One Key Reason to Always Keep Your Software Up to Date 

Over the past few decades, cyberattacks have evolved into large-scale threats with devastating consequences. Governments, healthcare providers, businesses, service providers, and even individuals fall victim to ransomware, phishing scams, and malware. 

Healthcare is one of the industries most at risk of cyberattacks.  Patient data has a high price tag for hackers searching for personal health information (PHI) and financial records. In addition to complying with security best practices, there are some ground rules for keeping your practice data safe from hackers. In this blog post, we will explore the reasoning behind why your office should always keep all software and operating systems up to date from a data security standpoint. 

Keep your Practice Management Software Up to Date 

Regularly updating your dental software is one of the most important things you can do to keep your practice data complete, accurate, and secure. Software updates often include safeguards such as security patches and bug fixes that can prevent data corruption or loss and protect against cyber threats.

ABELDent open on a computer with a data security icon overlaid

What is the risk? 

To understand the risk of running outdated practice management software, you must consider the accelerating and ever-evolving nature of technology. It may seem safe to assume that, because you have never been the victim of an attack, you are well enough protected.  

Cyber threats evolve over time, as do the measures available to overcome them. Software developers update software to respond to threats, both specific and theoretical, and to reduce the impact of diverse types of threats. Even updates with no discernible new features often contain changes designed to protect the user.

Continuing to use older software versions increases the number of potential threats while not providing potential remedies. For this reason, the more updates not applied, the greater the risk. It is important to install new releases that become available.

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date as Well

Your application software is not all that should be kept up to date. It is also crucial to keep the Operating System (OS) on each of your computers reasonably up to date.

Microsoft and other OS creators release patches regularly to protect against newly discovered or potential threats. After several years, ongoing support for each operating system ends. Take, for instance, the case of Windows 7 and 8. Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 in 2020 and will end support for Windows 8 in January 2023. When support ends, patches are no longer applied to protect that version of the operating system and hackers have more time to pinpoint and exploit security flaws.  

While your dental software will often continue to run on computers with out-of-date operating systems, your entire system and all the software and data on it may be at risk. For a dental practice, the greatest risk is the loss, loss of use of, or exposure of practice data. 

Cyber threats will continue to change. There is no perfect protection, but you can reduce the threat to your practice and patient data, by keeping your software and operating systems up to date.  

Using software that provides regular, automatic software updates, such as ABELDent Local+ or ABELDent Cloud, is a great way to maximize practice security. Interested in learning more about ABELDent’s data-protecting measures? Read about the details here or contact us at 1-800-267-ABEL (2235). 

Understanding Data Encryption’s Role in Your Dental Practice

Encrypted data is a software and technology industry standard. Data encryption is necessary in the healthcare industry, working as an effective tool to protect patient information (PHI). In this blog post, we want to help you understand the importance of data encryption and explain the steps ABELDent takes towards protecting and securing your practice’s valuable information via encryption.

What is Encryption?

Data encryption is the process of translating information into a code to prevent unauthorized access and leaked data. In simpler terms, encryption is where your practice data is coded into an unreadable format, which then can be transferred safely. For example, your practice data is encrypted before it is backed up with our Remote Backup Service (RBS).

Encryption for Data At Rest vs. Data In Transit

Data at rest accounts for the information that resides in your machine. For example, photos, documents, and files that you store on your computer. These files are ideally protected by multiple layers of security, such as antivirus software and/or a firewall. Encrypting specific sensitive files, such as payments, healthcare-related files, or other private documents, creates another layer of protection, which only allow viewers with authorized access to view the files.

ABELDent protects your resting data by ensuring only people who have an account to access their SQL data will be able to access it. This measure, achieved through data encryption, keeps dental offices safe from malicious third-party attackers. Resting data that is backed up in Cloud servers, such as Microsoft Azure servers (which ABELDent uses for RBS) is secured under multiple layers of encryption and firewalls to ensure your practice data is as protected as possible.

Data in transit, as you might have guessed, is data that travels. An example of this is data that is being backed up on Cloud servers. Data in transit is more vulnerable than resting data, as communication channels are easier to attack for cybercriminals. For this reason, encryption is a necessity for transmitting data. ABELDent ensures your data in transit is secure by encrypting your information before backing up your data, such as with the ABELDent Cloud solution and RBS. As mentioned above, when the data reaches the Cloud location for storage, the information is encrypted and safeguarded under multiple layers of security.

Minimize third-party systems

juggling

Your office may use several third-party software systems outside of your original practice management software. For instance, your office may use separate patient communication, imaging, and system backup software. From a security standpoint, it is ideal to minimize the number of different applications your office runs. We want to highlight the risks associated with integrating third-party software with your practice management system, especially if some platforms are outdated or data is kept unencrypted. Some of these risks include:

  • Possibility of hacking and accessing PHI by anyone who may have access to your system via a third-party entrance
  • Older/outdated versions of software are typically not as secure as new versions, and therefore must be kept up-to-date
  • Juggling too many different platforms makes it harder to stay up to date with each software

Opting for an all-in-one solution, such as ABELDent, helps you minimize these issues, as well as making daily workflows easier and faster.

What to do with this information?

Now that you have a better understanding of the process of encryption and can see how it is a technology industry-standard, we hope you take some time to evaluate your practice’s security set-up. Is your practice data regularly backed up into local or cloud servers? How often are your practice data backups? If your office uses local servers, what protective measures do you have in place to deter cyberattacks?

ABELDent is here to help you secure your practice’s valuable data. Patient records, financial information, and other classified documents can’t fall into the wrong hands. If you are interested in using a top-quality secure platform such as ABELDent Cloud, or want to look into backing up your data, we invite you to contact us – we are happy to discuss your practice security options with you.

Check Up On Your Practice’s Security

How often does your office do a security check-up?

Dental providers know that monitoring and maintaining health is integral to preventing disease and decay. Establishing and maintaining good oral hygiene habits, along with regular check-ups and dental cleanings, keep patients on the path to a lifetime of good oral health. Oral health is not independent from the rest of the body: many physical systems work together to keep our bodies healthy.

Much like personal wellness, your office’s security also requires regular maintenance. Keeping your practice safe is not limited to one security precaution, but rather, a network of systems, practices, and precautions that together continually prevent threats and breaches. Ensuring all your practice’s security steps are seamlessly coordinated is the key to ensuring your office is best protected from cyberattacks.

We have compiled some key points for assessing your practice’s security.

Regularly Update Passwords & Passphrases

Person typing in password

Whether your office opts for passphrases or passwords, a strong password offers good protection against internal and remote hacking attempts. Ensuring everyone in your office follows a few key habits fosters better security. These habits are:

  • Never share passwords – each user should have their own password to log into your practice management systems

Systems such as ABELDent’s Authorization Manager enforce individual user IDs and passwords. Authorization Manager is a key component of ABELDent that lets you set up user IDs and passwords and restricts access to specific program functions based on defined roles. Only users granted permissions can act on data in certain ways.

  • Frequently change passwords – change passcodes and passphrases at regular intervals. 60 and 90 days are common intervals used by organizations.

The updated Authorization Manager in ABELDent CS and LS+ includes supports several current password best practices, including strong password enforcement (minimum length and complexity), password change on intervals, and automatic lockouts after five unsuccessful attempts.

Train Your Team on Security Measures Regularly

Person writing in notebook while using laptop in background
Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com

The easiest and most foundational way to prevent data breaches is by being equipped with knowledge. Keep your team, especially administrative team members, up to date on current cybersecurity training protocols. That teaches them to identify potential threats such as suspicious phone calls, emails, and links.

In 2021, CIRA reported that 93% of organizations in Canada conduct yearly cybersecurity training for at least some employees. It is clear that cybersecurity training is not only an asset, but a necessity.

Whether you train your team annually, quarterly, or at some other interval, ensure your team has the latest security knowledge available to recognize and stop potential breaches before they cause problems.

Have Security Systems In Place

On top of standard security practices, such as firewall, antivirus, and regular system checks, running top-of-the-line practice software that has built-in measures to secure your data. Additionally, ensure that your system is kept up-to-date with the latest software and hardware updates. The longer these systems remain out-of-date, the greater the risk you assume.

Stay on top of system and software updates – the latest patches and updates not only contain new features, but also fortify your software’s security and may also improve performance. A system that provides regular, automatic updates such as ABELDent, saves you time and ensures you never fall behind.

Running top-of-the-line dental software is another step in fortifying your practice’s data. ABELDent CS (Cloud Solution) and LS+ (Local Solution), for instance, include up-to-date security measures such as Authorization Manager, mentioned earlier.

ABELDent CS also automatically backs up your practice data on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, ensuring that the practice management data stored on your ABELDent system is secured.

Back-Up Your Data Regularly

Hackers may attempt to breach your practice’s security to steal your data, such as patient files, and financial records. They may also install software that locks your data (i.e. “ransomware”) and demand payment for you to regain access. If the worst-case scenario happens, and your office loses access to your files, it is critical that you have a safe copy that allows you to remain operational.

A service like ABELDent RBS (Remote Backup Service) is designed to protect data against local and remote threats with minimal effort. Every night, ABELDent RBS encrypts and transmits your practice data to a secure cloud server. In the morning, your office receives an email summary of the daily backup. If your practice ever encounters a problem that prevents you from accessing your data, you have a recent copy in the cloud that you can restore from.


How does your practice’s security measure up to the points listed above? Is your practice’s security in good health, or are there ways your office can improve to prevent a data breach or the contingent effects of a cyberattack? Let us know in the comments, or contact us with any questions you may have regarding your practice’s security, or if you are interested in ABELDent’s premium protective products.

Practice Protection: How to spot a phishing scam

Internet-based crime has been steadily rising in frequency each year. Ransomware is becoming more common, notably at the same time as the pandemic’s height in North America. We have addressed the rise of online criminal activity in recent blogs, such as our February blog post discussing why cybercrime has become more prevalent.   

With the digitization of much of our everyday tasks, ransomware poses as huge risk to companies, healthcare providers, and even governments. COVID-19 resulted in even more digitization, and therefore a higher occurrence of cyberattacks. In this post we are expanding on our blog post from April 2020 to provide you with some updated advice on protecting your practice from ransomware.  

ransomware

While over half of the cyberattacks occurred via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers, hackers gained access to servers via phishing (29%). Since dentistry is largely an in-person profession (aside from teledentistry), phishing is the most common way for hackers to access a practice’s data. These attacks can grant hackers access to your practice’s network, which makes your office extremely vulnerable to ransomware.  

Key point: be wary of links and strange voice messages  

Phishing and vishing are common attempts hackers make to gain access to your practice’s network. Both methods can be seen in a variety of ways – for example, hackers may impersonate someone you know to gain a password, account, or request you send them money directly. Cybercriminals also may appear to be from a government or financial institution, accusing you of being in trouble, or that you owe money. Any unrecognizable message from an unverified source should raise suspicions.   

If you suspect you or your office may have received a phishing email, there are multiple tells that you can look for:  

  • An urgent email from an unknown source – for example, someone you know contacting you claiming to be from a “different email or phone”)  
  • Emails requesting instant action, such as sending your password or confidential information immediately, or sending money right away. 
  • Links that don’t match what they are displayed as: if you are considering clicking a link in an email, always hover over the link before opening it. If the destination does not match the displayed link, do not click. 

There are more signs to look for, which are detailed in this PDF. If you want more information on ransomware in relation to dentistry, ADA has an informative post on ransomware and cyberattacks, and provides details on how you can avoid losing your practice’s data.  

We are always looking for ways to help your practice grow and succeed. Securing your office’s data is the foundation of a flourishing dental office. If your office requires backup services, consider ABEL RBS for your office’s security. 

Why Cyberattacks Have Risen During COVID-19, and How to Protect Your Practice

As mentioned in previous posts, the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door for increased cyberattacks of all kinds. With many of our interpersonal communications moving online, hackers and criminals are continuously finding new ways to compromise our cybersecurity, and by extension, access our personal information. This problem goes beyond our personal devices, however, as healthcare-providers are a major target due to the valuable information that is kept on file. With countless breaches, ransomware attacks, and lost data, healthcare providers are turning to off-site backup services to ensure their patient and office data is safeguarded from threats.  

Dan Lohrmann wrote an insightful blog post covering the various topics under the umbrella of cybersecurity amidst COVID-19. Lohrmann summarizes that as much of the workforce shifted to a remote, virtual mindset, cyber criminals began taking advantage of the shift while most people remained in an adjustment period. In April 2020, WHO reported a higher number of cyberattacks on the organization’s staff, for example, via email scams. Lohrmann lists the many news articles that connect the vulnerability that the pandemic brought, with the increase in online criminal activity

While we have largely become used to regularly using virtual means for work, education, and socialization, cyberattacks still pose a massive risk to us. 

What does this mean for dentists? 

Your dental practice’s information is highly valuable to a hacker. Patient information, financial records, or even staff records can be used for malicious purposes in the wrong hands. While most of your work is done in-person, your computers can be compromised by something as innocent-seeming as an email. To ensure your data is safe from cyberattacks going into the future, ensure your team members are properly trained in cybersecurity. Social engineering, phishing, and vishing are all terms that your front-desk staff should be aware of. In addition to this, it is best practice to review and update this training at least yearly, and when there are staff changes or other major changes in your practice or more often if needed. Cyberattacks evolve as new technologies become implemented, meaning that your team needs to know what to look out for as hackers adjust their tactics. 

Another way you can protect your practice’s data is by keeping all computer systems, platforms, and software that your practice uses up to date with the latest versions. We spoke more in-depth on this in a previous blog post, but to summarize, software and system updates patch any insecurities that hackers may have found in between updates. These updates also are ever-improving security measures, so keep cybercriminals at bay by making sure your systems are not out-of-date. 

In addition to making sure hackers can’t cause any damage from the start, always have a backup plan in case of the worst possible scenario. If your office lost data, your practice could be significantly impacted for days, maybe even weeks, or even permanently, depending on the type and severity of the attack. Make sure your practice data is regularly backed up, either locally or in a cloud server. All practice data should be backed up, including all patient records, financial information, schedules, etc. Having a backup ready in case your office experiences the worst-case scenario saves you hours of distress in trying to get that data back or dealing with the repercussions if it is lost for good. 

In summary, prioritize your practice’s data security by: 

  1. Ensure your staff has up-to-date cybersecurity training regularly. 
  1. Keep your software, computer system, and all platforms up-to-date. 
  1. Back up your practice data regularly – either remotely (such as ABEL RBS, a remote backup service using cloud technology), or locally. 

3 Simple, Necessary Steps to Take for Data Security

Security professionals, financial advisors, and even government agencies suggest that in 2020, cyberattacks can be more devastating on a business than a natural disaster. If your office faced a cyberattack today, would you have a plan to follow to recover your valuable data? 

As dental software providers, one of our ongoing goals is to ensure dentists keep their practice data safe and secure, regardless of which software they use. Healthcare practitioners, such as dental providers, are always targets for cyberattacks because of each practice’s valuable information and records. While paperless recordkeeping boasts increased security for your practice records, it is crucial to keep in mind that data needs to always be safeguarded from potential threats. In this blog post, we have four simple steps that you can follow to ensure your dental practice’s data is sufficiently secured in the event of a cyberattack. 

Step 1: Keep your software and computers up to date 

updating screenshot

Whether you store your dental records on an all-in-one practice management software or you use other options, chances are that the software you use rolls out regular software updates. Our first simple step to data security is keep your software updated. We have discussed the importance of keeping your software up to date in previous blog posts. To summarize, software updates provide users with the latest security to counteract potential threats, which are continually evolving. Additionally, these software updates fix bugs that could potentially lead to unprotected data.  

Along with software updates, ensure your computer platforms and operating systems are regularly updated as well. Updated computers and operating systems incorporate advanced security measures and bug fixes that are necessary to prevent the latest threats. For example, as of January 2020, Microsoft no longer supports outdated platforms such as SQL 2008, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7. Since these platforms are no longer supported, the software no longer receives security fixes in automated updates, leaving the system vulnerable to viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other malicious threats. Although you may require a periodic investment to keep your system up to date, it is best to always make sure you are using supported versions of the technologies used in your practice.  

Step 2: Maintain proper user credentials 

In addition to keeping up with software updates, make sure your workstations’ passwords are private and strong enough to minimize threats. News stories, statistics, and testimonies can attest to the issues bad passwords can create for a businesses. For instance, 81% of hacking-related security breaches are caused by insufficient passwords. As shown through multiple studies, weak passwords can be the downfall of an entire organization. Not only can an outsider easily access your valuable practice data but, with poor passwords, a team member could access something they are not supposed to. 

How can you strengthen your password security? For starters, if you can, ensure each team member has their own secure login information to eliminate the risk of password-sharing and similar problems. Additionally, ensure all passwords are unique and strong; everyone should avoid using personal information in their passwords, such as their name or birthday, as these could be easy to identify for a potential hacker. General phrases such as “password” should always be avoided. Password specifications vary from source to source, but universally, almost everyone agrees on these general principles: 

  1. Keep your password long (recommendations vary, but generally 8-16 characters) 
  2. Use a mix of capitalized and lower-case letters 
  3. Integrate numbers and symbols into your password 
  4. Ensure passwords are periodically changed 

Lastly, to keep your workstations as secure as possible, passwords should change every few months. The passwords should also not recycle any words or patterns as a precaution. If you or your team members struggle to remember multiple unique passwords, consider using a password manager to keep track of everything. For more tips on how to create a strong password, read this article. 

Step 3: Backup your practice’s data 

data security keyboard

Our third simple step for protecting your practice’s valuable data is backing up your data regularly. While you can do everything possible to protect your data in the event of a cyberattack, some things are uncontrollable. For example, natural disasters can cause devastating and irreversible damage to your practice’s servers if they are kept in your office. To ensure your practice data is as secure as possible, look into secure Cloud backups. Doing regular data backups not only prevents significant data loss if a cyberattack struck your office but also ensures your practice’s data is secured off-site. Microsoft Azure is an example of a Cloud solution, and it is the one ABELDent uses for Remote Backup Services. 

By checking off these three simple steps, you are taking the necessary actions towards securing your practice data.  

3 Reasons You Should Keep Your Software Up To Date

In a Pew Research Center study on Americans and cybersecurity, roughly one out of ten people do not update their smartphone software at all. While ignoring software updates poses a major risk to the individual user’s security, a staggering number of people still choose to stay with the older version of the software. Why is this the case? 

Patrick Boblin writes on this issue in an article regarding the reasons people avoid updating their computers. Some of the reasons Boblin lists include compatibility issues, having a bad prior experience, and being comfortable with the way their system currently runs. One specific reason that stands out is that people don’t understand why they need to update their systems so frequently, and as a result, have less security. 

The reasons Boblin brings up go beyond computer or smartphone updates. Many users ignore software updates, especially if they seem tedious, or the changes are not adequately explained. In today’s blog, we want to emphasize the importance of keeping your software up to date, especially the software you use for your dental practice. 

Security 

data security

First and foremost, software updates are created to maximize the user’s security. Technologies are always changing and unfortunately, so are viruses and other threats to your system. To stay up to date on the best security, it is crucial to update the latest version of any software you are using to keep your information protected. These updates provide the best possible defense systems to prevent cyber-attacks before they become a problem for your practice. 

Bug prevention and elimination

When software updates are published, the new version usually accounts for bugs that have been reported by users. Even if you or your team has not experienced any of the corrected bugs, updating to the latest version of the software eliminates the chances of that bug happening to you in the future. And if you have experienced one or more of the bugs, there is no need to continue to live with and negative impact. Updating your software frequently prevents both ongoing and potential frustration that can be the result of software issues.   

It’s best practice 

general business management

Making the most of your dental software’s capabilities is the best practice for your team and your patients. Continually updating to the most recent version prevents errors, maximizes your software’s capabilities, and simplifies your team’s workflow. Downloading the latest updates also means you are taking full advantage of your dental software and getting the full value out of the product that you use every day. 

Essentially, your software is continually updated to provide you with the best possible product to make your daily tasks more efficient and secure. It is beneficial to keep up to date on the latest developments for your security, as well as ease-of-use, whether it is your smartphone’s operating system or your dental practice’s scheduler. 

Protect Your Practice as Cyberattacks Increase

Multiple threats are challenging dentists worldwide, including cybersecurity at this time. Cyberattacks have risen by 37% in one month, cited by Phil Muncaster at the Infosecurity Group.

Hospitals have been experiencing international ransomware attacks from hackers taking advantage of the current situation. When hospitals are unable to access their data and applications, the treatment process is delayed, thus putting patients directly at risk. Hospitals and other healthcare providers, including dentists, are particularly a high-risk group for ransomware, phishing, and cyberattacks. This week, we are doubling down on data security to make sure that your practice data is protected in this difficult time.

Educate Your Employees

Educate Your Employees

Our last few blog posts mentioned using some extra free time as a chance to educate yourself and your employees on some important aspects of your practice, such as maintaining security. Ensure that anyone who accesses the company emails or social media outlets are very cautious when receiving any messages from unknown senders, particularly with enclosed links. Oftentimes it is best not to open emails and messages from unknown senders if they were not expected or seem irrelevant. If employees do open the email, reinforce that they need to be very sure any links can be trusted prior to clicking them. If you or your employees have suspicions about an email, it is likely in your best interest to delete the email and/or block the sender for your safety.

Have The Right Systems in Place

protection from hackers

Take all measures to protect your practice’s data, and ensure your patients’ security. Best practices include having strong passwords and changing them regularly, such as every few months. 

Being aware of the security measures that you should take if your data is threatened. For instance, mitigate the threat that ransomware poses to your practice by doing regular backups on your practice’s local server, or consider a cloud-based server that automatically backs up your practice’s data. This way, if your confidential practice data is infected, you can restore the information from your most recent unaffected backup. 

Having a plan is key for bouncing back from a cyberattack quickly. Just like your practice has emergency evacuation routes for office fires, being prepared for a cyberattack puts you one step ahead of the potential hacker in the event it takes place. Unfortunately, during these unprecedented times, organizations are even more at risk because there are multiple safety concerns. 

secure your email from cyber attacks

The switch to remote work has created an opportunity for cybercrime, but that can be combated with proper security measures and education to make sure any staff who is regularly checking emails or managing communications stay aware and alert.

We hope you are staying safe and healthy at home, and are using the resources available for yourself and your community at this time.

4 Ways Dental Clinics Can Improve Security Awareness

Most dentists I know have dozens of things to keep track of even on the slowest day, and it’s not surprising that cyber security is often far down the list of concerns of the clinics that I talk to.   

Unfortunately, cyber criminals seem to be taking advantage of this situation: cyber attacks now impact hundreds of dental offices in the United States alone every year. In some cases, these attacks are so devastating that they cause clinics to close for an extended period while they prepare to start seeing patients again.  

cybercrime victim

Fortunately, protecting yourself from common forms of cybercrime like phishing, malware, and ransomware is fairly straightforward, if you have the right software and a staff trained to recognize potential threats.  

Here are four ways you can improve security and training at your clinic this year.   

1. Make Cyber Security Part of Your Practice

We all have a tendency to believe that things like cyber attacks won’t happen to us. Psychologists call this the “optimism bias“. And while it makes it easier for us to go through life, it can also leave us vulnerable.  

Countering optimism bias requires that you train your workers to view cyber threats not as something that could theoretically happen, but as something they should be on the look out for every day.  

Normalizing cyber security routines that require weekly check-ins and following digital best practices are the first steps you should take to guide your staff to be more aware of the danger of cyber attacks.  

2. Help Your Employees Recognize the Risks

Phishing is a form of cybercrime in which targets are contacted through text, email, or by phone with the phisher posing as a legitimate institution. Phishing scams will take advantage of this familiarity in order to pry sensitive data such as banking and credit card info, passwords, or answers to security questions. 

Here are some of the most common signs that you might be dealing with a phishing scam: 

  • Requests for personal financial information 
  • Poor grammar and bad spelling 
  • Threatening language (e.g. “Your account will be closed if you don’t act now!”) 
  • Suspicious links (e.g. nonsense links, or links to misleading domain names) 
  • Unrecognized senders 

To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, be wary of messages that carry a false sense of urgency and ignore any links you may be asked to follow. Remember, your bank or any other professional institution will never ask you to login by phone or by following prompts other than the ones you’ve used in the past.  

phishing

You should also be aware that criminals are constantly developing new viruses and attack methods in order to continue to attacking the vulnerable. Cyber criminals have been using email as a vector for infecting computer systems with malware and ransomware for years, but they have also started to use social media apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, and iMessage to launch their attacks.  

Ransomware is a method of cybercrime where malicious software or malware is designed to deny a company access to their own servers or internal systems until a ransom is paid. Ransomware can be a follow-up attack to a phishing attempt and can be devastating for mid-sized, data-based companies like dental clinics. 

To avoid succumbing to this form of attack, be sure to continually update your computer Operating System (OS) and anti-virus software with the latest patches and do not click on links or open any attachments sent in unsolicited email. Most of us are fairly trusting and scammers use this behaviour against us by sending emails that can seem legitimate or harmless. Train your staff to recognize these warning signs, and report any unusual messages.   

3. Make Regular Backups Part of Your Routine

It’s not always possible to avoid cyber attacks altogether, so it’s also important to ensure that you’ll be able to bounce back quickly if the worst does happen.  

Dental clinics need to keep track of huge amounts of data, the loss of which can be absolutely disastrous. For this reason, you should make regular backups a mainstay of your routine.  

Look for sophisticated cloud storage solutions that automate backups and come with expert support, so that if the worst does happen, you’ll be ready to pick up where you left off.  

4. Use Software that Enhances Cyber Security Capabilities

When you’re looking for software solutions that can help you make cyber security easier and more efficient for your employees, you should look for tools that will mesh well and supplement your anti-virus software for additional protection. Solutions such as ABEL Guard (AppGuard with ABEL’s dental specific templates) prevents new viruses from harming your system until your anti-virus software is updated to eliminate those viruses. 

Also consider switching to a dental cloud server based platform that by default will provide maximum protection against cyberattacks since practice data is stored in and assessed from secure cloud servers – an added benefit is automated continuous data backups are always current should your practice data ever need to be restored for any reason.  

In conclusion:

It is best to be proactive and stay one step ahead of cyber criminals as much as possible. Make sure you have antivirus and additional security software for maximum protection as well as employed a cloud-based backup system to limit any negative effects should you be hit by an attack.  

During my time at ABEL, I have become convinced that a combination of the right tools and the right training can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your clinic safe from attacks. Get in touch with us today if you want to learn more about how we can help you improve your security and security awareness.  

Dental Software Development: Tips to Help You Communicate Better with Your Vendor

When you start up your dental practice management system at the beginning of the day, do you ever wonder how what you see on the screen ended up getting there? In short, what you are viewing is the collaborative effort of multiple team members and departments of your dental software vendor.

First there are individuals who conduct market needs analysis, gather industry intelligence, and analyze customer needs/feedback. Next, company management prioritizes the identified software requirements that will direct the software development team that produces the finished product for distribution.

This blog concentrates on the software development team and the process they follow to ensure the software they develop meets the needs of dental practices. What you learn will give you useful insight whether you are evaluating new dental software or already have a software solution.

Having a better understanding of the software development process can help you to articulate feature requests, questions and concerns more effectively. You will also gain a better understanding of where your ongoing investment in dental software goes!

The Dental Software Development Process

software development cycle

Have you ever requested a new feature or improvement to an existing feature and wondered why you can’t always get a definitive answer about if and when it can be completed? This is because there are normally a number of changes and new features already planned for the next software update as well as a series of steps that must take place when adding any new feature.

Here are the “best practices” that dental software developers typically follow to ensure delivery of a quality software solution:

1. Requirement gathering and analysis: Dental practice feature requirements are gathered in this phase based on vendor prior experience, market research, competitive analysis and most importantly, customer feedback. The objective of each feature under consideration must be clearly defined as well as the required data inputs and outputs. Assuming a feature request is deemed beneficial to a critical mass of customers, a Requirement Specification document is created which serves as a guideline for the next development phase.

2. System Design: In this phase, the feature’s functional design is prepared from the Requirement Specification document. System Design helps break down the specific requirements and identify how they fit into the overall system architecture. In this phase, the Testers define a test strategy that specifies what to test in the system design and how.

coding dental software

3. CodingUpon completion of the system design documents, the work is divided into logical modules and actual program coding is started. This may involve more than one Programmer and is typically the longest phase of the software development life cycle.

4. Testing: After the code is developed it is tested against the requirements to make sure that the product is meeting the needs that were defined during the requirements phase.

5. Deployment: Following successful internal testing, an “alpha” version incorporating the new feature/s is deployed to a select group of customers who have agreed, with the understanding that issues may arise, to report their experience. Further changes to the update may be required to address the reported issues. A “controlled release” (beta version) of the update is then provided to a wider customer group. Once the version is deemed stable, it is ready for full customer deployment.

6. Software Maintenance/Updates: The best software is continually evolving and improving – never static. Consequently, software vendors periodically deliver new, improved versions of their software to provide their customers with up-to-date features and integrations. This process is known as “software maintenance” and is offered under different costing models. Software support is often bundled with software maintenance plans to offer a complete service package.

Software Updates, Upgrades & Customization

update available

There is often confusion as to what constitutes a software update, a system upgrade or a customized feature. Service updates are the first form of software updates and consist of “fixes” and/or minor enhancements to existing features as requested by customers or by Software Support team members based on their experience working with customers. 

Software Updates

Small improvements and features provided to the current version of the program are referred to as minor updates (for example version 8.4 to version 8.5). When more significant changes and new features are added to the software, it is termed a major update and correspondingly named as a new version (for example version 8.5 to version 9.0).

Software Upgrades

While an update modifies the current software product, an upgrade totally replaces it with a newer and often more superior version. Upgrades are necessary when new functional demands and requirements cannot be met by simple updates and as a result, typically involve migration to a new operating system, database management system or application platform (such as cloud based).  

Customized Features

A new feature that is provided to a specific customer (usually for a fee) is known as a customization as it is not part of a general software release. An example may be an integration with a third-party software for the purposes of providing workflow synergies between the two applications. Care must be taken to ensure that any customization continues to function when new versions of the dental software are released.   

intuitive dental software

Conclusion

The challenge for dental practice management software vendors has always been to take a complex product and make is as intuitive and easy to use as possible – without compromising functionality. Similarly, developing new features is not a one-time task but a continuous process software developers must follow.

New dental practice needs and technologies require dental software vendors to be nimble and have proactive systems in place to respond to change and keep their customers satisfied. By having a better understanding of the software development process, dental practices are in a better position to communicate requests to their vendor and ultimately receive the features they need on a regular basis.