Internet Access Control for Hospitals

How to Control Access to the Internet in Hospitals

Before explaining how to control access to the Internet in hospitals, it may be beneficial for some to explain why Internet access control for hospitals is advisable. Filtering the Internet – and particularly wireless Internet filtering for hospitals – improves online security by reducing the chances that malicious software (“malware”) will be downloaded onto a healthcare organization´s computer system.

By controlling access to websites that are likely to be infected by malware, Internet access control for hospitals prevents employees, patients and hospital visitors from visiting unsafe websites and inadvertently downloading malware onto their devices. Malware can spread quickly through a wired or wireless network, infecting every device connected to it.

One of the biggest online security risks for healthcare organizations is surveillance software or spyware. Once these particular types of malware have infected a network, every Internet user´s key stroke can be logged. This information provides cybercriminals with access to usernames and passwords that can be used to access confidential data and result in a breach of Protected Health Information (PHI).

How Internet Access Control for Hospitals Work

A system of Internet access control for hospitals works by using three mechanisms to block access to unsafe sites – blacklists, category filters and keyword filters. Each has its own role to play in improving a hospital´s online security and helping healthcare organizations comply with HIPAA:

  • Blacklists are literally lists of websites known or suspected of being unsafe and harboring malware. These are updated frequently to reflect recently reported infected websites or websites who hide their true identity behind a proxy server.
  • Category filters control Internet access to websites within pre-defined categories most commonly associated with malware. The categories are also frequently updated to include recently published websites.
  • Keyword filters fine-tune Internet access controls so that websites containing specific words or specific file types are included within the filter parameters. Most often a system administrator will determine what keywords are to be filtered.

Whenever an employee, patient or hospital visitor requests access to a website – either by clicking on a link or physically entering a URL – the Internet access control for hospitals inspects its blacklists and filtering parameters in order to see if the request can be allowed. If a security threat is identified, the request is denied.

More advanced Internet access controls for hospitals also have SSL inspection mechanisms that check the content of encrypted web pages for online threats. An SSL certificate is no longer a guarantee of Internet security, and many websites beginning with an https:// prefix have been identified as having security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

Increasing Productivity with Wireless Internet Filtering for Hospitals

Implementing a mechanism to control access to the internet in hospitals can have benefits beyond improving a hospital´s online security. In recent years, many healthcare organizations have adopted BYOD policies due to the speed and convenience of mobile technology. Unfortunately the benefits of mobile technology can often be nullified by “cyberslacking”.

Cyberslacking is a term used when employees engage in personal online activities during working hours. Research has shown that 30% to 40% of Internet access from corporate IP addresses is non-work related, and it has been estimated that a healthcare organization with one thousand employees will lose $35 million annually due to cyberslacking if each employee spends just one hour per day checking personal emails or engaging in social media activities.

The majority of cyberslacking in the healthcare industry is attributed to employees accessing the Internet from their personal mobile devices via a WiFi service. Although some personal online time is considered by some experts to be beneficial, wireless Internet filtering for hospitals can control what websites employees have access to, and for how long.

Wireless Internet filtering for hospitals can also protect employees, patients and hospital visitors from being exposed to objectionable material by other Internet users. By implementing a mechanism to control access to the Internet in hospitals, healthcare organizations can prevent potential HR issues or claims that they are failing to provide a safe workplace environment, and improve their customer satisfaction score.

Evaluating Solutions to Control Access to the Internet in Hospitals

There are many different factors to consider when evaluating solutions to control access to the Internet in hospitals. The type of solution that should be implemented, the management overhead, and compatibility with existing systems are usually the initial considerations. These are then followed by scalability, flexibility and any security vulnerabilities that have been identified in a risk assessment conducted in compliance with HIPAA.

Typically, most healthcare organizations prefer software-based wireless Internet filtering for hospitals. These solutions have the scalability that hardware-based solutions lack, and can be used to control access to the Internet in hospitals by employees using their personal mobile devices. Wireless Internet filtering for hospitals also has the flexibility to enable one set of acceptable use policies to be implemented for employees and another for patients and hospital visitors.

APIs for integrating an Internet access control for hospitals with management reporting tools and directory services such as Active Directory, LDAP, and NetIQ makes assigning and managing filtering parameters considerably easier, while automatically generated reports can reveal which threats to online security have been blocked and what attempts have been made to circumnavigate the filtering parameters.

Other factors to consider when evaluating an Internet access control for hospitals include:

  • Multi-lingual filtering – as it may be necessary to control access to websites in foreign languages to enforce acceptable use policies and protect systems from overseas attacks.
  • Latency – this is the length of time it takes for an Internet access control for hospitals to inspect the filtering parameters and allow or deny access to a web page.
  • Price – most vendors of wireless Internet filtering for hospitals charge a subscription fee, with discounts available for long-term contracts.
  • Bandwidth – mechanisms to control access to the Internet in hospitals should not limit how much bandwidth is available to you – even if your ISP does.
  • SSL inspection – as mentioned above, advanced wireless Internet filtering for hospitals provide maximum protection against web-borne threats by inspecting the content of encrypted web pages.

Speak with TitanHQ about Internet Access Control for Hospitals

TitanHQ is a leading provider of online security solutions. We have years of experience working with healthcare organizations to improve online security, increase productivity and protect against exposure to objectionable material.

Among our portfolio of products, we offer three solutions suitable to control access to the Internet in hospitals depending on the size of the healthcare organization and the number of Internet users the organization wants to protect.

WebTitan Gateway

WebTitan Gateway is the most effective solution for larger healthcare organizations to control access to the Internet in hospitals. WebTitan Gateway is a highly flexible, feature-rich solution, with a choice of deployment options and low management overhead.

WebTitan Cloud

WebTitan Cloud provides cloud-based Internet access control for hospitals via a simple redirection of the hospital´s DNS. Extremely versatile, with all the features available in our Gateway solution, WebTitan Cloud requires no on-site software installations.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi provides wireless Internet filtering for hospitals with imperceptible latency. Suitable for both individual hotspots and significant wireless networks, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi creates a safe browsing environment for employees, patients and hospital visitors.