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How veterinary practices can fight back against cybercriminals

By February 28, 2022February 16th, 2024No Comments

Cybercriminals have hit new levels of sophistication, and demands for ransom after every attack has increased significantly. Unfortunately, part of the reason why there has been a sharp increase in cyberattacks has been due to victims’ unwillingness to fight back against these cybercriminals.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case, and veterinary practices can start fighting back against cybercriminals by implementing strategies for prevention of cyberattacks, preparation against cyberattacks, response to cyberattacks and recovery after cyberattacks. In this article, we will look at how we can implement these strategies for our veterinary practices.

Preventing cyberattacks

 When it comes to cyberattacks against your veterinary practice, reacting after an attack can be costly. This is why you need to dedicate resources to prevent these attacks from happening. Understanding the attack vectors likely to be used against you is the first step in helping you prevent future cyberattacks.

 According to research done by Coveware in their fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021, data showed that 75 percent of cyberattacks involving ransomware began with either a phishing email or a compromise in Remote Desktop Protocol. The research data can serve as a blueprint to how veterinary practices should implement their prevention strategies. Below are some of the tactics veterinary practices should use to prevent such attacks:

–       Secure RDP: With data showing that 75 percent of attacks are as a result of phishing and RDP compromises, securing your RDP can go a long way in deterring cybercriminals from successfully targeting and attacking your veterinary practice.

–       Implement multifactor authentication: In many email phishing campaigns, cybercriminals aim to take login credentials they can use to compromise computer systems and networks. To deter their efforts, having a multifactor authentication that notifies you every time a user tries to log in to a system using your details can prevent them from accessing the systems.

–       Software updates: Legacy systems are a source of most successful cyberattacks. Ensuring that all your software and hardware is upgraded or updated can prevent most cyberattacks.

–       Blocking Transmission Control Protocol (TCP): Ensure that your veterinary practices’ IT infrastructure does not allow TCP from external sources. This should also be combined with internal firewalls if you want to reduce the attack surface.

–       Train your staff: Your veterinary practice staff has one of the most significant roles to play if you want to prevent cyberattacks. This can be achieved by training them to recognize cyberattacks such as those launched as phishing emails.

Preparation against cyberattacks

Even with prevention measures, it is important that your veterinary practice be prepared for a cyberattack. This will help you remove the element of surprise, and reduce chances that you are caught unaware and with no plan on what you should do. Below are some tactics you can use to prepare your veterinary practice for a cyberattack:

–       Decision-making: Cyberattacks become very difficult to address when there is no plan in place to address the attack. This includes decisions such as who will lead the response team, should other members of your veterinary practices be involved, and does your veterinary practice need external cybersecurity experts. Therefore, it is important to designate people to roles who will be key to making decisions during and after a cyberattac.

–       Prepare for all options: If the past year has taught us anything in regards to cyberattacks, it is that we should prepare for anything. Veterinary practices should not dismiss the possibility of negotiating, especially in cases where cyberattacks put your clients at risk of also getting attacked. Also, ensure that you have plans in place that you need to have exhausted before initiating contact with your attackers. Such plans include backups and cybersecurity experts who are conversant with the type of cyberattack aimed at your practice.

–       Measures to notify your staff and clients: Part of the preparation for cyberattacks is having measures to notify your staff about a cyberattack. This can be very useful during a cyberattack because it can prevent cybercriminals from laterally moving up your network and compromising the whole system or network.

–       Prepare your veterinary practice to be resilient during a cyber attack: One of the most important questions that as a practice owner you need to answer is, how can you operate when part of your IT infrastructure is under cyberattack. Knowing how to structure your veterinary practice so that a cyberattack does not disrupt your operations is the best way to respond to cyberattacks.

Response to cyber attacks

Pause for a moment and imagine that your veterinary practice has been attacked by cybercriminals, how are you going to respond? Chances are, as a practice owner, you didn’t have an answer on the fly. This is because strategic response amidst a cyberattack requires you to have a plan beforehand. Below are some of ways you should respond to a cyberattack:

–       Notify authorities: This response is dependent on how you evaluate the problem. However, if you find a cyberattack against your veterinary practice goes beyond the scope of the IT department and can have large implications such as your clients’ data and other organizations, it is important to contact the authorities. Law enforcement agencies, for instance, may have a broad range of capabilities that can help you address the attacks.

–       Proceed carefully: As a veterinary practice, you need to know that there are laws in place that address how you respond to cyberattacks. For instance, going directly to paying your attackers can have severe legal consequences.

–       Seek legal advice and contact cybersecurity experts: Make sure you know how to respond to cyberattacks legally. You should also know how to respond professionally by asking for help from cybersecurity experts.

Recovery from cyberattacks

After a cyberattack, it is important to know how to bounce back from the attack. Research by Coveware showed that, after a cyberattack, you are likely to stay offline for 21 days. This is the period that can be a make or break after a cyberattack.

 Although the best recovery effort is always having your own data backups, which can help you get back fast, this is not always the case, and that is why you need to involve cybersecurity experts to help you with the recovery process. It is also in this stage where you can start coming up with strategies to prevent future cyber attacks.

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