure employees keep their antivirus and spyware up-to-date
  • Make your office wifi secure and only give access to employees 
  • Use best practices on credit cards and card number storage
  • Back up important data
  • Create an action plan in case of breach

Recommended Reading

To learn more about cybersecurity for your small business and everyday life, take a look at these articles:

  • Symantec Threat Report
  • Barkly Cybersecurity Statistics
  • Small Business Administration Cybersecurity Tips  - Your Private Therapy Practice Resource

Your private practice is a small business. If you’re anything like me and many of the other private practitioners in our network, you struggle to think of it that way. You’re just trying to help people. We want those in our network to understand that cybersecurity is important, but there are also resources available, including the team, to help. Don’t put it off. Get started making changes right away. You can also join our conversation on Facebook to share tips, ask questions, and help us build a network of private practitioners who are running successful small businesses.