Given that the healthcare industry depends more and more on technology to manage patient data, treatment plans, and general operations, cybersecurity in a medical practice is essential for a number of reasons. Medical records, personal information, and billing data are just a few of the confidential and sensitive patient data that healthcare organisations handle. The compromise of such sensitive information may result in financial fraud, identity theft, and even jeopardise the security of patients.

A data leak also has the potential to seriously undermine patients’ faith in a medical professional. Patients want to know that their private data is safe, and if that information is compromised, they may stop trusting the healthcare institution.

What to Look Out For:

Healthcare practices must already abide by several privacy and data protection laws, including South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which ensures patient privacy. Serious fines and possible legal repercussions may arise from breaking these rules.

However, there are other outlying factors that all medical practices must take precautions on when it comes to protecting patient’s data from malicious attacks, which can take the form of the following:

  1. Phishing:

Phishing assaults are a type of social engineering technique wherein individuals are tricked into divulging confidential information. Attackers frequently deceive recipients by sending emails, texts, or webpages that seem like reliable sources. Phishing may also entail text messaging or phone calls.


  • Spoofed Communication: Attackers assume the identity of reputable organisations, banks, or governmental bodies.
  • Fear or Urgency Tactics: Phishing communications frequently incite fear or a sense of urgency to compel the recipient to take urgent action, including clicking a link or entering login information.
  • Deceptive URLs: Phishing emails may include links to phoney websites that seem a lot like real ones in an attempt to get login credentials.

Example: A healthcare worker gets an email claiming to be from the IT department asking them to update their login information by clicking on a link because there may be a security risk when in reality, this link contains viruses or other malicious programs.

2. Malware:

A wide class of dangerous software known as malware is capable of stealing confidential data, causing harm to computer systems, and carrying out other nefarious deeds. Malware can be spyware, worms, trojans, viruses, and more. Malicious downloads, hacked websites, and email attachments can all lead to infections.


  • Hidden Execution: Malware frequently works invisibly in an effort to elude detection by security programmes.
  • Exploitation of Vulnerabilities: Malware may use operating system or software flaws to obtain unauthorised access.
  • Data Theft or Destruction: Malware can be designed to either steal confidential data or corrupt files and systems.

Example: A member of the healthcare staff inadvertently downloads a seemingly harmless file from a hacked website, which is infected with malware and enters the company’s network.

3. Ransomware:

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts files or whole computers, rendering them unreadable by the user. Attackers offer the decryption key in return for a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency. Malicious websites, phishing emails, and software flaws may all be used to spread ransomware.


  • File Encryption: When a ransom is paid for the decryption key, files encrypted by ransomware become useless.
  • Ransom Message: Usually, victims get a message including instructions on how to pay the ransom and unlock their files.
  • Time Pressure: To instill a sense of urgency, attackers frequently set a deadline for payment.

Example: Ransomware has invaded the computer systems of a healthcare organisation, encrypting patient records and requiring money to unlock them.

Ways to Reduce the Chance of Attacks:

Awareness and Training of Employees:

  • Provide frequent cybersecurity awareness training.
  • Educate employees about phishing threats and safe online practices.

Email Security:

  • Put advanced email screening systems into practice.
  • Implement email authentication procedures.
  • Employees should be taught to spot and report phishing attempts.

Access Controls:

  • Put sophisticated email screening systems into practice.
  • Limit an employee’s access privileges and permissions to what is essential for them to carry out their duties.
  • Employees should be taught to spot and report phishing attempts.

Data Protection:

  • Regularly back up critical data and ensure secure storage.
  • Encrypt sensitive data to protect it from unauthorised access.

System and Software Updates:

  • Keep all software, operating systems, and applications up-to-date.
  • Implement a robust patch management system.

Security Policies:

  • Establish and enforce clear security policies for email communication, data handling, and overall cybersecurity practices.

Device Control:

  • Restrict the use of external devices and implement controls for scanning and authorising external devices, such as flash drives and hard drives.

Your practice may greatly improve its resilience against a range of cyber attacks by implementing a comprehensive strategy that includes these broad cybersecurity steps. Preventive measures against cybercrime, continuous training, and regular upgrades are essential components of a safe healthcare environment.

If there has been a cybersecurity breach at your medical practice, you need to move quickly and methodically to reduce the harm, safeguard private data, and get things back to normal. Some suggested actions would be:

Remove and Seal the Breach:

  • Determine which systems are compromised and isolate them to stop the breach from spreading.
  • To contain the situation, disconnect any infected systems or devices from the network.

Notify Relevant Parties:

  • Observe the legal and regulatory standards of breach notification, including informing regulatory agencies, patients, and other relevant persons.
  • If required, cooperate with law enforcement.

Carry out security updates:

  • All systems should be patched and updated to fix any vulnerabilities that may have been used.
  • Perform an extensive infrastructure-wide security evaluation.

Restore Using Backups:

  • Restore impacted systems from recent, clean backups, if applicable. Verify that the backups have not been tampered with and are safe.

Review and Update Policies:

  • Evaluate and update cybersecurity policies and procedures based on insights gained from the incident.
  • Reinforce the importance of adherence to security protocols.

Monitor for Further Threats:

  • Implement continuous monitoring for any signs of ongoing or future threats.
  • Consider threat hunting to identify potential risks proactively.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance:

  • Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory obligations following a cybersecurity incident.
  • Cooperate with investigations and audits as required.

If you’d like to know more about safe Practice Management Software that is ISO27001 certified and takes your practice’s, and patient’s data seriously, contact GoodX on 012 845 9888, or visit us on for a free demo today.