Cyber Security Tips to Help Prevent and Deal with Attacks

For those of us middle aged or older, we recall when everything was done by hand or manually. Nowadays much of what we interact with involves computers from laptops and handheld mobile devices to robots. These tools have changed dramatically the way we live and work. Unfortunately, when systems go down, we must pull out our downtime forms and try to revert back to a manual system. Many of the younger generations have no knowledge of manual systems. At a hospital system where ransomeware recently shut down computers, old timers reached back to earlier times to show their younger colleagues how to conduct business without technological support.  I find this both endearing and a little comical as the tables were turned. The good news is that “seasoned” staff members were advisors to their younger colleagues thereby returning the favor of previously asking for technological advice and assistance. Teamwork occurred and the organization weathered the storm and continued to care effectively for their patients.

This organization did not give in to hacker demands for money but rather paid specialty consultants to fix and enhance security on their computer systems. According to Mike Overly, a Los Angeles-based lawyer with Foley & Lardner who specializes in information security, “Hundreds of millions of dollars per year are forked over to hackers and many businesses are at the point where they factor ransom money into their costs.” However, there are serious risks to consider before paying the ransom.

Why You Shouldn’t Pay

The United States Government does not encourage paying a ransom citing the following factors:

  • Paying a ransom does not guarantee an organization will regain access to their data; in fact, some individuals or organizations were never provided with decryption keys after paying a ransom.
  • Some victims who paid the demand were targeted again by cyber criminals.
  • After paying the originally demanded ransom, some victims were asked to pay more to get the promised decryption key.
  • Paying could inadvertently encourage this criminal business model.

What are the top things to do to minimize their risk of data breaches and reduce the chance of becoming a ransomeware victim?  According to the Cyber division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, organizations must focus on prevention, business continuity, and remediation. Prevention is installing information technology security systems and awareness training. Continuity is having back-up plans to survive the downtime and keep business going. Remediation involves engaging back-up systems and contacting law enforcement immediately. For more detailed information visit

Homeland Security Tips

The Department of Homeland Security sponsors “The Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign, which is a national public awareness effort that increases the understanding of cyber threats and empowers the American public to be safer and more secure online. It encourages Americans to view Internet safety as a shared responsibility–at home, in the workplace, and in our communities.” The basic Stop Think Connect message is very simple:

STOP – Before you click on a link, open an attachment or reveal personal information

THINK – Do all of my devices have active and up to date security?

CONNECT –knowing you are helping to make the web safer

More complex recommendations to enhance cyber security and decrease cyber risks include:

Keep a Clean Machine – Keep devices free from viruses and malware. Update software and device controlling apps regularly.

Think Twice About Your Device – Understand how a device works, the nature of its connection to the internet and the type of information it stores and transmits.

Secure Your Network – Secure the network you use to connect Internet enabled devices.

Additional Cyber Tips include:

  • Set strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t share them with anyone.
    • Do not include your name, your kids’ or pets’ names or other well-known information about yourself in your password;
    • Avoid using common words in your passwords or passphrases. Instead, break up words with numbers and punctuation marks or symbols. For example, @ can replace the letter “A” and an exclamation point (!) can replace the letters “I” and “L”; and
    • Use a combination of upper and lower case letters.
  • Keep your operating system, browser and other critical software optimized by installing updates.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your friends, family, colleagues and community about Internet safety.
  • Use privacy settings and limit the amount of personal information you post online.
  • Be cautious about offers online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Susan Boisvert, senior risk specialist, Brunswick, Maine, recently commented on an article posted online titled “4 Stolen Health Databases Reportedly for Sale on Dark Web: Hacker Takes Credit for Theft of Data on Nearly 10 Million Patients,” by Marianne Kolbasuk McGee. Boisvert summed up these messages, which she found important — This article is a signal and we, risk managers, should pay attention. There are several good lessons here:
1. Cyber security requires significant expertise and constant vigilance
2. The breach is just the beginning
3. Risk managers must become more knowledgeable about the details of cyber risks and appropriate preventative and response measures (cyber hygiene).
4. Risk managers must collaborate with IT and security professionals within their organizations and the broader healthcare community.

In summary, we all play an important role in keeping our systems and data secured therefore we need to have a basic understanding of how systems can be attacked from the outside.

Helpful Definitions

Cyber Security
Cyber security, or information technology security, protects computers, networks, programs & data from unintended or unauthorized access, change or destruction. University of Maryland University College

Cybersecurity is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.


Ransomeware is malicious software which can disable the functionality of your computer.

Ransomware stops you from using your PC. It holds your PC or files for “ransom”.

Ransomware can:

  • Prevent you from accessing Windows.
  • Encrypt files so you can’t use them.
  • Stop certain apps from running (like your web browser).

Ransomware attackers will demand that you pay money (the ransom) to get access to your PC or files.

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