The current state of dental cybersecurity: At risk

Usman Choudhary
Usman Choudhary.

Businesses that work with sensitive data, such as protected health information (PHI), are held to rigorous data privacy and protection standards. Regulations like HIPAA are in place to ensure that organizations have measures in place to protect sensitive information against unauthorized disclosure and abuse.

Healthcare practices, including dental practices, are particularly susceptible to cyberattacks and data breaches because of the large volumes of valuable data they handle and store daily. With new and evolving cyberthreats putting sensitive and private information at risk, organizations must prioritize dental cybersecurity to prevent attacks.

Dental practice attacks are on the rise

Cyberthreats have been a significant risk for dental practices and other healthcare institutions for as long as they have used digital data storage and processing. The healthcare sector accounts for 79% of data breaches across all industries, and these breaches can affect organizations of any size or type. 

Some of the most prominent recent cyberattacks on dental institutions have targeted industry giants, including the following:

  • At the end of 2023, Henry Schein experienced two cyberattacks almost back to back. The cybergang BlackCat claimed responsibility for both attacks, which disabled some dental distributors' applications and e-commerce sites. The data stolen is alleged to include 35TB of sensitive data, including payroll data, shareholder information, and customer and supplier bank information.

  • In April 2023, Aspen Dental was hit by a cyberattack that shut down many vital business functions. Appointment scheduling and phone systems were among the business applications affected by the attack, leaving patients unable to schedule appointments or even call to obtain information about the attack.

  • Delta Dental of California was the target of an attack that exposed customer data, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, financial information, and PHI. Ransomware gang Cl0p took advantage of a zero-day vulnerability in the MOVEit Transfer software to launch the attack.

The importance of dental cybersecurity

Data breaches and other cyberattacks are immensely harmful in any industry, but dentistry is one area where the data in question are susceptible and valuable. Between 2020 and 2022, the cost of a data breach in healthcare increased by 42%, highlighting the extreme consequences in the event of a cyberattack. Even beyond the financial cost of recovery and remediation, there are dire risks associated with dental cybersecurity incidents.

Organizations that handle large amounts of PHI, insurance information, financial account numbers, and other sensitive data are at risk of being targeted by ransomware. While those who choose to pay the ransom to recover their data incur significant costs, the safe return of ransomed data is never guaranteed. The risk of falling victim to a ransomware attack is monetary loss and the potential permanent loss of vital business data.

Healthcare organizations (dental practices included) are also subject to strict regulations around data privacy and protection. Laws and rules like HIPAA mandate specific measures to secure data and protect against breaches. Failure to comply with these data security guidelines can result in penalties from fines to criminal charges.

Protecting your business against cyber risks

Organizations in the dental industry must employ a robust security strategy to protect their sensitive data against attacks and breaches. This strategy requires several solutions and policies, from basic cybersecurity hygiene to specific data protection solutions:

  • Employee cybersecurity awareness training is essential for protecting an organization's assets from attacks. Beyond annual HIPAA and compliance training, people can be the strongest line of defense in cybersecurity if they receive the proper education and training on recognizing and handling cyberthreats.

  • Organizations should ensure regular data backups, including ransomware, to safeguard against data loss. Backups and restoration processes must be tested to ensure their integrity and efficacy.

  • Email security solutions and policies can prevent some of the most common attacks, such as phishing, spam, and viruses. Email is a popular vector for cyberattacks, allowing bad actors to exploit user error to infiltrate an organization.

  • Endpoint security is vital for data protection. An advanced endpoint protection solution that helps fend off malware and ransomware on all network devices is recommended.

  • It is essential to keep all software up to date, including security solutions, and for vulnerabilities to be regularly patched.


In conclusion, dental cybersecurity is an increasing concern as cyberthreats evolve and target valuable data within dentistry. Dental practices, in particular, must recognize the severe implications of data breaches and the necessity of robust cybersecurity measures. The recent attacks on major dental institutions underscore the vulnerabilities and potential damages that can arise from insufficient cyber defenses.

To mitigate these risks, dental organizations must adopt comprehensive cybersecurity strategies that include employee training, regular data backups, email and endpoint security, and consistent software updates. By implementing these measures, dental practices can better protect their sensitive information, comply with HIPAA regulations, and maintain their patients' trust.

Ultimately, protecting sensitive health information is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental aspect of patient care and organizational integrity. As cyberthreats continue to grow, so, too, must dental practices' vigilance and preparedness to defend against these ever-present dangers. By prioritizing cybersecurity, dental organizations can safeguard their operations and ensure the continued safety and confidentiality of their patients' data.

Usman Choudhary is the general manager of the VIPRE Security Group. With contributions to several patented innovations in the early stages of the security space, he was instrumental in influencing the evolution of mission-critical cyberdefense programs for the U.S. Navy (Prometheus) and other government agencies and security programs at Microsoft and other large enterprises. Before joining VIPRE, Usman held several product leadership roles at NetIQ, Novell, and eSecurity. He previously served 10 years in technology innovation for the global brokerage industry. Usman received the distinguished U.S. President's Call to Service Award in 2013.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Page 1 of 25
Next Page