Easy Steps For Mental Health Professionals To Improve Their Online Security

You may not have done virtual therapy before the pandemic hit, but if you live in Canada, at some point recently you’ve had to see clients via secure online video due to lockdowns. How secure is your system for clients?

The recent boost in online therapy has resulted in more sensitive information being uploaded online. If your password and devices aren’t secure, your client information could be at risk.

As a virtual assistant for psychotherapists and counsellors I am often shocked by how such brilliant professionals can be so unaware of the need for secure passwords.

Therapists as a whole have been lucky regarding breeches. Although website hacks are becoming more common (as are social media accounts), most hackers have yet to discover the treasure chest of information that Jane App and Owl Practice have inside their systems.

Unfortunately, more and more professionals have found themselves the victims of computer takeovers. The headache and legal ramifications of being locked out of their laptops, and being forced to pay ransom in order to get back access can be devastating.

As a therapist, with so much sensitive information, this may spell disaster for your private practice. Below there are tips to help safeguard yourself against hacking of all kinds.

Get A Password Protector & Start Using Randomly Generated Passwords

There are dozens of great password protector applications online today! From Lastpass to Dashline to Bitwarden, they all are good and will get the job done. You can keep a password protector on your phone, tablet, and laptop. Pro tip: Make sure to install the browser add-on so that you can easily log in to all of your applications.

The most important thing you need to use a password keeper for (besides keeping your passwords) is to use of the password generator device. Update your passwords with 20 characters including upper and lower case letters along with alphabetical and numerical elements.

I know it seems like a lot of work, but once it’s done, the peace of mind and the prevention of future heartache from a hack more than makes up for the 30 minutes it takes to update your passwords.

Get Virus Protection For Your Computer & Also On Your Phone & Tablet

If you’re running your own therapy practice, you probably have your phone with you more often than your computer. It’s quite well known that you should have anti-virus protection on your laptop, but your phone is just as vulnerable to hacking as a computer, if not more! Same with tablets.

All your devices need protection, your client notes and contact information must be secure. Do your research and pick an antivirus software that isn’t going to slow down your device or have a million pop-ups on your system a day (and please avoid McAfee – it’s practically a virus in itself).

Set Your Devices To Auto-Update

If you use Apple products, you might think that you’re immune to viruses or hacks, not only is that not true, but if you aren’t allowing your device to automatically update whenever a computer, phone or tablet update comes available, your device is even more at risk.

I get it, I really do. I used to be someone who would constantly click “update later” when those notifications came. Then my computer was hacked and I found out that it was turning on when I wasn’t around and was being used as a “zombie computer” for who knows what purpose (that’s a blog post for another day-don’t worry I have a new computer).

The updates for your devices are often safety, anti-hacking updates to patch holes recently found in the system. When you postpone these updates, you leave yourself, and your client’s information vulnerable to a breach.

There is an easy way to avoid interrupting your day with security updates. You can set your device to auto-update for a time when you won’t be online, like in the middle of the night. Your laptop, phone or tablet will just switch on, do the update and switch back off. Nothing about your workday will be disrupted, and your data will stay safe!

Securing Your Digital World Doesn’t Take Long And It’s Worth It

Although adding a password keeper, putting anti-virus software on your devices, and setting up auto-updates seems like it would take a while to do, it really doesn’t. Part of you knows that using “password123” isn’t the best idea for your email. Maybe you haven’t had enough downtime to prioritize updating things. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to make the time.

Even if you just take one step in the right direction by beginning with putting anti-virus on your devices, that’s a huge step! You don’t have to do everything at once, but it is worth it to get these things done, sooner rather than later.