Cybersecurity has become a hot topic in the veterinary world in recent years as cyberattacks become increasingly sophisticated, destructive, and costly to fix.
Could moving to the cloud help mitigate some of the risks?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how moving to a cloud-based practice management system can bolster your practice’s cybersecurity posture and keep your sensitive data safe and secure.
Why do cybercriminals target veterinary clinics?
Cybercriminals don’t discriminate. They target businesses big and small, and organizations operating across every sector. Every day, more than 450,000 new pieces of malicious software are detected, while the global cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
The veterinary industry isn’t immune from this phenomenon. If you handle important data (and as a 21st-century veterinary practice, you absolutely do), you are a potential target.
Here are a few reasons why a cybercriminal might be interested in attacking your system:
- Install malicious software: Cybercriminals use many different techniques to distribute malware including email attachments, infected websites, software exploits, and more. The impact of an infection varies. Some malware is designed to harvest your passwords, while others might spam you with ads or use your device’s resources to mine for cryptocurrency.
- Steal sensitive information: Modern veterinary practices are responsible for managing and storing mountains of sensitive data, from client records to financial information and everything in between. Attackers can use this information to commit various types of fraud or sell the stolen data en masse to other criminals on the dark web.
- Hold your data to ransom: Ransomware is a type of malware that infects computer systems and encrypts files, making them inaccessible to the user. The attackers then demand a ransom payment (often measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) in exchange for providing the decryption key to unlock the files. Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common in recent years and can be extremely disruptive and costly to remediate.
Security advantages of the cloud
1. Automatically receive critical security updates
As the term suggests, a software vulnerability is simply a flaw or weakness in a piece of software. Cybercriminals use automated tools to actively search for these flaws and exploit the vulnerability to carry out sorts of dastardly deeds, such as gaining unauthorized access to the network, stealing sensitive data, or deploying malicious software. These vulnerabilities can exist in any software, including your operating systems, applications, web browsers, plugins, and more.
Naturally, most software vendors (the good ones, at least!) don’t take kindly to their products being exploited and, in response, release important software updates designed to fix the security holes. Of course, these updates only work if they’re installed in a timely fashion. Failure to install these patches promptly means that systems remain vulnerable, leaving them open to attack. More than half of all data breaches can be attributed to poor patch management!
In an on-premises solution, updates tend to be few and far between. And because they usually require manual installation and can be quite disruptive to a clinic’s day-to-day processes, some practices put off deploying available updates, which further extends the window of opportunity for an attack.
With a cloud-based practice management system, security updates are deployed much more efficiently. Updates can be rolled out and automatically applied behind the scenes with minimal disruption to the practice, ensuring that any potential vulnerabilities are resolved before they can be exploited.
2. Restrict physical access to your data
It’s important to remember that data security isn’t just about protecting your data from virtual attacks - you need to consider physical threats, too!
For example, an intruder could break into your server room and install a rogue device that quietly captures confidential data. Or they could load the whole server into the back of a truck, take it home with them, and crack the password at their leisure. Securing your server against these types of physical attacks can be challenging (and, depending on the layout and construction of the building, sometimes downright impossible).
From a security perspective, one of the most overlooked advantages of a cloud-based practice management solution is the security it provides against physical threats. With a cloud-based system, your data is stored in servers that are housed in purpose-built data centers secured with strict physical access controls, alarms, CCTV, and surveillance teams. Access cards and/or biometric identification ensure that only authorized personnel can physically access the servers, while regular security audits help cloud providers identify and address any vulnerabilities.
Implementing these types of physical access controls is simply not feasible for most veterinary clinics. The cloud helps you secure your data using the same technologies and strategies used by some of the most security-conscious organizations on the planet.
3. Secure your data with 24/7 monitoring
A security incident that goes unnoticed can cause significant damage. Systems may be knocked offline. Client data may be exposed. In cases of extreme disruption, patient health can even be impacted.
It’s important that cyberthreats are dealt with swiftly and effectively - and that’s where cloud-based systems shine. Cloud service providers use advanced monitoring systems to ensure the security and availability of their data centers, which are staffed by teams of IT security specialists whose entire jobs revolve around protecting the integrity of your data.
Continuous monitoring and intrusion detection systems are used to detect abnormal behavior and unusual network traffic that could indicate a potential security threat, while dedicated security personnel are on duty 24 hours a day to respond to alerts and triage incidents.
4. Reduce the risk of permanent data loss
There are a bunch of catastrophic events that can threaten your IT operations, ranging from natural disasters and power outages to deliberate sabotage and good old-fashioned human blunders. When disaster strikes (and it should be considered a when, not an if), you’ll need to have a robust system in place to preserve the integrity of your data and keep your business up and running.
Cloud-based systems excel in this regard. The data centers that house cloud servers use redundancy as a crucial strategy to prevent data loss in the event of hardware or software failures.
- Redundant hardware: Cloud data centers use redundant hardware, including servers, storage devices, and network equipment, to ensure that critical systems are always available. If one component fails, the backup component takes over, minimizing the risk of downtime or data loss.
- Multiple data centers: Cloud providers replicate data across multiple storage devices in different geographic locations. If one data center experiences an outage, the workload can be shifted to another data center, ensuring that your data is always available even if one storage device fails.
- Automated failover: Cloud data centers use automated failover systems to switch workloads to redundant systems in the event of a failure. This ensures that data and systems are always available, even in the event of hardware or software failure.
Leveraging the cloud allows you to easily achieve a level of redundancy that would be difficult (or prohibitively expensive) to replicate in an on-premises solution.
Moving to a cloud-based practice management system can’t magically resolve all of your cybersecurity concerns but it can help mitigate some significant risks.
Ready to learn more about the benefits of the cloud?
Book a demo with ezyVet and find out how the cloud can help your business save time, drive revenue, and deliver exceptional patient care.