If you’re anything like me, you dread that pesky little reminder that pops up on your secure servers prompting you to change your password … again. It seems that password requirements get more intricate every time, too. What, now they want your hypothetical firstborn child’s middle name and your dog’s birthday now? Never mind trying to remember these complicated passwords. What’s even the point? Can’t we just use different variations of the same password? What’s so important that you need to have this high-level security?
Believe it or not, any information online is vulnerable to malice. And when it comes to particularly sensitive areas such as clients’ payment or identification, protection can be even more tricky. Today, hackers and those who are out to exploit information for money are more cunning than ever before. Even with all the advances in technology, there are still many ways for information to fall into the wrong hands.
If the term “cyber attack” seems too far-fetched for you, consider this: even if you run a small, private veterinary practice, someone with the wrong intentions may take you as an easy victim. Sure, you may only have 100 clients, but that may be 100 pieces of identifying information that could be sold on the dark web. So no matter what size your business is, taking basic steps to protect yourself from cyber attack will safeguard your — and your clients’ — information.
What You Should Protect
So where should you begin? Protecting your online information is something that must be done in multiple ways, and it doesn’t simply end with a complicated password. If electronic records are utilized in your practice, how is the information safeguarded? Is it securely encrypted? Is it accessible only on an in-office intranet or via VPN? While this may not always be necessary, having that extra layer of security in the form of a private network may still be a worthwhile precaution.
Protecting information is also simple. Some individuals have no qualms with sending sensitive information, such as payment information, through regular email. This is, however, a big mistake. While major email providers do have hefty security restrictions in place, there is always a chance that someone could intercept the data. So avoid asking for any sort of sensitive information via email, and be sure to securely destroy any information that gets printed out or otherwise put in a spot that isn’t secure.
Another aspect that requires protection may be the domain name for the practice’s website. Domain lapsing or domain drop catching can occur if a business fails to renew its domain name when it comes up for expiration. What can then happen is that a “squatter” may come along and purchase your domain, effectively holding it for ransom. This means lost business and lost reputation due to a malfunctioning website, lost rankings on search engines, and a lower quality score online.
None of that sounds great, does it? Again, protecting this is simple: set the domain to auto-renew, or at least set a reminder in advance of the expiration each year so that you don’t forget to renew the domain. Simple!
Why Does It Matter?
After all this, you still may not be convinced that any of this would happen to you. But is that worth the risk? The ideas outlined in this article are far from complex, and the low-cost concept behind all of them should be simple enough for even the smallest practices to try out.
Taking some simple precautionary steps to protect your information is valuable because not only does the practice need to protect itself, it needs to protect its clients as well. Imagine the fallout if your servers or information were compromised. Clients would lose trust in your practice if their information was compromised, and they’d likely be quite upset at the inconvenience of having to track the breach. The practice would then lose money and fewer new clients would come through the doors.
Protecting information online involves several factors, but the basics are simpler than you may think. Explore options for your practice and enjoy the resulting peace of mind that comes from knowing your clients’ data is safe.