Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication for Healthcare Organizations

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Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication for Healthcare Organizations

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benefits of multi factor authenticationHealthcare administrators have never had more reason to worry about their cybersecurity. Major cyber-attacks have hit some of the largest companies in the world, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sometimes, all that’s keeping cyber criminals at bay is an insecure, 8-digit password.

Sound scary? It should, especially when there are better, much more secure ways to protect your healthcare organization from attack. Read on to learn about the benefits of multi-factor authentication for healthcare organizations and why this security protocol is necessary for healthcare organizations.



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What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Username/password combinations are the security protocol most of us are familiar with. Though this is a very efficient way to log in and out of a system, this solution has a crucial flaw built right into it. All it takes is for someone to learn an individual’s username and password to gain access to sensitive health data.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA), also known as three-factor authentication, adds additional layers of security. Simply put, MFA verifies a user’s identity in three different ways, using:

  • Something the user knows (such as a password)
  • Something the user has (such as an ID card or device)
  • Something the user does or is (such as a fingerprint)

A simple demonstration of this is an ATM card. It requires two factor authentication: the right card (something the user has) and the right PIN number (something the user knows).

In terms of cybersecurity, multi-factor authentication uses combinations of the following to verify identities:

  • One-time access tokens
  • Out-of-channel communications (such as a cell phone when logging into a website)
  • Biometric measurements (such as fingerprint scanners or facial-recognition)
  • Security token devices (such as a smartphone app or USB gadget)
  • Security questions
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for remote workers

By combining multiple types of authentication, organizations can add significant levels of security to their current data access procedures.

How Multi-Factor Authentication is the Protection Healthcare Organizations Need

In healthcare environments (where sensitive data is handled), simple username/password security measures are not enough to prevent cyber-attacks. One employee could accidentally see another employee’s password as he or she typed. If passwords are saved on a post-it note (somehow still a common scenario), they won’t do much to keep the wrong people out.

Multi-factor authentication solves this problem and delivers multiple benefits along the way:

Cyber-Attack Prevention

First, by significantly limiting access to your network, MFA can help prevent cyber-attacks. Cyber criminals are becoming better and better at stealing passwords, making simple username/password security solutions fairly insecure. For example, hackers could create a fake version of a company web page and trick users into entering their login information. With a third layer of authentication, hackers are fairly powerless with only usernames and passwords.

Another benefit of multi-factor authentication is that it provides long-term security. While certain security protocols, such as encryption, may become vulnerable to attack in the future, a multi-factor approach virtually guarantees only the individual account owner can access his or her login. In some cases, even authentic users being forced under duress to access accounts may not be able to get in. This adds another inherently secure layer of protection for the organization.

Improved Data Access Management

Sometimes, when individuals leave a healthcare organization, their access to sensitive data is not properly revoked in a timely manner. Normally this isn’t a problem, but it has the potential to be dangerous. With multi-factor authentication, any former employee is immediately locked out upon termination.

For example, if a healthcare network requires a username, password, and a one-time token sent to a work phone, the former will no longer be able to access the network once the phone is turned in upon termination.

Employees don’t need to be ill-intentioned to expose the healthcare organization to cyber vulnerabilities. Employees who accidentally download malware could have their passwords compromised. However, non-software forms of authentication (such as fingerprint scanning or swiping an ID card) could prevent this malware from accessing any private data.

Cost Savings

Cyber-attacks on healthcare organizations are expensive. The Anthem data breach could cost more than $100m by some estimates. While most cyber-attacks may not be as sophisticated as the one against Anthem, healthcare organizations can add additional layers of protection to their databases through adding multi-factor security. If a MFA solution prevents a single major cyber-attack, the investment will more than pay for itself many times over.

Beyond HIPAA HITECH Compliance

HIPAA laws require two-factor authentication for remote access to sensitive or private information. Adding additional layers of security through multi-factor authentication can make databases even more secure.

Immediate Awareness of Attacks

By using out-of-band channels, such as SMS contacts, MFA inherently notifies individuals when their accounts may be under attack. For example, if a worker receives a text message or email stating, “Your one-time login code is XXXXXX,” it can reasonably be presumed someone is trying to access that account. This immediately alerts the individual about a potential security breach.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication for your organization

Understanding the broad benefits of multi-factor authentication for healthcare organizations is just the beginning. As every organization is different, each will need a different set of multi-factor security measures in place to meet the needs of its workforce and clients.

If you manage a healthcare organization and would like more information about how multi-factor solutions could cut costs, increase security, and mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks, contact a cybersecurity firm through Maryland Cyber today. Local Maryland-based cybersecurity companies have extensive experience providing cybersecurity for the healthcare industry and have the tools to find the right multi-factor authentication solution for your organization.

Interested in Implementing Multi-factor Authentication for your organization? The following organizations specialize in working with healthcare organizations:


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