How Archiving Protect against Ransomwares and Data Breaches

Data security is becoming the common head ache for most business owners and institutions. This has led individuals and organisations to spend heavily on research, about how to curb cyber-attacks like ransom ware. Over the last decade different ransom wares have affected large corporations halting their services and taking their money. Some of these ransom wares include Petya which exploited MS office and SMBv1 vulnerabilities to propagate through the networks. Then there was ‘Skype’ malware that its attack spread through the vulnerabilities of Skype platform. Then there was fireball that affected countries in Asia especially China and India, what fireball did is to hijack browsers and making them inactive and then stole people personal information. Delta Charlie another form of malware happened, this attack was through launching of distributed denial of services on all vulnerable computers. Finally the most listen and dangerous was Wannacry, that software which was believed to have been developed by the US NSA but got on wrong hands. This software gets hold of your computer files, encrypt them and then demand payment in form of bit coins. Wannacry affected National health Services in the United Kingdom where some health care services could not have been offered.

These threats to data security can be concluded that the most used method of propagating these attacks is through websites and internets, therefore a caution of care should be taken by each and every organisation when dealing with internet application. Here are some of best practices that can help prevent ransomware and ensure your data security

  • Ransome ware like wannacry exploited software vulnerability and it is advised that you update your software regularly. Software like MS word and windows operating system have their updates online, it is simple and easy to update. Plus, make sure your browsers, antivirus and java are up to date.
  • Desist from opening attachments in your emails if they look suspicious or you do not know who exactly sender is. Majority of the virus and malware are distributed through emails. So it is always advisable to handle every attachment with caution.
  • Always revise your personal anti-spam settings to ensure that doubtful attachment with funny extension are blocked or deleted immediately. One way of identify a fake attachment is when use a word document or excel file that have an extension like .exe. This means that it is not a genuine file since the extension file of the MS word and MS excel is .docx and .xls or xlsx
  • Avoid clicking each and every pop-up, hyperlink on websites or social media. These are the most vulnerable sites that attackers and criminals use to send harmful software.
  • Install genuine and bought antiviruses and firewalls and avoid installing trail version software from internet. Majority of them may look like genuine software but in reality they are malwares uploaded by criminals to compromise your data security. Always ensure your firewall is configured correctly and if you do not how consult an IT expert.
  • Enhance your browser by installing add-on that that can help blocks unwanted pop-ups.
  • Always follow your organisation data handling policy in place, make sure they are updated regularly and have captured all major development in the field.

Internet has become the most commonly used platform in data storage and with all these challenges, an efficient and effective solution has to be developed. Institutions like hospitals patients’ data and medical records are very crucial in their daily operations. So there is a need for hospital management not only back up there data but also do archive them using the appropriate file archiving software. Not to be confused by data back, archiving is different in that, data is classified in different tiers according to their need and importance then stored in secure and safe place or system. By archiving medical records this helps protect the most important and significant data from theft, damage or lost.

One way of ensuring data security is by creating an archiving system that is away from internet (WAN). Hospital IT specialist should create a private intranet(LAN) away from internet that not only ensures data and file sharing within the hospitals but also use file archiving software that give maximum data security.  Qualities of a good file archiving software include:

  • The software should be able enhance searchability that is it easier to retrieved files when required.
  • It should be secure that is the software should be able to prevent data from theft and access by an unauthorised personnel. It should also be able to capture, compress, encrypt and index file data easily.
  • The file archiving software should be scalable both horizontally and vertically to enable accommodate more modules as the organisation grow.
  • Software should also be able to optimize your files such that it is able to detect duplication of the same file as the organisations continue increasing their operations.
  • Flexibility is another quality that should not be ignored in file archiving software; the software should be able to allow for different types of files to be stored. Files like videos, documents, images and scanned documents. It is also important to consider software that is able to save a file with a different file format that will not get obsolete soon after that software that was used to format them is no longer active.
  • The software should be economical and easy to use. It should be easy to operate the software and easy to teach new employees. The cost of acquiring, maintaining and operating the software should be manageable.

Although as mentioned earlier to avoid ransom ware and data breach organisation intranet should be kept away from internet it should be noted however, that for critical data and file that need to be shared publicly it is better for the IT management and personnel responsible to securely demilitarize the servers with the best firewalls and algorithms. It is advisable for the personnel to keep checking regularly the software for any intrusion. For best practices of handling data and maintaining its integrity IT personnel should be formulate policies that should be followed. Below are sample policies that should be observed to ensure data security in file archiving software:

  • Each and every employee should have a powerful password that combine numeric, alphabets and other characters and it should be changed regularly.
  • Every USB storage device used by every employee should be scanned first for viruses and approved by the IT department. Any outside storage devices should not be allowed to be login in the system or allowed in the building all together. Employees should also refrain from going home or using office storage media for personal purposes and if need arise where employee have to carry some files home he or she should carry due diligence to ensure that the storage media was not used in other activities.
  • Regular meeting and training of the employees by the IT personnel should be held. Each and every employee should be requested to contribute or participate in discussion on how to improve the data security of the organisation.
  • Physical security should be introduced near the archive room like installation of motion sensor and CCTV system. Also the system should be able to detect who is logged on at each specific moment and what files are they accessing.
  • Using internet during work hour should be limited and only allowed at specific areas or time of the day set by the management. This must be agreed by all stakeholders so as to ensure employees do not try other back door activities that may end up causing more damage.
  • The only data to be entered in the system is the one verified and approved using the set guidelines of the companies. Therefore each and every employee should be provided with a guidebook with well set guidelines to ensure that he or she is up-to date with the procedures.

Even with all this system in place the ultimate determiner is human capital. Integrity and effectiveness of human is something that can be tested in fullness of time. Data security start with human and end with human.

Importance of Archiving Medical Records

Information is power, and medical records provide very crucial information and data needed during medical diagnostic procedures. Medical records ensure that there is continuity of care provided to patients. Effective, elaborate and comprehensive medical records ensure that caregivers and medical practitioners can easily track past patient information without necessarily relying on personal memories. On a different note, archived records also serve various legal purposes; for instance, they can be used as evidence to support given claim, or even as a basis for filing a lawsuit. Medical records can take various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Handwritten notes
  • Reports from laboratory
  • Computerised records
  • Communications between health practitioners
  • Photographs
  • Imaging records from x-rays and other treatment equipment.
  • Video recordings
  • Printouts from monitoring equipment
  • Correspondence between doctors and patients.

Patients have right to their records; therefore, it is the duty of the hospital to make sure that they practice safe and secure record keeping. The question that arises is: what are the best practices of archiving medical records? And are they economical? Owing to the number of records generated in heath care facilities, an efficient information storage system is required. Hospital records have immensely contributed towards the emergence of the ‘big data’ concept, whereby a lot of data is generated daily. As a result, it is pertinent for IT department in hospitals come up with innovative ways of handling the through a resilient medical records archiving solution. In a healthcare setting, medical records are crucial in providing the patient medical history; hence, they must be securely stored and must be retrievable whenever they are needed.

Properly archived medical records provide the basis through which doctors and other medical practitioners enrich their diagnostics and understanding of a clinical problem. Doctors are able to refer to a previous case, analyze it and infer the merits and demerits of the solution and the possible implication on the current situation. They are able to make better judgment and provide a well-thought and evidence-based intervention. Serious medical breakthroughs have been made with the help of stored records by studying of pattern of occurrence of certain diseases or other medical phenomenon and drawing a conclusion from them. When doing medical research, student use stored information as secondary data and sometimes as the primary source of information.

Archiving also aids in the provision of quality care in hospitals, hence promoting better health outcomes for the patents. Easy retrieval of medical records enhances doctors’ ability to provide efficient and fast treatment. For every patient, the healthcare professionals have to keep a written medical record; this can be done using physical files or in using an electronic health record system. An electronic health record system makes it more convenient for the doctors to get this information as quick as possible. When emergency cases happen in the hospital that requires immediate attention, the only way the available doctors at the scene can handle the case is based on how quickly they retrieve the information needed. Therefore, file archiving solution for medical records should be provided at all cost. One of the best ways of sharing and using medical records is by improved internal communication in the health facility. Hospital management should facilitate doctors and nurses with proper and effective internal communication system.

Different Techniques of Archiving Medical Records

Digitization of medical records: it is easy to archive electronic medical records. With the help of appropriate medical records archiving software, it is easy to securely store the files for a long period. File archiving solution providers suggest that effective medical records archiving solution should at minimum do the following:

  • Use a comprehensive data analysis method and create a report.
  • Use a centralized remote file management to make it easy to update and access.
  • Do automation of the file storage system engine with efficient and effective relevant commands.
  • Optimize storage system with file de-duplication system with single instance storage.

Grouping data storages into different enhance data movement while still maintaining its integrity. Tiering data also helps reduce total storage cost. When tiering, the data that is very variable, valid, reliable, often accessed, crucial and has secretive information is stored in tier one. Then the financial and other data files that are rarely used are stored in tier two. Finally, tier three contain data that is less classified and which is supposed to be in public domain or which is event-driven. The illustration below shows the cost factor and efficiency in each tier.

  • Tier 1-this level is expensive but has high performance
  • Tier 2-it is less costly however it is very slow as compared to tier one
  • Tier 3- it is the cheapest and readily available

On a different noted, there are very helpful off the shelf software that enhances record keeping and management. With the present day technology, information management systems remain the best and most effective way of managing records. With automated health record keeping, it is easy to analyze data and gain critical insights that can aid in making an informed clinical decision .

For handwritten notes, it would be advisable for the archiving room to be well equipped and able to resist a wide array of adversities. Additionally, there is the need to scan and store as a soft copy as a backup in case of loss.

The chosen file storage systems should exhibit the following characterizes:

  • Efficiency: The system should depict aptness, accuracy and high throughput in the storage and retrieval of the relevant record.
  • The records should be organized in a logical manner, and in a form that is easy to decipher. Both patients and doctors should be able to understand it easily. Transparency improves the level of confidence in doctors and other medical practitioners, and it makes patients trust doctors with their confidential personal information.
  • Storage system should guarantee maximum security to private and confidential information of the patients. For electronic file storage systems, the data should be highly encrypted and access privileges granted only to the relevant individuals. For physical filing systems, access to the storage facility should be managed to limit any unauthorized access.
  • Data integrity. Doctors should be able to verify data retrieved is the one that was actually entered, so the system should be able to produce legitimate and accurate information at all time without any form of alteration.

Challenges of Provision Of Medical Storage Facility

Although a medical archiving system is a very important component in ensuring efficiency in a healthcare setting, various challenges are probable. Firstly, archiving is a costly venture. Initial installation cost although high can be managed by proper utilization of fund by the management. Secondly, this system requires constant maintenance to avoid breakdown which could be catastrophic for the hospital. As a result, the need to work with highly trained and qualified personnel is a requirement. Non-compliance with the stringent standard of archiving medical records can be solved by the willingness of the staff to comply with the rule and regulation and constant reminder that standards should be followed at all time and make it hospital policy to observe those rules.

Rules and Guidelines for Archiving Medical Records

To ensure safe, effective and reliable medical records archiving solution is arrived at, the following guidelines can be utilized to make sure that the medical records capture relevant information:

  • The medical records should contain adequate information to identify and assess the patients and provide proof on the course of patient’s health care.
  • The records should include accurate and legible documentation of any local health department activity involving or affecting the patient’s health. Data needed should include but not limited to assessment, tests, results, and treatment.
  • All medical records must be maintained in a standard format with entries and forms filed in chronological order with most current on top.
  • Each and every form or document filed within the record shall include the patient’s name, identification number and clinic identifier.
  • Each entry in the records shall contain the date of service and description number.
  • Documentation should be done in accordance to with the public Health Practice Reference (PHPR) documentation guidelines.