It's easy for some to argue that the print industry is quickly dying. Until, that is, the Internet of Things directly affects their security and privacy.
Businesses are shifting a growing number of processes and operations to computerized platforms. Some are switching out their traditional, paper-based materials for electronic alternatives. However, one of the emerging trends of particular concern to organizations in this digital era is that cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and advanced in their hacking capabilities.
The more connected we become, the greater security vulnerabilities we face. There have been a wide range of high-profile cases in which major companies have experienced a data breach. A handful of these attacks have occurred at financial institutions. Over the past few months, however, it seems the health care industry has been hit particularly hard.
Hospitals targets of ransomware
This week, MedStar Healthy, a not-for-profit health network, announced that it was a victim of a malware virus. The disruption forced it to shut down its IT system across a number of hospitals in Maryland. In the first statement, posted on its Facebook account, the organization explained that, although no information had been compromised, it would be using paper transactions for the time being.
The next day, MedStar released another statement, providing an update on its progress: "We are using backup systems, including paper documentation – a process used before the advancements of technology – where necessary, and as an additional layer of support to our clinical operations."
Unfortunately, this most recent ransomware attack was only one of many that have hit hospitals over the past few months. Some have had to pay thousands of dollars to hackers in ransom. Many of the news reports covering the issue, including Ars Technica's article, have explained that this type of virus hits the health care industry particularly hard because victim organizations often lack the IT staff required to efficiently monitor and maintain digital systems.
Of course, this points to the need for hospitals to improve their approach to cybersecurity. But the immediate response and action taken after the hack had occurred – to use paper transactions and documents to prevent further corruption – highlights one of the main advantages print materials have over electronic counterparts.
Print security features provide advantages in healthcare
Given the sensitive nature of the majority of paperwork handled in the health care setting, from insurance documents to payment forms, hospitals are particularly vulnerable to digital threats. Printing providers have a distinct advantage when marketing toward these organizations because, as these recent attacks emphasized, there will always be a need to take every security precaution available to ensure the privacy of both the company and its customers is protected.
There are a number of printed features that can be applied to paper products that enhance these efforts, including artificial watermarks, indicator stains and invisible fibers. The forms and documents that have these safeguards minimize the risk of them being used for fraudulent behavior or in counterfeiting schemes.
Plus, when health care organizations use paper, they limit the level of access others have to data. Once it is in a computer system or part of a network server, it becomes vulnerable to outside parties. In this age of digital connectivity, there is a much greater threat of criminals accessing sensitive information online than there is of a thief coming into the physical location and stealing the confidential documents from a filing cabinet.
Every business, both in and outside the health care industry, has a responsibility to consistently ensure it is implementing the best strategies for privacy, safety and protection, which is why paper and print won't be going anywhere anytime soon.