Veterinary cybersecurity checklist: Is your practice safe?

by By Emily Ridgewell

9 min read

Just like with animals, there are certain cyber pests that are easy to get infected with and hard to get rid of. Thankfully, similar to veterinary medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping your business safe against the creepy-crawly threats of the internet — veterinary cybersecurity.

The list of what can be done as a small business owner to help protect your practice’s personnel, systems, and data can seem daunting and never-ending, but with the following tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to a solid protection plan. 

If you’re like most practices, you won’t be able to check every item off your list as of today, so challenge yourself to become compliant with all five guidelines within the next year.

5 guidelines for veterinary cybersecurity 

1. Create secure passwords

Password management can be tedious, but having a lengthy and unique password is one of the first lines of defense against unwanted access.  

Consider investing in a password management tool to remember all of your passwords for you. These types of tools will store usernames and passwords behind some tough encryption and will help keep passwords out of the prying eyes of bad guys. 

Most password management tools on the market now will help take the guessing game out of creating strong passwords by creating and saving randomized passwords. 1Password, Keeper, and LastPass are a few examples.

2. Update your software regularly

Most software providers issue updates on a regular basis. You’ve probably seen them before on your computer — the little pop-ups announcing that an update is ready but that may get ignored or dismissed. These updates provide new features and, more than likely, provide fixes for bugs or patches for security flaws.  

If you leave your software out of date, you could potentially leave some vulnerable wounds in your software that would allow an infection to get in. Plan on updating your software when your practice is closed to minimize disruption to your operations flow.

3. Back everything up

Did you know that in the event of a total system failure/recovery, the average downtime for a small business is over 12 hours? Having a solid backup and recovery plan in place is essential in case of a total system failure.  

Have questions on how to do that? There are resources available to small businesses that can help set up an effective recovery plan. Due to the advanced technical aspects required, it might be a good idea to call in the professionals to help. 

4. Install antivirus software 

 Malware is any software that intends to cause harm to computers — trojans and spyware are two examples. A trojan is malicious code that seems legitimate but can take control of your computer and cause havoc. Spyware is just as it sounds, software that watches and gathers information from your computer with harmful intent. 

Using a well-rounded antivirus protection program will help catch the creepy crawlies of the internet before they’re able to cause real damage to a computer or network. Antivirus software will scan and quarantine suspicious files while comparing potentially harmful files to known viruses and malware.   

Also, industry-leading antivirus software will now come with much more than just active and passive threat scanning. Most have the option to add internet and email protection as well.   

5. Prevent phishing attacks

Email phishing is one of the most common ways that unwanted access and data breaches happen. Have you ever received an email that looked real but the more you looked at it, the fishier it seemed? Maybe the email asked you to click on a link and provide sensitive information like account username and password, or worse, banking information or a credit card number. Perhaps this email asked you to download and open an attachment. 

Odds are pretty high that those types of emails had a phishing attack hiding within them. Phishing attacks are often used to try to steal sensitive information like login credentials and credit card numbers or to gain access to an internal network to spread malware or ransomware.  

A good rule of thumb to use is that if the email looks phishy, don’t open it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the authenticity of an email. If the email came from someone you know, give them a call to ask if they sent it, and don’t click on links or open attachments in an email until you’ve verified the sender’s email address. 

Veterinary cybersecurity starts with you

While you certainly don’t have to be a computer scientist, managing a veterinary practice nowadays requires an appreciation for cybersecurity. A little planning and monitoring can go a long way toward keeping your veterinary practice safe online. 

So, what steps can you take today to move toward greater cybersecurity and protection for your practice? Write to us and let us know. We love talking about data and security. 

Emily Ridgewell

Emily Ridgewell

Emily uses her B.S. in Information technology and a decade of experience to translate technical jargon into simple terms that people can actually understand. In addition to providing support at VetSuccess, she’s also currently studying to get her master’s degree in cybersecurity management and policy. Emily shares her home in Florida with her husband and two Shih Tzus, Peanut and Mr. Spock.

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