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Chicago Midwinter Meeting: 5 Ways to Stop Cyber Crime in its Tracks

Pat Little, D.D.S., president of Dental Risk Concepts LLC, encouraged attendees of his continuing education session at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting to be proactive about their practice’s data security on Friday, Feb. 25. “I have seen many dental practices hit with fines in the $50,000-$100,000 range for a breach,” he said. Those breaches can also result in censure from state dental boards.
Darcy Lewis
PUBLISHED: Friday, February 24, 2017
That old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure has rarely been more true than when it comes to cybersecurity in the dental practice. That’s because the stakes of protecting your practice from computer hacks and other crimes have never been higher, says Pat Little, D.D.S., president of Dental Risk Concepts LLC, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Little told attendees at his Chicago Dental Society 2017 Midwinter Meeting session that a cyber breach may lead to state dental board involvement if patients file complaints. And of course a breach has HIPAA implications, too, in the form of stiff fines: “I have seen many dental practices hit with fines in the $50,000-$100,000 range for a breach,” he said.
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Direct fines aren’t the only potential financial hit, either: Nearly half of dental patients say they would switch providers in the event of a breach, Little said.
Little, who also holds the Certified Fraud Examiner credential, noted that dental offices are vulnerable to several types of cyber crime:
· Hacking – Gaining direct, unauthorized access to another’s computer and/or data.
· Phishing – Posing as a trustworthy source online to fraudulently acquire information.
· Scareware – Specific type of malware that uses frightening messages to trick victims into purchasing useless and/or dangerous software.
· Ransomware – Similar to scareware but uses encryption to hijack another’s computer until a ransom is paid.
Little discussed five key ways to prevent cyber criminals from wreaking havoc in your practice.
1. Think Like a Criminal.
To defeat a criminal, it pays to think like one, Little said. “Criminals hold a different worldview than the rest of society: They’re self-centered, narcissistic and entitled,” he explained. “They see opportunities for crime where others don’t and enjoy the challenge.”
2. Hire IT Professionals.
Go with the experts, Little advises. “I always recommend that dental practices work with a good IT company,” he said. “If you get hacked, the DIY approach can get you into hot water because of the issues of HIPAA compliance.”
Little has found that many practices balk due to financial reasons. “You may not enjoy paying that retainer fee every month, but all it takes is one incident to make you realize the pro’s value,” he said.
3. Keep Your Software Up to Date.
This is especially important for your workhorse programs, typically Microsoft Office products and your practice management software. “Remember, you’re more open to attacks with older software,” he said. “The updates are often done in response to other users being hacked.”

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