The internet has become the primary mode of communication for businesses and consumers around the world, opening up new opportunities to build meaningful and profitable relationships. Small businesses, in particular, have been able to grow their brand and market presence at a blistering pace, yet the modern digital frontier comes with a host of complex challenges that were unheard of 20 years ago.
As online resources and interactive tools become more advanced, malicious actors have continued to develop increasingly sophisticated methods for mining personal information and valuable business data. According to the Identity Theft Research Center, there were a total of 1,244 large-scale data breaches in 2018, which exposed more than 400 million sensitive records. The business sector and healthcare industry were the hardest hit, with hacking standing as the most common form of data breach.
Dental practices operate at the intersection of these vulnerable commercial segments, meaning that cybersecurity is of paramount importance. Even websites that do not directly collect personal information are at risk, as hackers are able to embed malware into unprotected web pages and intercept unsecured traffic. The only way to insulate your dental practice website from cyber threats is to take advantage of the cutting-edge security tools at your disposal. One such example is HTTPS, which is considered an essential safeguard against website intrusion and data exploitation.
What is HTTPS?
Over the past decade, web security experts have recognized the growing need for robust base-level protections against hacking and data theft. The HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is an encryption system that secures online communications and web browsing, preventing intruders from tampering with your website and back-end resources. Hackers are known for hijacking all sorts of digital assets, from images and application scripts to cookies and HTML code, which can yield a lot of information about your business and customers. Some common techniques used by cybercriminals include:
- SQL injections
- Cross-site scripting
- Malware and ransomware
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Phishing scams
Nearly all of these hacking methods take advantage of unsecured access points and the interactive features on your website, allowing malicious actors to install corrupted files and add infected hyperlinks into your web pages. For example, some hackers are able to insert malicious code into your SQL statements to capture any personal information your users enter into your web pages. Unless the right protections are in place, dental practice websites with unique patient logins can be easily exploited, leading to widespread identity and credential theft.
HTTPS also safeguards any data that is transmitted between your website and your users’ browser, making it harder for malicious actors to eavesdrop on your online traffic. Keep in mind, hackers are not only interested in personal information like credit card numbers and passwords, as they can use aggregate behaviors to identify your users and support spear phishing operations.
How does HTTPS benefit dental practice websites?
The main benefit of HTTPS for dental practices is that prevents their website from being misused. When visitors connect to an HTTPS-secured server, their web browser will automatically check if the website’s security certificate is legitimate and valid. Websites that are secured with HTTPS will display a green padlock next to the web address to let users know that they’re safe to browse, buy, and submit their personal information. The browser also ensures that visitors are connected to the correct web page, as hackers can insert malicious code that will redirect them to a cloned web page filled with corrupted hyperlinks. The specific advantages of using HTTPS include:
- Cybersecurity: Originally, HTTPS was intended to secure passwords, online transactions, and sensitive user data, but the entire web has started moving toward the practice as means of bolstering anti-hacking initiatives. Dental practice websites come in all shapes and sizes, but even the most basic web pages should have strong security protocols to fend off intrusion. This can protect your users from falling victim to social engineering tactics and secure your internal servers from data theft.
- Building trust: Modern internet users are accustomed to seeing the green padlock icon next to a website’s specific address. As cybersecurity practices and online privacy rights become increasingly important to mainstream users, businesses will need to integrate comprehensive protections to remain commercially relevant. If your website is not secured, visitors will be less likely to browse through your content, learn about your dental practice, or schedule an appointment. HTTPS can help you build credibility with new clients and reassure existing patients that your practice is dedicated to securing their personal information.
- Improved website features: Many of today’s cutting-edge interactivity features require HTTPS to perform effectively, especially those that involve usernames/passwords and browser extensions. While these advanced capabilities may not be important for every dental practice, those that have embraced online applications and digital transformation heavily rely on enhanced cybersecurity protocols to ensure their users have safe access to their accounts and patient information.
While HTTPS can help dental practices secure their websites from existing and emergent threats, the only way to truly protect your online resources is by obtaining an SSL certificate. Hackers often target small businesses because they seem like easy targets, in part due to the high technical knowledge involved in website security. The SSL (Secure Socket Layer) provides additional safeguards by encoding all the data that is transmitted to and from your web servers, preventing unauthorized users from utilizing any of the sensitive patient information they manage to steal. If you’re new to online security, managing certificates can seem like an arduous task, which is Interactive Palette offers no-cost SSL/TLS management through our Let’s Encrypt SSL service.