The internet has revolutionized how we interact, live and spend our time. In the veterinary field, the internet has also made us more connected and streamlined how veterinary services are practiced worldwide. I.e. curbside and telehealth services.
Veterinary owners and staff also rely on the technology for their entertainment, research, booking holidays, buying and selling items such as accessories, connecting with friends through social media and banking services.
However, the internet is still a dark place with many risks that can lead to financial and legal damages to a veterinary practice. Malicious websites and criminals are always lurking on the internet in wait for unsuspecting victims to prey on and cause damage.
For veterinary practice owners, these risks include viruses and spyware, phishing websites designed to steal personal information, downloading copyrighted materials, which can lead to legal implications, fraud such as credit card scams and exposure of inappropriate or private information about a veterinary practice, its owners or staff.
All these risks can, however, be avoided through proper and safe internet habits that are meant to minimize the chances of people falling victims to online criminals and malicious websites.
Safe internet habits for practice owners and staff
Avoiding malicious websites
One of the most common ways that online criminals use to lure their victims is through malicious websites with methods such as phishing. These sites are meant to gather personal information of their targets, such as their email, passwords, credit card information, social security numbers EIN numbers, driving license information and addresses.
Unfortunately, for many people, they are not able to detect these malicious sites and end up being the victims. Practice owners and their staff are also potential victims of such websites and it is important to know how to protect oneself from such websites. For safety browsing of websites, ensure that:
These websites are safe and have valid SSL certificates. This can be verified by ensuring that the websites that practice owners and their staff visit have a valid URL that starts with an https:// instead of only http://. The extra s and a padlock indicate that these sites are safe to use.
The websites are authentic by verifying the URL is a valid domain name of a site you intended to visit. Ensure that the domain name is not misspelled, has no extra letters and that the domain is the actual name that you would expect the website to have.
Before clicking on external links, always roll the mouse pointer over a link to ensure that the domain the link is about to send you is safe. Otherwise, this can result in malicious software such as viruses and malware being installed on your computers, resulting in data loss, financial and legal implications.
Practice owners avoid pharming sites that have addresses that are very close to authentic websites and can result in users visiting these malicious sites thinking they are on authentic sites. For example, practice owners and their staff need to click on the address bar to verify that they are on their intended sites rather than a fake one such us when visiting Idexx.com, they might be redirected to Ideexx.com, which has the same design as the original and asking for login details, failure to confirm its authenticity may lead to compromise of practice owner’s accounts.
Practice owners and their staff should also be careful of online investment websites that promise huge returns. They should ask for advice from licensed financial institutions. Failure to follow advice can lead to financial losses and can also result in legal troubles for practice owners.
Online payment websites or sites that require payments should be trustworthy. Practice owners should always make sure that they are wary about sharing credit information with websites, especially those that they don’t trust can result in severe financial losses or even identity theft.
Protecting your mobile life
Internet safety cannot be fully discussed without mentioning mobile devices. It is estimated that over 50 percent of all internet users at any given time are mobile users. Therefore, mobile devices play a significant role in the internet and online criminals are aware of this fact. New methods to compromise this huge internet base makes it risky for veterinary hospital owners and their staff to surf the internet without knowing how to safely navigate the environment.
For mobile users, most of their gateway to the internet is through apps installed on their phones, such as social media news apps. Hackers are able to attack malicious links to content that is shared online and, when clicked, redirects users to unauthentic sites where their information can be stolen.
Therefore, practice owners should be aware of the external links they click, the websites they visit on their mobile devices. They should also be aware that techniques such as phishing and pharming sites can also be used on mobile devices.
Social media safe usage
Practice owners and their staff should always remember that the old adage about the internet that what you share online cannot be taken back and stays forever. Even deleting shared content shared publicly does not remove it permanently from the internet and can be retrieved and used against them and their practice.
The growth of social media platforms, where over 53 percent of the world population are connected through at least one social media site, has also resulted in benefits such as being able to market veterinary services to clients and keeping them updated about what is happening with the practice. However, there can also be risks involved by using social media platforms that can result in legal and financial implications.
Being a selective sharer on the internet is a great way of ensuring that, as a practice owner, you are keeping yourself safe on the internet and the information available on the internet cannot be used against your practice. There’s a terrible story of a veterinarian who lost the sale of his practice to a corporate consolidator because of personal information that was leaked to his social media accounts. 30 years of hard work and a potential retirement lost because of bad social media habits.
Social media sites, just like any other online platform, can also be hacked, resulting in online criminals accessing private conversations with clients that can be used against a veterinary practice.
Safe browsing habits
Internet users should be aware of these facts to keep them safe when browsing various sites on the internet:
Cookies- These are files that are stored in your computer or mobile phones by websites to help you navigate the site easily and minimize the need to keep on logging in every time you visit them. However, cookies can also be used to store browsing habits, which are in turn used by advertisers to target you with adverts. Therefore, it is important to know when to accept cookies and when not to accept them.
Tracking – websites are able to track your location in order to serve you with regional content. However, this can also be used to target internet users with advertisements and hence it is important to set your browsers in a mode that does not track your location. Setting your browser to ask you if a site should track your location is the appropriate step for safe internet browsing.
Browsers such as Safari, Chrome and Firefox also have the ability to identify fraudulent websites by default. This can also come in handy when browsing the internet. These browsers sometimes fail to open these sites all display a message about a site being insecure warn users that visiting these sites will compromise their security.
The easiest way to ensure your internet safety is to deploy Lucca within your hospital. With the Lucca Cyber Security suite, Lucca sniffs out all the threats on potential websites letting you know if it’s safe to proceed. Lucca has found a number of industry partners that were unaware their websites had been compromised. With Lucca’s help, she was able to notify them and help them get thier sites back in working order.
Protect your passwords
Ensuring that your passwords are kept well can also protect you on the internet. Using a weak password can give online criminals the opportunity to compromise your content, resulting in losses.
Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a password manager like 1Password. Look at Bitwarden. It’s a free opensource password manager trusted by cyber security professionals around the globe.
Using a firewall in veterinary hospitals
Using a firewall on a veterinary practice ensures that your network is protected from external access by online criminals or bots that look for vulnerabilities in a system. It also ensures that devices connected to your network are safe and can be accessed safely without being compromised by unauthorized people.
Are you interested in seeing where your internet cyber security gaps are in your veterinary hospital? Schedule your complete Lucca Cyber security audit today; call (720)316-8344
Clint Latham J.D.
Lucca Veterinary Data Security