At Henry Schein TechCentral, we get questions from many Dentrix customers who understand the advantages to having Internet access throughout their practice, but are also concerned about the risks. This is a common concern many doctors have. When we assess an office’s network, we often find practices that rushed to provide Internet access for their staff without taking the steps necessary to protect their practice.
Keep an eye on Internet use
One of the first steps doesn’t actually require an outlay of cash. It always amazes me to see news reports about the amount of “on-the-clock” time people waste by surfing the Internet. Every practice should have a well-defined Internet usage policy. You can find simple policy statements on many Internet sites, including About.com. See http://humanresources.about.com/od/policiesandsamples1/a/email_policy.htm.
Many practices are also adjusting their staff Internet use policies to cover how smartphones, tablets and other web-enabled personal devices are used within the office. It is not uncommon for practices to only allow the use of these devices in staff break room areas, or restrict personal Internet use from a dedicated PC in a discreet location.
When clearly communicated, these policies maintain staff focus, productivity levels and your practice’s professional image. After all, your receptionist is there to greet and serve customers, not update Facebook. It’s also wise to have each team member sign an acknowledgment that they have received a copy of your Internet use policy and will abide by it.
Fortify your firewall protection
Keeping business PCs dedicated to business is good policy and it reduces your chance of Internet nasties being downloaded and infecting the computers that run your office. But more than that, it is important to have network security precautions in place to shore up your defenses.
One of the most overlooked components is the Internet firewall. Many offices trust their Internet service provider (ISP) for this important component. However, not every provider offers adequate fire protection. The all in one modem, router, firewall and kitchen sink appliance that ISP's proved does not usually include the state packet inspecdtion necessary to keep your network more safe from hackers.
Set up a strong filter
Malware and viruses can wreak havoc on your computer network, and antivirus software is typically enough to protect you from these threats. Most offices are aware of the need for up-to-date antivirus software, but did you know that there are additional, inexpensive options for preventing threats from ever reaching your desktops?
In the past, Internet filtering software and services were clunky, overly intrusive performance hogs. Today, these software and services are worth a second look. One option is OpenDNS. OpenDNS, and similar systems, intercept requests for inappropriate or malicious websites and prevent devices from accessing these sites. Sites can be blocked categorically or by banning or allowing individual websites.
More sophisticated options are available from TechCentral for minimal costs. In general, these services provide more complete protection and security. One of the great things about these DNS-based systems is that they are device- and operating system-independent. This means the protection extends across any Windows or Mac desktop computer, as well as smartphones and tablets, preventing staff and patients from accessing inappropriate content from your wired and Wi-Fi networks. Web filtering is a must-have for any practice offering public Wi-Fi.
These services also commonly provide reporting useful to employers wishing to track employees’ productivity. These reports typically show websites visited along with the dates and times of access. Worried about how much time your front desk spends each day on Facebook? Implement one of these systems to gain control and knowledge of where and when your staff spends their online time.
Take the risk out of remote access
Another often-overlooked security component is secure remote access to your network. Choosing to open up a “port” on your firewall (think high-tech castle moat for your network) in order to allow remote connection may not be the best choice when it comes to security.
Applications such as Windows Remote Desktop (port 3389) and PCAnywhere (port 5632) are common targets for hackers trolling the Internet. Hacker programs are used to “troll” for open ports and then activate brute-force or social-media based attacks, to hack into these ports.
There are much more secure options than poking holes in your firewall when it comes to remote access. Two such options are utilizing an online remote access service or connecting via a secured virtual private network (VPN) connection.
Online options such as LogMeIn (www.logmein.com) are good for occasional access. They work by configuring an account with the service then installing an application on the computer you wish to control.
If you need to authorize multiple users or want better remote performance, you should consider a secure VPN. They also allow for advanced features such as printing remotely to office printers and providing fast, safer connections directly to your network server.
Turn to TechCentral for answers
Proper planning and working with an IT provider that understands the importance of Internet security l allows you to safely take advantage of all the benefits a connected practice offers. Make sure you understand and manage these risks, especially if you are like most offices and rely heavily on the Internet for business processes and patient communication.
Remember that Henry Schein TechCentral specializes in assisting clients on every step of their technology journey. For more information about TechCentral and what it can do for your practice, visit www.henryschein.com/techcentral.