Importance of Website Security for Dental Websites
Website security is imperative to safeguard your dental practice’s online platform from cyber crooks and to build trust with your patients. Security has always figured prominently in e-commerce and financial websites but many other types of businesses are now looking to embrace added data protection methods as a standard feature.
Although a small dental practice may not see itself as a target for hackers, healthcare sites are among the most common to face threats from cyber criminals, who prey on websites that leave themselves open to data theft, or susceptible to concealment of viruses.
If your website is unsecure, it will fracture the bond of trust between you and your patients, who want to feel safe when they are on your site, particularly in submitting sensitive information, including personal particulars, email addresses and credit card information.
Data breaches cost the U.S. health industry $6 billion a year. Personal information stolen from websites can be used to carry out identity theft, with patients’ records being sold on the black market.
Dental websites in particular need rigorous security standards to protect patients. Trust is a crucial element in the dentist-patient relationship. When a patient walks into your dental office, they are putting their faith in you. They do the same thing when they visit your website.
A secure website is a must to maintain the same level of trustworthiness online that you have built up with your patients in your dental office.
What is a Secure Dental Website?
You know that a website is secure if its address is preceded by a green padlock symbol and “Secure | https”.
HTTPS is short for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. It is a safe method of sending information between a computer and the site it’s connected to. It encrypts all communications between your browser and the website.
Encryption translates data into a secret code, and is the most effective way to achieve security of information. To see the original file requires a key or password. Unencrypted data is called plain text, while encrypted data is known as cipher text.
So, any information you send to the destination web server remains encrypted until it is received. This prevents anyone from intercepting your data en route.
A prime example of the importance of website security for dental websites is the transfer of sensitive information patients send you about themselves. A secure website stops any “man-in-the-middle” attacks.
What is SSL?
Website security is often provided by an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) system. Developed by the now-defunct Netscape browser, SSL was introduced in 1995, followed by TLS in 1999.
The technology behind both systems sets up an encrypted connection between a browser and a web server. The beauty of this intricate process is that the complexities stay hidden from your patients. They just see the reassuring lock icon.
DentalROI uses a special tool to grade the security of its clients’ websites. SecurityHeaders.io gives these sites an A rating.
SSL cannot stop hackers because they attack servers and computers directly, so the server itself needs securities in place and the computer requires robust anti-virus software.
Website Security and Google
Tech giant Google, which operates the largest search engine in the world, always strives to send people to websites that ensure a safe browsing experience. It considers SSL best practice, and its algorithms take this security measure into account in its search engine results pages (SERPs).
If your patients use Google Chrome, a potentially unsafe website will show a lock with a red X over it. People are far more likely to stay on sites that show a green lock and an “https” address instead of just “http”.
For more information, see what Google says about SSL.
Maintaining the Trust of Your Patients
The digital world was designed for sharing information. The internet represents an intricate web of interactions, with all sorts of information travelling through many networks and servers before arriving at its ultimate destination. Any one of these systems can be hijacked to capture data if it is not properly protected on its journey.
Dental websites produced by DentalROI incorporate Secure Sockets Layer technology provided by SSL.com.
SSL works by creating two cryptographic systems – a Public Key and a Private Key – that allow a web server to set up a coded link between the website and your patient’s web browser.
The importance of website security for dental websites can be compared to home security. If you leave your doors unlocked, you’re asking for trouble. So why leave your patients’ information open to attack from intruders?
When a patient walks into your dental office, they put their faith in your professionalism in providing the highest standards of patient care. They expect the same level of reassurance that your dental website is not going to cause them any problems. A secure website is essential to maintain the trust and dependability you demonstrate when your patients visit your practice.
Benefits of a Secure Dental Website
A safe website brings many benefits for a dental office. These include:
- Building confidence in your practice. People today tend to take a more pro-active role in their dental treatment, and this trend extends to your online platform, where patients expect sensitive information they provide for you to remain strictly confidential. If a patient’s personal, financial or medical details are compromised through a data breach, the trust you have developed with them in your dental office will be damaged beyond repair. Tech-savvy patients take data privacy and security extremely seriously.
- Generating more patients. A secure website is vital to maximize the return on your investment in your website by increasing the number of people who become your patients after visiting your online platform. If your site does not display security verification, a potential patient is likely to look elsewhere for treatment. If a prospective patient gets the reassurance of security certification, they know they will be safe when making an online appointment request.
- Security for online sales. If your practice sells oral healthcare products online, a website providing secure e-commerce transactions is crucial. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council requires the use of SSL on sites that ask for credit card details. The Secure Sockets Layer system encrypts credit card information as it is sent to a processing server, in the same way it encodes patient information from a contact form.
- Improving search engine rankings. Google campaigns for best practices to safeguard data confidentiality. It gives a ranking boost to websites that protect the user’s information, particularly those employing SSL technology. This benefit is expected to gain momentum over time. In the future, unsecured websites could plummet down the search engine results pages. Google has drawn up a guide for changing a website from HTTP (non-secure) to HTTPS (fully secure) without losing your indexed web links.
- Compliance with Government legislation. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services maintains the provisions of the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The HIPAA Security Rule requires safeguards to ensure the security and integrity of health information submitted online. The Department of Health & Human Services says 21 million health records have been compromised since September 2009.
Why Criminals Target Dental Websites
Security experts say cyber criminals value a person’s medical information more than credit card details. They use these medical particulars to acquire drugs or medical equipment they can resell and to make fraudulent insurance claims.
If you are still unsure about the importance of website security for dental websites, consider the case of an Oregon-based dental practice whose computer was infected with malware in 2015, when an intruder gained access to personal information of more than 150,000 patients.
According to SC Media, which offers guidance on cyber security, this incident led to exposure of details including names and addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. The dental office had to offer the patients credit monitoring and theft protection services.
Ironically, while the attack on the Oregon practice’s website was being done, a legal expert on dental cyber security breaches, was banging the dental website security drum indicating that this was a necessity for dental practices and offices.
Writing in the DentistryIQ online resource for dentists, Stuart J. Oberman pointed out how cyber criminals targeted small dental offices because they believed they lacked adequate online protection and security measures.
He said healthcare organizations were involved in one-third of all data breaches, making them the single biggest victim of data breaching.
Avoid Being a Soft Target
Dental offices are being increasingly targeted by cyber criminals. Your practice holds a huge amount of information about your patients, including banking details and health histories. Theft of this data could pose a legal nightmare for your practice.
Data thieves regard dental practices as a soft target because they believe the technology they have in place is less sophisticated than that of big corporations or major banks.
Dentists have a major obligation to protect their patients’ financial and personal information. Realizing the importance of website security for effective dental websites will enable you to maintain the same degree of trust your patients place in you online as they have in you when you are working on their teeth.