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Strategies for Identifying Email Phishing Scams & Protecting Your Patient Data

Exploring how healthcare professionals approach email security strategically

There’s no denying that today’s cybersecurity climate is more hostile and harder to navigate than ever before. Particularly, email phishing campaigns are now the most common network attack out there. For busy healthcare professionals, email phishing threats can pose a serious risk to patient data security. This can result in huge breaches of confidentiality, regulatory sanctions, and a halt on operations.

Furthermore, experts agree that email security in the healthcare space needs serious improvement. In the face of this cybersecurity doom and gloom, many healthcare professionals are looking for concrete strategies to avoid the negative effects of phishing scams and other email security threats. With more and more of these threats popping up every day, you and your team need a focused plan for action and protection.

That’s why were on a mission to help healthcare professionals like you identify and flag the key characteristics of phishing scams in order to stop scammers in their tracks and avoid breaches of your patient data. By learning what to look for, you and your team will be more thoughtful and vigilant in the fight against cybercrime of all kinds – especially phishing attacks.

Stopping “Phishers” In Their Tracks – Identifying Email Scam Characteristics

The key to being vigilant against cybercrime is being informed. When it comes to email phishing attacks, there are some key characteristics that can be identified right away in order to prevent network breach or data theft. Read on to review some key phishing scam questions and uncover how to identify tell-tale characteristics to keep your network secure.

  1. Does the email in question look legitimate?

This is the first and perhaps the easiest red flag to identify. When you receive an out-the-ordinary email, the first thing you should do is examine the email body and content to assess whether it looks or seems legitimate. By giving the content a ‘once-over’ you’ll be able to spot any irregularities or illegitimacies and will be able to determine if the email is coming from a real person or was created by a bot.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when reviewing a suspicious email:

  • Is the email addressed to you by name?
  • Does the email’s grammar and spelling look correct?
  • Is the email body lined-up and formatted correctly?
  • Is there anything else in the communication that looks suspicious or illegitimate?
  1. Does the email in question ask you to follow a link to a login page?

This is the biggest red flag of all when it comes to spotting phishing scams! If an email includes a link to a familiar looking page where you’re asked to log-in, there’s a significant chance it’s a phishing scam. Very often, phishing scammers include a malicious link to a seemingly familiar login page in hopes of stealing the login credentials that you enter.

The best way to avoid getting your data stolen is to think twice. Whenever you receive an email that directs you to a login page, try typing in the familiar website yourself. For instance, if you get an email that directs you to an Office 365 login page, try typing in your Office 365 web address yourself. Same thing if you’re prompted to log in to your banking app or other work related sites.

By typing in the web address yourself, you’ll be able to spot the differences between the legitimate page and the bogus one. This will help you and your team avoid entering data into a scam login page, that was designed specifically to dupe you into providing sensitive login information. This will stop hackers in their tracks and will ensure they can’t get gain unauthorized access to your business network.

  1. Have you checked out and confirmed the sender’s email domain?

This is another sure-fire way to identify a scammer right off the bat. Most email phishing scams are designed to impersonate legitimate organizations and applications that you trust. However, the email addresses they create are often slightly different than the legitimate counterparts they try to imitate.

A good strategy is to take a quick second look at the email domain from the sender. Even if it has the organization or application name in it, doesn’t mean its legitimate. Take a close look at the domain and see if it matches with other, legitimate communications you’ve received from that entity. If there is even a one-character difference, chances are the email isn’t legit and is attempting to imitate a familiar entity in hopes of earning your trust.

  1. Have you reached out to the apparent sender to confirm the email’s legitimacy?

If you’ve completed steps 1 through 3 and you’re still unsure if an email is a scam or not, the best practice is to reach out directly to the entity in question. For instance, if you get an email that is apparently from a vendor or third-party healthcare provider, but you can’t be sure, why not reach out to the service provider directly to ask if the communication was sent by them?

This is best practice not only for you and your team but for your third-party service providers as well. By checking in with someone in person or by phone, you’ll be able to confirm whether or not an email is legitimate and you will also be notifying third-parties about potentially dangerous scams that are being carried out in their name. Now, that’s a cybersecurity win-win.

  1. Are you using encryption technology to protect your email network?

Finally, the best way to tighten email security for healthcare practices is to be proactive. If your clinic or practice isn’t making use of email encryption technology, you should be doing so immediately. Deploying proactive email encryption mechanisms is one of the best ways to stay a step-ahead of email phishers.

Email encryption tools help add an additional layer of security to your email conversations – both in transit and at rest. Encryption essentially makes your email content indecipherable to anyone other than the intended recipient. Encryption tools usually demand an additional layer of authentication and there are even email security solutions designed specifically for healthcare professionals.

Communication & Consultation: Spread the Word & Lean on Expert Consultation

For healthcare professionals, communication is a close second to information when it comes to preventing a successful phishing attack. Talk to your colleagues about suspicious emails. If you suspect an attack, be sure to tell other team members so they’re on the ready and waiting. Share these red-flag identification strategies with those around you. Information and communication truly are the best remedy for fighting cybercrime in the healthcare sector.

Furthermore, when in doubt, always know that you can reach out to IT professionals for increased guidance and strategic consultation. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of an email, reach out to your internal IT department for their professional opinion. Trust us, they’d much rather asses an email for legitimacy than try and secure a network after you’ve fallen for a malicious link.

Finally, if you don’t have internal IT professionals on staff, don’t hesitate to reach out to a managed IT professional with experience in the healthcare sector. Strategic IT consultants can help you and your team better identify threats and develop on a solid plan for continued vigilance and protection. If you’re worried about phishing scams or other cyber threats invading your business network, reach out for some one-on-one healthcare cybersecurity consultation – it could make all the difference in keeping your clinic’s network secure.

Did you find this article informative? As always, we’re happy to help! If you liked this, check out these other articles we think you’ll love:

http://www.getgds.com/blog/managed-it-services-the-ibuprofen-for-your-network

http://www.getgds.com/blog/4-tips-using-technology-to-improve-healthcare

http://www.getgds.com/blog/top-8-reasons-your-healthcare-clients-need-a-hipaa-hitech-update-due-to-omnibus-final-rule

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