Dedicated to providing the latest
HIPAA compliance news

Internet Access Control for Hospitals

Internet Access Control for Hospitals

How to Restrict Internet Access in Hospitals

Before discussing how to restrict Internet access in hospitals, it might be a good idea to discuss why Internet access control for hospitals is considered essential. Primarily, the implementation of an Internet filter for hospitals mitigates the risk of a cyberattack by blocking access to web pages that are likely to contain malware.

There are many different types of malware in circulation – most of which reside on websites that appear harmless. However, where hackers have been able to exploit a vulnerability on a website and install malware, it is then very easy for the infection to be downloaded onto an unknowing visitor´s computer – and spread throughout an organization´s network.

The biggest fear for many healthcare organizations is the installation of surveillance software or spyware. Once this particular type of malware has been installed on an individual´s device, every key stroke can be logged – providing hackers with access to usernames and passwords that can then result in a breach of Protected Health Information (PHI).

With the implementation of Internet access control for hospitals, the risk of malware being downloaded onto a user´s device is mitigated. Consequently, knowing how to restrict Internet access in hospitals improves the hospital´s security posture by adding an extra layer of defense against cyberattacks.

The Department of Health and Human Services has recently issued new guidance for covered entities on ransomware. In the majority of cases, ransomware infections are considered to be HIPAA breaches. Covered entities are required to implement controls to reduce the risk of ransomware infections as far as is possible. Internet access control prevents end users from visiting websites containing exploit kits that download ransomware such as Locky. Controlling access to the Internet is therefore an important aspect of HIPAA compliance.

How an Internet Filter for Hospitals Works

An Internet filter for hospitals works by being given a set of guidelines. The guidelines inform the filter what type of web content a network user can access and which web pages should be blocked. To save time in compiling the guidelines, lists of websites known to be harboring malware – known as “blacklists” – can be loaded directly onto the filter to provide immediate Internet access control for hospitals.

Thereafter, whenever an employee, a patient or a hospital visitor requests access to a website by typing in a URL or by clicking on a link, the filter checks the address against its guidelines to determine whether or not access should be allowed. Internet access control for hospitals effectively prevents recipients of phishing emails from reaching the target website – thus avoiding the potential infection of their device.

Blacklists are updated frequently by the filter service provider as new websites harboring malware are identified. However, it can also be important to know how to restrict Internet access in hospitals manually in order to enforce acceptable usage policies, to increase productivity and to protect children and the vulnerable from exposure to inappropriate material.

The “fine-tuning” of an Internet access control for hospitals is done by category blocking and keyword-based filtering. Using these tools, administrators can block access to specific categories of website or web pages containing particular words. “Whitelists” can also be used to permit access to specific websites if the likelihood exists they would be blocked by falling into a predefined category.

Internet Access Control for WiFi in Hospitals

Some larger healthcare organizations have more than one Internet network because of bandwidth issues. Bandwidth issues can be resolved with Internet access control for hospitals simply by blocking video streaming sites such as Netflix and You Tube or by setting bandwidth limits in the filter. For healthcare organizations that provide a WiFi service, Internet access control for WiFi in hospitals is essential.

It has been well chronicled that malware exists that can infect a WiFi network. All it takes is for one user to click on an infected site, and the malware is not only installed on the user´s device, but also on the network. Anybody who subsequently logs into the network will also have their device infected, and a hacker will be able to monitor the websites visited by that infected device as well as any passwords that are used.

The healthcare organizations with more than one Internet network usually dedicate one for use by medical professionals and the other for the benefit of patients and hospital visitors. The risk exists that an infection on one WiFi network could be transferred onto the other(s), with devastating consequences depending on the nature of the malware. Most certainly a hacker would identify a patient´s WiFi network as a means of finding a gateway into the network used by medical professionals.

For this reason, Internet access control for WiFi in hospitals is essential when a WiFi network is present. Internet access control for WiFi in hospitals uses the same blacklists, category blocking and keyword-based filtering as “non-WiFi” Internet access control for hospitals in order to prevent visitors accessing unsafe websites and inadvertently downloading infections and malware.

Increasing Productivity with Internet Access Control for Hospitals

Unfiltered Internet access can seriously damage productivity. It has been estimated that an organization with one thousand Internet users would lose approximately $35 million in productivity each year from just one hour of daily web surfing by employees. Unfortunately many organizations lose considerably more in productivity due to “cyber-slacking”!

A 2011 survey conducted by International Data Corp found that 30% to 40% of workplace Internet access is spent on non-work related activities and that 25% of all unfiltered corporate Internet traffic was unrelated to work. The three main causes of lost productivity were pornography, online shopping and social media – three of the most commonly used categories in an Internet filter for hospitals.

By blocking access to websites that distract employees from their work, productivity is likely to increase significantly. Furthermore, Internet access control for hospitals can prevent HR issues from arising when an employee spend too much of their day watching videos or playing online games, or when they access inappropriate material that upsets colleagues working in close vicinity.

Knowing how to restrict Internet access in hospitals to prevent HR issues also prevents children and vulnerable persons from accidently being exposed to inappropriate material. This could happen on a hospital ward in which patients are allowed Internet access on personal mobile devices or in a hospital waiting room when patients are waiting to see a doctor.

Selecting an Internet Filter for Hospitals

When selecting an Internet filter for hospitals, there are a number of factors to consider depending on the nature and size of the organization and whether or not it provides a WiFi service – in which case Internet access control for WiFi in hospitals is essential. It is also recommended to review any risk assessments conducted in order to comply with HIPAA that may identify vulnerabilities within a healthcare organization´s existing web security precautions.

Ideally, Internet access control for hospitals should be easy to install, configure and maintain. As mentioned above, your filter service provider should commit to keeping blacklists up-to-date, and they should also be responsible for any other software updates to ensure that your Internet filter for hospitals is working efficiently without latency or bandwidth issues.

In order to restrict Internet access in hospitals and enforce acceptable use policies, the Internet filter for hospitals should have a high degree of granularity and be sufficiently flexible to restrict access to certain categories of website by user-group and/or time. You may well also require customizable categories depending on the policies you wish to implement and enforce.

Other factors you may want to consider include reporting facilities – so that Internet access can be monitored – and suitable APIs for backend integration. The Internet access control for hospitals may also have to support multi-language filtering if your medical facility is located in a multi-cultural location and you should also have the option of hosting the web filtering solution within your own infrastructure if you wish.

Speak with TitanHQ about How to Restrict Internet Access in Hospitals

TitanHQ is a leading supplier of advanced web security solutions. Among our portfolio of products suitable for the healthcare industry are three solutions that will resolve all the issues discussed in this article:

  • WebTitan Gateway is a powerful Internet filter for hospitals that can be deployed as a virtual appliance or hosted within your own infrastructure. Highly scalable, functionally rich and easy to deploy and manage, it is designed to provide the best online protection for your organization.
  • WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based Internet access control for hospitals that enables small to medium sized healthcare organizations control access to non-work related websites. WebTitan Cloud requires no on premise software or end user client software.
  • WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is the most appropriate solution for managing Internet access control for WiFi in hospitals. Whether you are running a single WiFi hotspot or a vast WiFi network, this solution creates a safe environment for staff, patients and hospital visitors to access the web.

Each solution helps hospitals improve their security posture, increase productivity and protect the vulnerable from exposure to inappropriate material. For more information about TitanHQ and our portfolio of products, you are invited to visit our dedicated Healthcare Solutions page.