10 October 2016
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Q. Has the ransomware problem impacted on general practice?

A. I wrote about ransomware in the April 2016 issue of Forum; you can find old frequently asked questions (FAQs) at www.gpit.ie/faq. Ransomware is malicious code that encrypts your files and prevents you gaining access to them unless you pay a ransom. Mostly it is spread via normal email and is activated when an attached file is opened. Sometimes it is spread by following a link to a website that downloads malware onto your computer. Unfortunately, there have been a number of reports over the last few months of GP practices being hit by ransomware. Clanwilliam have issued an alert to their users. There is now a need for heightened security in general practice to protect your patient electronic records. Now is a good time to talk to your computer support company about an IT security audit. The audit should cover your operating systems, network, firewall, broadband, antivirus, laptops, power supply and backup. You should also look at your policies and procedures and in particular use of your computers and network for personal activity.

Online backup is one key element to surviving a ransomware attack. It is well worth the investment. Ensure that your online backup service and your GP software vendor are talking to one another to ensure all the necessary files are backed up to enable a data restore. And if you do work outside your GP software system, such as occupational health or medico-legal reviews, ensure these Word documents are also backed up online.

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