5 Cybersecurity Best Practices Every Nurse Should Know

5 Cybersecurity Best Practices Every Nurse Should Know

Cyber threats pose a risk to healthcare organizations that could be damaging. The staff and nurses play an important role in protecting patient data. There are five essential cybersecurity best practices that all nurses and staff should follow.

First, it emphasizes the value of strong and complex passwords, recommending nurses use passphrases over typical passwords and avoid reusing credentials across accounts. Second, it advises nurses to be vigilant against phishing attempts, which try to trick users into sharing sensitive information. The article explains how to identify and avoid phishing scams. Third, it stresses the need to use encryption to secure data, especially when accessing patient records remotely. The piece recommends nurses use virtual private networks (VPNs), which encrypt connections.

Fourth, the article underscores the importance of reporting security incidents; nurses should notify IT teams immediately if they encounter a potential breach. Finally, it makes sure nurses keep software updated since patches often address critical vulnerabilities.

In summary, this article provides nurses with five indispensable tips to bolster data security: using strong passphrases, spotting phishing attempts, leveraging encryption tools, reporting incidents promptly, and installing software updates. Following these practices will help nurses and staff to reduce cyber risks in healthcare environments.

Using Strong Passwords And Enabling Two-factor Authentication

Using Strong Passwords And Enabling Two-factor Authentication

The following is an extensive note on using strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication:

Use Strong Passwords

Create long, complex passwords that are hard to guess. The NIST recommends passphrases of at least 16 characters containing a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using personal information, common words, or predictable patterns in passwords. 

Refrain from using passwords across accounts. Using unique passwords for each account prevents one breach from exposing other accounts. Consider using a password manager to generate and store strong, unique passwords.

Change passwords periodically and immediately if there is any indication of a breach. While regular password changes were once standard advice, updated NIST guidelines focus more on using very strong passwords and changing only if needed.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides an extra layer of security beyond just a password. It requires users to verify their identity in two ways, like providing a one-time code sent to their phone in addition to entering their password.

2FA protects accounts even if passwords are compromised. It prevents attackers from accessing accounts by guessing passwords or reusing breached credentials from other sites. 

Enable 2FA on all important accounts whenever available, especially email, financial services, and health portals containing sensitive data. The minor inconvenience is worth the enhanced security.

As we know, using strong passwords that include uppercase letters and numbers and two-factor authentication are two best practices for securing accounts containing protected health information and other sensitive data. Following the latest NIST guidelines on proper password policies and universally enabling 2FA where available will significantly improve security.

Identifying Phishing Attempts

Identifying phishing attempts

Phishing is a cyberattack method that uses fraudulent emails or websites posing as trustworthy sources to protect your private Information like passwords or financial information. Phishers exploit the appearance of legitimacy to take advantage of people’s tendencies to comply with authority figures and respond reflexively.

Common phishing tactics include creating a false sense of urgency, threatening dire consequences for non-compliance, or offering too-good-to-be-true benefits. Telltale signs of phishing attempts include incorrect email addresses, spelling and grammar mistakes, suspicious links or attachments, and requests for login credentials or other private data. If an email seems questionable, users should refrain from clicking on any embedded links or downloading attached files, as these often install malware or lead to fake websites capturing entered data.

Significantly, phishing attacks and emails should be reported to an organization’s IT security team per incident response protocols. Users can also notify contacts about suspicious correspondence, mimicking their identities. Exercising caution around unsolicited communications and verifying the authenticity of websites before entering information is critical to avoiding becoming a phishing victim and compromising sensitive data. Remaining vigilant and informed about the latest phishing techniques reduces personal and institutional susceptibility.

The Importance Of Keeping Software Up-to-date

Regularly updating operating systems, software applications, and anti-virus programs is a critical cybersecurity tips for nurse best practice. Software vendors frequently release updates. These updates help to resolve vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit to breach systems or data. Updates patch security flaws in the code that cybercriminals actively scan for and attempt to leverage to infiltrate networks. By promptly installing updates as they become available, healthcare organizations and nurses can reduce their exposure to cyber threats, seeking to take advantage of known software vulnerabilities.

Updates also often provide additional security enhancements beyond just fixing identified weaknesses. Anti-virus specifically guards against malware infections, which can occur through phishing attempts or drive-by downloads from malicious sites. It is imperative that anti-virus programs run continuously to scan for threats and that virus definitions stay updated to identify the latest malicious code.

Neglecting to update software and anti-virus regularly provides an open door for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals routinely capitalize on tardiness in closing vulnerabilities through missing patches. The potential consequences of outdated or inactive software include ransomware infections that can cripple hospital systems and operations, as well as data breaches that imperil patient privacy. By diligently maintaining current software and anti-virus versions, nurses assist in fortifying cyber defenses.

Best Practices For Nurses Securing Protocols On Devices

The Best Practices For Securing Protocols On Devices

Protecting patient data requires diligently following cybersecurity protocols for all devices accessing sensitive information. First and foremost, encryption should be used to secure data at rest or in transit. Full-disk encryption using trusted standards like AES-256-bit encryption renders data unreadable without the decryption key. Passwords, preferably strong passphrases, must be mandated to authenticate users and block unauthorized access.

Additionally, automatically locking screens after periods of inactivity prevents exposure if devices are unattended. Securely logging out of systems and apps is essential when finished to close off access. Importantly, patient records and identifiable data should never be viewed or stored on personal or public devices, lacking encryption, access controls, and comprehensive security. Such uncontrolled environments pose an unacceptable risk of data leakage.

If a device containing protected health information is lost or stolen, it should be immediately reported to initiate containment procedures like remote data wiping.

Diligently applying cybersecurity protocols preserves confidentiality and integrity across the myriad of devices handling patient data. Following best practices for encryption, access restrictions, vigilant session termination, and incident reporting enables nurses to help safeguard healthcare data on devices against compromise.

Be Wary Of Public Wi-Fi Networks

Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi Networks
The following is a note on being wary of public Wi-Fi networks:
  • Public Wi-Fi networks available in places like coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. often lack security controls and expose connected devices and transmitted data to compromise.
  • Public Wi-Fi networks frequently have no authentication requirements or encryption on connections. This allows attackers to easily intercept transmitted information and monitor unprotected devices on the network.
  • Sensitive patient health information should never be accessed over unsecured public networks. The lack of access controls means patient privacy can be violated and medical data captured.
  • If accessing less sensitive data over public Wi-Fi is unavoidable, use a trusted virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel protecting information even on insecure networks.
  • Ensure any VPN app does not have vulnerabilities itself and that encryption meets modern standards like AES 256-bit. Configure the VPN app to disable connectivity if the encrypted connection drops.
  • While public Wi-Fi networks offer convenience, their inherent security weaknesses mean nurses should avoid transmitting confidential patient data over them. Use a secure VPN or delay access until a trusted network is available.

As we know, unencrypted public Wi-Fi poses privacy and security risks that make it dangerous for protected health information. Nurses should refrain from accessing sensitive medical data without the safeguards of authentication, encryption, and access controls.


The articles underscore the pressing need for top-notch, high-level ongoing cybersecurity education for nurses to follow best practices that reduce institutional susceptibility to data breaches and risks. Digital health information technology poses specific details. These details include healthcare delivery; nurses represent a last line of defense in securing networks.

However, research shows training deficiencies leave nurses underprepared to mitigate phishing, malware, and other cyber threats, jeopardizing patient privacy and care quality. Implementing expanded, role-specific education addressing password policies, physical security, phishing identification, encryption, access controls, and incident reporting is essential to creating a culture of cyber vigilance.

Knowledge encourages nurses to make smart security decisions protecting patient data and medical devices from being hacked and compromised by unauthorized users. Effectively following best practices also ensures cyber events do not disrupt high quality. As we discussed above, studies emphasize that senior leadership prioritization of cybersecurity directly correlates to user security behaviors and organizational resilience.

Nurses must follow best practices and report suspicious activities or policy non-compliance to prompt institutional reinforcement of defenses. Ongoing training and visible support enable nurses to help clinical environments stay ahead of rapidly evolving cyber threats. If you have any queries, get in touch with us today!

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