Best Practices for Protecting Your Health Care Information Online

HIPAA and Password Security: Best Practices for Protecting Your Health Care Information Online

If you work in the healthcare industry, you know how important it is to protect the privacy and security of your patient’s health information. You also know that HIPAA, the federal law that regulates health information, requires you to do so. But did you know that one of the most common ways hackers and cybercriminals can access your patients’ data is by cracking passwords?

According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency that enforces HIPAA, password-related breaches accounted for 23% of all reported breaches in 2021. That means that almost a quarter of all healthcare data breaches were caused by weak, stolen, or compromised passwords. These breaches can have serious consequences for your patients, business, and reputation. They can result in identity theft, fraud, lawsuits, fines, and loss of trust.

That’s why password protection is not only a good practice but a legal obligation for healthcare providers and business associates. You must create and use strong passwords that can withstand hacking attempts and protect your patients’ data. But how do you do that? And what are some of the best practices for password management? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more. We’ll also share some tips and tools that can help you improve your password security and compliance.

What is a strong password?

A strong password is a password that is hard to guess or crack by hackers or anyone who knows you. A strong password should have the following characteristics:

  • It should be at least 12 characters long. The longer the password, the harder it is to break.
  • It should include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. This makes the password more complex and less likely to be found in a dictionary or a list of common passwords.
  • It should not contain any personal information, such as your name, birthday, address, phone number, or anything else that someone can easily find out about you.
  • It should not be a word or phrase that is easy to guess, such as “password”, “iloveyou”, or “letmein”.
  • It should not be the same as any of your other passwords. If one of your accounts gets compromised, the hacker can use the same password to access your other accounts.

How to create a strong password

There are different methods to create a strong password. Here are some examples:

  • Use a password generator. A password generator is a tool that creates random passwords for you. You can use an online password generator or a password manager. These tools can generate strong passwords that meet the criteria mentioned above. You can also customize the length and complexity of the passwords according to your preferences.
  • Use a passphrase. A passphrase is a sentence or a phrase that you can remember easily but is hard to guess by others. For example, you can use a line from your favorite song, movie, or book, such as “MayTheForceBeWithYou” or “ToBeOrNotToBe.” You can also make it more secure by adding numbers and symbols, such as “MayThe4ceB3WithYou!” or “2B?OrNot2B?”. A passphrase is usually longer and more memorable than a random password.
  • Use an acronym. An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a series of words. For example, you can use the acronym of a memorable sentence or phrase, such as “My first car was a red Toyota Corolla” → “MfcwarTC.” You can add numbers and symbols to make it more complex, such as “Mfcw@rTC!”. An acronym is usually shorter and easier to type than a passphrase.

How to remember your strong password

Once you have created a strong password, you need to remember it without writing it down or storing it in an insecure place. Here are some tips to help you remember your strong password:

  • Use a password manager. A password manager is an application that stores and manages your passwords for you. You only need to remember one master password to access all your other passwords. A password manager can also generate, autofill, and sync your passwords across different devices and browsers.
  • Use mnemonic devices. A mnemonic device is a technique that helps you remember something by associating it with something else. For example, if your password is “Mfcw@rTC!”, you can use the sentence “My first car was at risk of theft constantly!” as a mnemonic device. You can also use images, colors, sounds, or rhymes to help you recall your password.
  • Use spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a method that helps you memorize something by reviewing it at increasing intervals of time. For example, if you want to remember your new password, you can review it after one hour, then after one day, then after one week, then after one month, and so on. This way, you can reinforce your memory and prevent forgetting.

Why you need to follow password security best practices

Creating and remembering strong passwords is not enough to protect your online accounts and personal information. You also need to follow some password security best practices that can help you avoid common mistakes and risks. Here are some of them:

  • Don’t share your password with anyone. Not even a friend or family member. Never send a password by email, instant message, or any other means of communication that is not reliably secure.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts. Don’t reuse the same password for multiple accounts, especially for sensitive ones, such as your email, bank, or health records. This way, if one of your accounts gets hacked, the hacker won’t be able to access your other accounts.
  • Change your password regularly. Don’t use the same password for too long. Change it at least every six months or sooner if you suspect it has been compromised. This way, you can limit the damage of a potential breach.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a security feature that requires you to provide more than one piece of evidence to verify your identity when logging in to an account. For example, you may need to enter a code sent to your phone or email or use a biometric factor, such as your fingerprint or face scan. MFA can add an extra layer of protection to your password and make it harder for hackers to access your account.
  • Beware of phishing and other scams. Phishing is a cyberattack that tries to trick you into revealing your password or other sensitive information by pretending to be someone or something you trust. For example, you may receive an email that looks like it’s from your bank or health provider, asking you to click on a link or open an attachment that contains malware or leads to a fake website. Don’t fall for these scams. Always check the sender’s address, the spelling and grammar of the message, and the URL of the link before clicking or opening anything. If you are not sure, contact the sender directly using a different channel.

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Final Thoughts

Password protection is essential for your online security and privacy. It is also a crucial aspect of HIPAA Security and in safeguarding PHI. You need to create and remember strong passwords that are long, complex, unique, and unpredictable. You also need to use a password manager to store and manage your passwords securely. And you need to follow some password security best practices that can help you avoid common mistakes and risks.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Protect your passwords today.

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