Many professionals in the healthcare industry and the business world in general are expected to cut costs wherever possible in their department. Furthermore, practice administrators are often buried under an enormous to-do pile with limited time to devote to HIPAA compliance. Therefore, it is likely that thinking about how using outdated technologies may influence their HIPAA-related data security, is one of the LAST things on the minds of many who have access to protected health information (PHI). However, this is one seldom-thought-of concern that simply cannot wait. It turns out that using outdated technologies, including Windows server 2003, is a huge threat to information security, thus exposing your company to unforeseen HIPAA breaches.
Replacing your Windows 2003 server with a newer version, (or equal alternative), is a very necessary priority that that needs to be on your radar. Microsoft has thankfully extended their support for Windows 2003 once, but this extension expires in July of this year. That means, in less that six months, Microsoft cannot be held liable for any account issues that arise (computerweekly.com). Similarly, if a security threat compromises your server after that point, Microsoft is not responsible for providing a fix. There will also be no more of those “critical update” pop-ups that we are so used to but likely take for granted which provide preventative security bug fixes to shield your system before issues ever exist.
Aside from the security updates ceasing, operating Windows 2003 will make you an easy target for hackers and cyber-spies, thus exposing you to HIPAA breaches. In addition, third party vendors may offer software solutions which promise to help protect your system, but in the end create an unsupported environment if they tie their own code in with the code for their “fixes.” Essentially, using Windows 2003 past July will be akin to running out into a blizzard naked while expecting to stay warm.
While operating an old system might seem scary, you could use this as a welcome opportunity to redefine your company or department’s technology strategy. Support for Windows 2003 ending can be just the excuse you need to investigate other up-and-coming tech options such as cloud computing, or other virtual infrastructures. For those of you who are comfortable using Windows servers and aren’t ready to take the tech-leap, simply replacing your current servers will open you up to a wealth of other resources which can help make the work you do with PHI safer, quicker, and better. The time is now and the opportunities are endless.
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