5 Tips for Enhancing Cybersecurity in Your Veterinary Practice

3 minutes
Published on November 09, 2020
Taking cybersecurity seriously by minimizing risks

Every day, you use the computers in your workplace countless times, often to access your clients’ files and personal information. In fact, IT use has become such a big part of our routine that it’s easy to forget the risks associated with digital behaviour.

Whether it’s identity theft, data leaks or phishing, all organizations, regardless of their size, are vulnerable to these cyber dangers. Computer security is not limited to infrastructure updates and antivirus software: the person in front of the screen also has a crucial role to play. After all, the majority of IT security incidents can be attributed to human error. To get closer to the goal of zero risk, it’s important to take extra precautions.


Client data: it may be more at risk than you think

Your digital environment is made up of several technological platforms: communication channels (website, social media, newsletters), veterinary telemedicine tools and your online store, not to mention your practice’s databases and software. All these systems contain an immeasurable quantity of valuable financial, personal and operational information. The more tools, clients and suppliers involved, the more variables to consider… and the greater the risks!

As individuals, we’re not always aware of just how much of our data is collected. Recent scandals have shown that data is not really safe from malicious attacks. One need only think of the hefty fines imposed on GAFAM companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft). Closer to home, the cases of Desjardins and Capital One revealed that the information of millions of people was compromised! Such events, whether caused by an internal leak, fraud or error that made systems vulnerable to attack, have a significant impact on a company’s reputation.

While your veterinary practice may not operate on the same scale as these companies, that’s no reason to let your guard down when it comes to cyber vigilance! Here are our suggestions for reinforcing the security of your infrastructures.

5 tips for securing your IT environment
  1. A clear cybersecurity policy… that’s consistently applied.
    The risk of human error can be significantly reduced by educating your team and conducting training follow-up. A good policy should answer these questions: what should I do if I receive suspicious emails or if an update is recommended? Who should I contact if I have a software question? What constitutes acceptable use of the clinic’s computers? When it comes to education and training or policy development, several resources are available to help you establish simple and practical cybersecurity guidelines.
  2. Secure data backups.
    Unless you go back to paper, completely eliminating data risks requires hard work. The best protection is to have a data backup stored somewhere else, such as on a second server, the cloud, an external hard drive, etc. Up-to-date backups will limit the negative impact of a cyber incident on operations: you will be able to get back up and running more easily in case of a problem.
  3. Resilient IT infrastructure.
    Outdated software or hardware such as antivirus programs, firewalls, wireless networks or computers, can expose you to greater risks. Make sure that the required updates are performed regularly in your digital environment and that your software vendors ensure the continuous improvement of their products.
  4. Customized configuration of your devices.
    Basic configurations are not necessarily adapted to your cybersecurity policy. For example, your software, firewalls and wireless network hardware may have default passwords known to hackers, making it easier to access your infrastructure. Make sure you change passwords regularly (and forget about writing them down on a piece of paper). It’s also a good idea to consider extra security measures, such as an authentication process requiring an additional code.
  5. Annual audit of your IT environment.
    It’s important to use experts to inspect your systems, assess risks and detect weaknesses. This is the safest way to ensure that there are no “open windows” that leave you vulnerable to attack. The Internet is changing every day, and so are hacking techniques, so make sure you review your infrastructure on a regular basis!

Finally, to ensure your cybersecurity, choose your business partners rigorously: check how your data (and that of your clients) will be used. Call on neutral, credible experts recommended by reliable sources.

In a world where digital services confer a competitive advantage, the risks associated with computer data certainly shouldn’t stop you from making the transition from a more traditional business model to a connected practice. An online sales platform offers clients more flexibility and allows you to meet the high expectations of pet owners.

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