How Do We Measure Security of Healthcare Apps?

3 years ago

Healthcare app data breach or hack is like a coronavirus. Everyone thinks it is a hoax until he becomes a victim of it! 

The most reliable way to avoid a data breach is healthcare app security measures which act as a vaccine. 

It does not guarantee that there won’t be any data breach. But it assures that if there is a data breach attempt, the intruder will either completely fail or only be partially successful.

We manufacture and administer this vaccine to arm your healthcare mobile app with the immune response which neutralizes every data breach attempt and builds a safe online environment for your users and other stakeholders!   

Why should a healthcare app be secure? 

It is because of 3 major reasons. 

  • Legal reason 

Healthcare is a highly regulated industry as healthcare entities and their IT infrastructure have always been the soft target for hackers. 

Thus, government authorities in both the USA and Canada have imposed several healthcare data privacy laws which apply to your healthcare app. 

As per regulations of these healthcare data privacy laws, you must ensure data security and confidentiality by putting adequate technical, physical and administrative safeguards

If you fail to comply with suggested safeguards, you can be liable for the hefty fine. 

  • Financial reason 

The financial impact of a data breach remains high for healthcare companies of all shapes and sizes. According to a report by IBM, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million.  

We have also witnessed that after a data breach even on a low scale, healthcare startups fail to ensure business continuity for a longer period of time as they aren’t usually prepared for such havoc which pushes them to a dead end. 

  • Reputation reason 

In 2021, the easiest way to earn the trust of users and investors is to make them aware of how proactively and aggressively you are keeping their private data safe and secure. 

But when you fail to keep their private data private anymore, they are most likely to not put trust again in your healthcare app. 

Other stakeholders including investors also question your security policies and measures. 

In essence, a data breach pushes you many years back from where you may not be able to regain your market position

Some of the biggest healthcare data breaches in history 

Intruders or hackers have been successful to steal the personal data of more than one American out of four Americans

And due to the pandemic, crucial data of more people have been infused into the healthcare IT ecosystem. Hence, cybersecurity experts are anticipating more severe data breaches in the upcoming months. 

But talking about the past, following are the biggest healthcare data breaches. 

  • Anthem Blue Cross 

In January 2015, highly sensitive data of more than 78 million patients were stolen. The data included names, social security numbers, home addresses, and dates of birth. 

  • Premera Blue Cross 

Six weeks before the Anthem Blue Cross breach, Premera Blue Cross had announced the cyberattack that exposed the information of more than 11 million patients. 

The worst part of the Premera Blue Cross breach was that hackers were successful to steal the financial details of the patients!  

  • Excellus BlueCross BlueShield 

After the biggest cyberattacks on Anthem Blue Cross and Premera Blue Cross, Excellus decided to run a forensic review of its IT infrastructure in August 2015 and they discovered that its data of 10 million patients had already been compromised in 2013! 

Thus, it is also crucial to identify a data breach in real-time.  

How do we measure the security of healthcare apps? 

One thing is very obvious - you always need to be one step ahead of hackers to avoid data breaches! 

But how? How would you prepare the healthcare mobile app security strategy? How would you identify if there is any privacy gap? What’s the role of compliance? 

Let us solve all of your questions by sharing the best practices we follow. 

1. Role of compliance in developing a secure healthcare app

We always hear from healthcare entrepreneurs that they are doing compliance because it is legally required

However, only a few of them acknowledge the fact that compliance is the best tool to make a healthcare app secure enough in order to avoid cyber attacks of any intensity. 

Being compliant with data privacy laws means you have employed all required security measures that result in a secure healthcare mobile app. 

For example, PHIPA (Ontario’s healthcare data privacy law) makes it mandatory to collect useful information only. 

So, if your app collects only useful information such as name, birth year and does not collect credit card details that aren’t useful, it not only satisfies one of the PHIPA regulations but also limits the sensitive information that can be hacked. 

Another example is, HIPAA (US federal-level data privacy law) makes it mandatory to identify the data breach in real-time. 

So, if you address this regulation of HIPAA by deploying an intrusion detection system, you can easily identify the intruder or malicious package in real-time.  

This is how, by satisfying each compliance requirement, you can be able to have a most secure and hack-proof healthcare mobile app that is compliant too

2. Role of TRA in healthcare mobile app security 

Well, TRA (Threat and Risk Assessment) reveals all privacy issues a healthcare mobile app has. 

So, once you know the privacy issues, you can easily solve each issue that eventually results in a secure healthcare app. 

It is very crucial to execute TRA on a developed mobile app - before market launch - as every hacker gets access to the mobile app backend via its privacy gaps that haven’t been discovered. 

PIA (Privacy Impact Assessment) is also very useful which reveals privacy issues at the entire organization level. 

You’ll find this very useful: How to carry out PIA and TRA? 

3. 3rd party integrations with healthcare apps are prone to privacy issues

To achieve healthcare app features easily and to double its clinical value, we have to integrate 3rd party solutions with it such as EMR/EHR software, billing solution, payment API etc. 

But if this integration is carried out by a non-experienced IT team without considering healthcare integration standards or interoperability standards, it ends up generating several privacy gaps and leaving them open that enable easy unauthorized entry. 

Thus, it is crucial for you to only hire professional healthcare developers to build your healthcare app!   

4. A few technical considerations to build secure healthcare apps

  • Encrypt source code 
  • Encrypt database 
  • Use high-level authentication 
  • Secure data while it is in transit 
  • Make sure session handling is proper 
  • Use authorized APIs only 
  • Leverage the principle of least privilege 
  • Run security audit on a regular interval 
  • Apply signature-based permissions 
  • Ask for credential before showing sensitive information 
  • Use SSL traffic 
  • Add a network security configuration 
  • Store private data within internal storage  
  • Store only non-sensitive data in cache files 

Why is the secure healthcare app a myth? (And what’s reality?) 

Yes, it is a myth because you are never able to completely safeguard your healthcare app as hackers always come up with new different ways to penetrate the security.  

But the thing that matters the most is your continuous efforts to be always equipped with modern solutions that have perfect answers to every new trick of hackers. 

Thus, healthcare app security is a myth and the only reality is your efforts to continuously evaluate your already achieved security and be better at it!