It’s a Whole New World for Dentists: Protecting Themselves, Patients and COVID-19 Patient Information from Ransomware Hackers

Why Dental Practices are at Risk for Being Hacked by Ransomware Cybercriminals During the COVID 19 Pandemic: Stigma, Fear and the Malware Epidemic in the U.S  

Sometime in mid- December 2019, Patient Zero visited a hospital emergency room in Wuhan, China with a fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing and overwhelming fatigue. By December 31, health authorities in Hubei province began reporting numerous cases of a viral, pneumonic-like illness they could not attribute to a known cause. Following an epidemiological investigation into where the virus may have originated, doctors discovered it was likely zoonotic, or resulting from Wuhan residents eating raw, exotic animal meat.

Proving to be much more contagious than influenza, COVID 19 spread incredibly rapidly throughout the Hubei province and eventually into southern China. Toward the end of February, the World Health Organization issued a report stating that cases of COVID 19 had increased significantly in South Korea, Iran and Italy.

On January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. Since then, the number of COVID cases in the U.S. has jumped to over 6000. New York City has been hit especially hard by COVID 19. Beginning March 22, Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY-D) announced he “established an executive order called “New York State on PAUSE,” a comprehensive bill containing a 10-point policy mandate to ensure the safety of all NY residents”. One of those points is that only essential health care professionals and the facilities at which they work can remain open. These include hospitals, lab services, walk-in care facilities and emergency dental clinics.

CDC Recommendations for Dentists

Experts fully expect COVID 19 to spread swiftly across the nation unless more states start ordering “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders. Like other medical professionals, dentists are permitted to provide emergency care to patients suffering severe toothaches, tooth and jaw injuries, knocked-out teeth or other dental problems requiring immediate treatment.

The CDC updates guidelines for dentists regularly now that the U.S. is officially experiencing a viral pandemic. In addition to wearing eye protection and surgical masks designed to shield the mouth, nose and nose from bodily fluids, the CDC also advises dentists to:

  • Stop performing non-emergency dental procedures
  • Place at-risk patients who need emergency treatment in single-patient rooms and keep the door closed while the patient is in the room
  • Provide surgical masks to patients who are coughing or exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory illness
  • Dentists and dental technicians should wear nonsterile gloves, eye protection and gowns at all times
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water, antiseptic handwash or hand sanitizers containing alcohol
  • Employ standard hygienic practices used during flu outbreaks and epidemic flu seasons

Ransomware Hackers Take Advantage of the Medical Community During the Pandemic

People are desperate for up-to-date, accurate information about the COVID 19 pandemic–and ransomware hackers know it. Apps claiming to track the pandemic with names like “COVID 19 Tracker” contain malware that demands the user pay the hackers within a short time period. This type of ransomware is especially targeting dental and physician officers where hackers know information about patients testing positive for COVID 19 is kept. Unless the “ransom” is paid, sensitive information such as Social Security and bank account numbers seized by ransomware apps will be released on the dark web or possibly, to the public.

Many people who have tested positive for COVID 19 do not want their diagnosis made public. The stigma of this life-threatening, infectious disease is already causing Asian Americans to experience racial threats and violence. Misinformation is spreading rapidly over social media sites, which only increases fear and suspicion among American residents who have never had to cope with such a devastating health crisis.

NOVA Computer Solutions is here to provide immediate, professional IT services to prevent dentist offices from being infiltrated by opportunistic ransomware hackers during the pandemic. Keep sensitive patient data safe and secure with the latest prevention technologies and strategies offered by NOVA Computer Solutions. Call (703) 493-1807 today before your dental practice is compromised.