Managing health data on mobile apps has become increasingly popular among individuals who want to take control of their own health. With the use of health apps, users can conveniently track their fitness, nutrition, medication, and overall well-being. But with the sensitive nature of health data, it is important to implement proper measures to ensure data privacy and security.
Smartphones possess vast abilities to do anything and everything. “For a few years, it seemed almost unlikely that there could be a mobile application for managing one’s personal health,” said Slava Vaniukov, expert and CEO of Softermii.
But today, mHealth applications are the new norm. Today, most people worldwide have used a mHealth application in one way or the other. According to a report published by Pew Survey, 19% of smartphone users have at least one mHealth application.
This number might have risen significantly considering that this report was published a few years ago when smartphones and mobile applications had not gained as much dominance as they have today.
mHealth apps empower patients to take keen control of their health, help in streamlining communications, and in provision of real-time management of health-related issues.
Healthcare data security implication
Healthcare apps collect and store a lot of user data to function accordingly. Such sensitive health information and personally identifiable data should be protected at all costs.
Hackers will do all they can to try and lay their hand on such data and use it for malicious reasons. Indeed, mHealth applications continue to face severe problems from attackers.
Most applications have showcased serious vulnerabilities, with 71% of the applications showing signs of severe security vulnerabilities.
Hackers are using multiple forms of attacks such as SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and brute force attacks, among others, to access data in healthcare apps.
Most app owners are now faced with the difficult question of how to manage health data in healthcare applications.
Read on to find out more about how to manage the health data app.
Tips to manage health data on your app
With the right tools and measures, it is easy to protect and manage health data from evil hands. The following are tips you can use to safeguard your healthcare data.
App code protection
The source code could house several vulnerabilities and will need to be protected. One of the major causes of code vulnerabilities is the lack of code testing. The best way to safeguard your code from related vulnerabilities is to ensure adequate encryption mechanisms are attached to the code. It is also vital to run frequent code scanning to discover possible code vulnerabilities.
A critical player in code security is the code signing certificate. It helps to establish the authenticity of the code. Whenever the certificate is attached to the code, users know that the code has not been interfered with since its creation. For the utmost security of your code and Health app, for that matter, you must buy a code signing certificate.
Adding data to the app
The first important point to note about data collection is that there is no point in collecting data you do not need. All data you collect must serve a definite purpose, and data that is no longer needed should be disposed of. Carrying too much data increases your susceptibility to threats. The second tip when adding data to your app is to have your antivirus up and running as you do so. Some data packets might come carrying malware, and this is the reason you must scan them first.
It is also vital to create an alternative storage file for all data added to your app. Data backups act as contingent plans and will come in handy when your app data gets lost or is compromised by a hacker. The best way to approach the data backup issue is to allow automatic backups. This will save you a lot of time and energy that comes with manual data backups.
Data access management is an essential aspect of health data management on mHealth apps. The mobile app should be set so that it is not easy for unauthorised people to access the data. There are two major ways of ensuring strong authentication for your medical application. The first is using strong and unique passwords, while the second is employing two-factor authentication.
Brute force attackers targeting mobile applications are so common these days. Using strong and unique passwords characterised by lengths and a mixture of characters will go a long way toward ensuring that attackers have no access to your data. However, sometimes attackers might succeed in getting past your passwords. And here is where the two-factor authentication element will come to play.
2-FA is where an alternative authentication factor, other than user name and password, is used to authenticate the identity of the person accessing the app. Unauthorized parties usually do not have the second authentication factor, so it becomes hard for them to get past your authentication walls. Combining strong and unique passwords and two-factor authentication is a great app data management tip you should never overlook.
Implementing the least privilege principle is an excellent management tip for health data on your app. The principle requires that app users or programs within the device be granted the least amount of privileges it needs to perform a given task. You must conduct a strict assessment of what permissions should be granted to a particular program. If, in any case, a hacker gets access to your app, the hacker will not be able to perform any task or anything beyond what the app cannot do. For instance, with limited access privileges to sensitive databases, the hacker will never be able to reach or view the databases.
Physical device management
You must never ignore the physical security of the device carrying the medical app. Remember we mentioned how two-factor authentication helps to safeguard your app against unauthorised parties. Unless the hacker has the smartphone containing the application, they will never be able to access the app. Accessing the gadget could also be the easiest route a hacker takes toward compromising your data. As a best practice, always ensure that the device is kept far away from malicious people. It would be best if you were the only person accessing the device.
The healthcare industry is undoubtedly one of the industries that have been immensely affected by technological improvements. The industry is strongly governed and regulated by several policies that define how data should be handled. These guidelines tend to vary from one region to another and country to country. Since your medical app is collecting and storing a lot of sensitive user data, there are a few regulatory compliance questions you will have to answer.
For instance, you must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provisions and regulations. Complying with HIPAA regulations and provisions is not child’s play. Still, it is something that must be done to ensure healthcare data is safe and sound from any data-related vulnerabilities.
It is crucial to test all the security walls infrastructures put in place to protect your app from data-related vulnerabilities. Frequent penetration testing is a good technique you can employ for this role. As a best practice, ensure that the loopholes exposed from penetration testing are patched as soon as possible before attackers can leverage them.
mHealth apps and techniques have become more popular and advanced, but so have the techniques employed by hackers and malicious individuals. Hackers are seeking the sensitive data held in the applications to sell it back for significant sums. I am sure you are not ready to face the ghosts and scares of such data breaches. For this reason, it is mandatory to implement all the necessary mHealth app data management tips explained in this article.
Robert Haynes, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.