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How Cybercriminals Can Compromise Veterinary Tools and How to Prevent It

By February 26, 2024No Comments

Veterinary practices rely on various tools and systems to provide quality care for their animal patients and efficient service for their human clients. However, these tools and systems can expose them to cyber threats, such as data breaches, ransomware, phishing, or DDoS attacks.

Cybercriminals can exploit the vulnerabilities of these tools and systems to steal, damage, or disrupt sensitive information, such as medical records, test results, invoices, reminders, or payment details. This interruption and disruption can have serious consequences for the reputation, revenue, and liability of the veterinary practice, as well as the privacy, security, and trust of the clients and patients.

In this article, we will review some of the common tools and systems used in veterinary practices, how cybercriminals can compromise them, and what steps can be taken to protect them from cyberattacks.

1.Practice Information Management Systems (PIMS)

PIMS are software applications that help veterinarians manage their daily operations, such as scheduling appointments, billing, inventory, and reporting. PIMS stores sensitive data, such as client information, medical records, and financial transactions. If PIMS is compromised, cybercriminals can access, alter, or delete this data, causing financial losses, privacy breaches, and reputational damage.

To prevent this, veterinarians should use strong passwords and change them regularly, enable multi-factor authentication for accessing PIMS, encrypt data in transit and at rest, update PIMS software and patches regularly, backup data frequently, and store it in a secure location, and train staff on cybersecurity best practices and policies.

2.Diagnostic Equipment

Diagnostic equipment, such as X-ray machines, ultrasound devices, and blood analyzers, are used to perform tests and procedures on animals. These devices are often connected to the internet or a network, which makes them susceptible to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals can hack into these devices and tamper with their settings, results, or functionality, leading to inaccurate diagnoses, incorrect treatments, or physical harm to animals.

Veterinarians should take several steps to secure diagnostic equipment: use encrypted device connections, isolate devices from other networks, monitor for suspicious activity, disable unnecessary features, install security software like antivirus and firewalls, and report incidents or vulnerabilities to manufacturers.

3.Electronic Reminders (e-reminders)

E-reminders are electronic messages that remind clients of appointments, vaccinations, or treatments. They can improve client retention and satisfaction through timely communication. However, e-reminders pose cybersecurity risks as they can be spoofed, intercepted, or modified by cybercriminals to trick clients into revealing personal information, clicking malicious links, or downloading malware.

Veterinarians should use secure verified platforms, consistent branding, avoid requesting sensitive details, include disclaimers, advise clients to verify authenticity, and report suspicious messages.

4.Client Dashboards or Smartphone Applications

Client dashboards or smartphone applications are online or mobile platforms that allow clients to access and manage their accounts, records, and services. Client dashboards or smartphone applications can enhance the convenience and accessibility of veterinary care, as they allow clients to book appointments, view test results, order prescriptions, or chat with veterinarians. However, client dashboards or smartphone applications also pose cybersecurity risks, as they can be hacked, infected, or exploited by cybercriminals. If client dashboards or smartphone applications are compromised, cybercriminals can access, steal, or manipulate the data or functions of these platforms, causing financial losses, privacy breaches, or service disruptions.

To prevent this, veterinarians should use secure and encrypted platforms for developing and hosting client dashboards or smartphone applications, implement robust authentication and authorization mechanisms for client dashboards or smartphone applications, update client dashboards or smartphone applications software and patches regularly, test and scan client dashboards or smartphone applications for any vulnerabilities or malware, inform clients of the features and risks of client dashboards or smartphone applications, and encourage clients to use strong passwords and update them regularly for client dashboards or smartphone applications.

5. Communication Tools

Communication tools like email, phone, text, or video enable efficient exchange of information between veterinarians, clients, staff, and stakeholders. However, these tools risk eavesdropping, interception, or hijacking by cybercriminals, potentially leading to misinformation, miscommunication, or mistrust if compromised.

Veterinarians should use secure encrypted channels, verify communication partners’ identities, avoid sharing sensitive information, employ code words for urgent matters, delete or archive records after use, and report any suspicious communication.

6.Inventory Management

Inventory management systems track stock and usage of medications, vaccines, consumables, and equipment, optimizing ordering, storage, and dispensing while reducing waste and costs. Cyber threats include ransomware blocking access or demanding payment for restoration and unsecured APIs allowing hackers to access or modify data.

To mitigate the cybersecurity risk of inventory management systems, practices should deploy endpoint protection and detection tools, restrict system access to authorized encrypted users, and vet third-party vendor security compliance.

7.Security Systems

Security systems like firewalls, antivirus, encryption, passwords, and biometrics safeguard practice data and systems from unauthorized access, theft, or damage. Physical security measures such as locks, alarms, and cameras also contribute.

However, these can be compromised by phishing emails tricking users into credential disclosure or malware installation, DDoS attacks overwhelming systems, ransomware encrypting data for ransom, and unsecured APIs allowing hacker access. Practices should conduct regular cybersecurity audits, use strong multi-factor authentication, keep software updated, encrypt data and communications, and vet third-party vendor security compliance.

8.Payment Processing or Portals

Payment processing portals enable veterinarians to accept various client payment methods like credit cards, mobile wallets, and online transfers, improving convenience and reducing costs, errors, and fraud through automated streamlined processes. Risks include phishing emails manipulating users to reveal payment details or redirect to malicious sites, ransomware blocking access until ransom payment, and unsecured APIs permitting hacker data access and modification.

Mitigations include staff and client cybersecurity training, additional email security flagging potential threats, encrypted payment information and authenticated communications, and evaluating third-party vendor security and regulatory compliance.

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Don’t let outdated technology hold you back. Reach out to Lucca Veterinary Data Security now and unlock the full potential of your veterinary practice.

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