The Importance of Protecting Healthcare Data from Mobile Threats

Protecting Healthcare Data from Mobile Threats

Today’s healthcare industry is rapidly adopting mobile technologies to improve patient care, drive business efficiencies, and increase staff efficiency. Unfortunately, the same mobility that enables healthcare professionals to easily access patient information also exposes patient data to malicious cyber attackers. Repeated cyberattacks on high-profile businesses have raised awareness about the risks of cyber threats and data security breaches. The healthcare industry is no exception. When it comes to mobile devices, hackers often target unsecured platforms with weak security protocols so they can gain access to sensitive information like protected health information (PHI).

Patient Data has Gone Mobile

Mobile devices have become a staple in healthcare, enabling providers to access and store patient data in real-time. Hospitals and clinics also use mobile devices to manage patient information and treatment protocols, track inventory, and monitor in-facility and remote equipment. With the growing demand for remote patient care, healthcare providers are introducing virtual visits to reduce travel and increase convenience for patients. Virtual visits require remote communication and the exchange of patient data and are at a higher risk of security threats. Sixty-four percent of healthcare organizations have seen an increase in mobile adoption to improve care. According to a survey by Black Book, only 22% expect mobile adoption to decrease.

What is protected health information?

Healthcare providers are required by law to protect patient data that could be used to identify an individual. This data is known as protected health information (PHI) and includes medical histories, test results, and even a patient’s name. PHI is increasingly being stored, transmitted, and accessed on mobile devices. Unfortunately, health organizations have been slow to adopt strong security controls on mobile devices, leaving PHI vulnerable to cyber threats. While healthcare organizations have been slow to adopt strong mobile device security controls, the government has not. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to protect the privacy and security of health information.

Healthcare Organizations Face Unique Cybersecurity Challenges

Health organizations must address the unique challenges posed by data security and mobile device management. Healthcare organizations have a high volume of endpoints, including computers, mobile devices, and medical equipment. This creates a complex environment for monitoring and managing device security. Health organizations also deal with sensitive data such as PHI that must be protected against cyber-attacks and data breaches. Managing healthcare data security requires an integrated approach that deploys a multi-layered security system with strong encryption and authentication protocols. Healthcare organizations should adopt strong mobile device security controls to protect patient information from cyber attacks. Healthcare organizations should also manage the mobility of their workforce to enable secure data exchange on any device.

Healthcare data breach consequences

Healthcare providers have been targeted by cybercriminals seeking to steal sensitive data like PHI. Data breaches have become a common occurrence in the healthcare industry due to healthcare providers’ ineffective data protection strategies. Healthcare providers are often unaware they have been breached until law enforcement or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notifies the organization of an investigation. The average time between a breach and an organization noticing is 312 days. For these reasons, healthcare data breaches are often among the largest and costliest data breaches in history. In 2018, the second largest health data breach ever recorded occurred after hackers exploited an unpatched vulnerability in the webserver of a small hospital in Virginia. The breach affected over 32,000 patients and exposed sensitive patient information including PHI.

4 Things Healthcare Organizations Must Do to Protect Data from Mobile Threats

Healthcare organizations must proactively protect against mobile threats to safeguard patient data from cyber attacks. To do so, healthcare organizations should: - Invest in endpoint security - Endpoint security software protects against malicious software, including viruses and ransomware, as well as data theft and data loss. - Adopt strong authentication and encryption - Authentication verifies the identity of an individual logging into a system and encryption protects sensitive data from unauthorized access. - Deploy a data security strategy - A security strategy includes educating employees on the importance of protecting patient data, monitoring device activity, and managing device lifecycles. - Manage the mobility of the workforce - Healthcare organizations should adopt a workforce mobility strategy that enables secure data exchange on any device.

2 Factor Authentication for Mobile Devices

Healthcare organizations should adopt 2-factor authentication (2FA) to verify the authenticity of login attempts. 2FA authenticates users by verifying their identity based on something they have (e.g., a mobile device) in combination with something they know (e.g., a password). 2FA ensures that only authorized users can access sensitive data by requiring a second form of authentication before granting access. Healthcare organizations can use 2FA to protect mobile devices by requiring a user to enter an authentication code sent to their phone when attempting to log into an account. 2FA protects against a wide range of mobile threats, including account takeovers, malicious software, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Device Identification and Inventory

Healthcare organizations should maintain a device identification and inventory system to track device ownership, location, and device security configuration. This enables healthcare organizations to detect malicious devices, locate devices that have been misplaced, and revoke device access when an employee leaves the organization. The healthcare industry uses a number of device identification and inventory solutions to properly secure and track mobile devices. Healthcare organizations should select a device identification and inventory solution that enables them to: - Identify mobile devices - The system should allow healthcare organizations to identify mobile devices, including Apple, Android, and Windows devices. - Track device ownership - The system should allow healthcare organizations to track device ownership, including device name, model number, and location. - Track device security configuration - The system should allow healthcare organizations to track and monitor device security configuration, including device operating system and application versions. - Revoke device access - The system should allow healthcare organizations to revoke device access when an employee leaves the organization, disabling the device from accessing sensitive data.

Unified Platform for Device Management

Healthcare organizations should implement a unified platform for device management to manage a large number of devices. A unified device management platform enables healthcare organizations to - Configure device security - The system allows healthcare organizations to configure device security, including authentication and encryption settings. - Manage access to resources - The system enables healthcare organizations to manage access to sensitive information and resources. - Monitor device activity - The system allows healthcare organizations to monitor device activity, including device location, device logins, and device errors. - Remotely wipe devices - The system allows healthcare organizations to remotely wipe devices in case of theft, loss, or device compromise.


The healthcare industry has struggled to protect data from mobile threats because it has been slow to adopt strong security controls on mobile devices. As a result, the healthcare industry experiences one of the largest and costliest data breaches in history. By adopting strong device security controls, healthcare organizations can protect sensitive data from being stolen by malicious actors. Healthcare organizations can also maintain control of their sensitive data by preventing unauthorized access.