Healthcare data security is an important element of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Rules. The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to assess data security controls by conducting a risk assessment, and implement a risk management program to address any vulnerabilities that are identified.

HIPAA-covered entities must also implement appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information.

With cyberattacks on healthcare organizations on the rise and cybercriminals developing increasingly sophisticated tools and methods to attack healthcare organizations, healthcare data security has never been more important.

Further, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has increased enforcement of HIPAA Rules and settlements with covered entities for violations of HIPAA Rules are being reached at a greater rate than ever before.

OCR is also conducting audits of covered entities to assess compliance with HIPAA Rules and the technologies that have been implemented to improve healthcare data security. Organizations found to have done too little to improve the security of their networks and data are at risk of significant regulatory fines.

Our healthcare data security category contains articles relating to the HIPAA Security Rule and the controls that HIPAA-covered entities can apply to protect the privacy of patients and safeguard data.

You will also find articles covering new guidelines issued by federal regulators on securing medical and IoT devices, protecting ePHI in motion and at rest, details of cybersecurity frameworks, Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISAOs), and the latest technology that can be adopted by healthcare organizations to improve their security posture.

News items also feature in this section relating to new vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by malicious actors to gain access to healthcare networks and information on the latest scams, social engineering and phishing campaigns targeting the healthcare industry.

Lisa J. Pino Named New Director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights
Sep27

Lisa J. Pino Named New Director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights

Lisa J. Pino has been named Director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and replaces Robinsue Frohboese, who has served as acting OCR Director since President Trump-appointed Roger Severino resigned from the post in mid-January. OCR is the main enforcer of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules, the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, and Patient Safety Rule, as well as as well as enforcing federal civil rights, conscience and religious freedom laws. Pino is from New York City, a fluent Spanish speaker, and the first-generation daughter of immigrant parents. She completed a B.A., M.A., and J.D. at Arizona State University with honors, and Harvard Kennedy School leadership program as a National Hispana Leadership Institute Fellow. Pino has served as legal aid attorney in the Southwest, fighting to protect the rights of migrant farm workers. Her civil rights activities carried on while working for the United States Department of Agriculture...

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Fifth of Healthcare Providers Report Increase in Patient Mortality After a Ransomware Attack
Sep27

Fifth of Healthcare Providers Report Increase in Patient Mortality After a Ransomware Attack

While there have been no reported cases of American patients dying as a direct result of a ransomware attack, a new study suggests patient mortality does increase following a ransomware attack on a healthcare provider. According to a recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, more than one fifth (22%) of healthcare organizations said patient mortality increased after a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks on healthcare providers often result in IT systems being taken offline, phone and voicemail systems can be disrupted, emergency patients are often redirected to other facilities, and routine appointments are commonly postponed. The recovery process can take several weeks, during which time services continue to be disrupted. While some ransomware gangs have a policy of not attacking healthcare organizations, many ransomware operations target healthcare. For instance, the Vice Society ransomware operation has conducted around 20% of its attacks on the healthcare sector and attacks on healthcare organizations have been increasing. During the past 2 years, 43% of respondents...

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August 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Sep21

August 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There was a 44% month-over-month decrease in the number of reported healthcare data breaches in August 2021. 38 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported by healthcare providers, health plans, and their business associates in August. August’s reported data breaches takes the total number of healthcare data breaches in the past 12 months to 707 (Sep 2020 to August 2021), with 440 of those data breaches reported in 2021. While there was a marked fall in the number of reported breaches, 5,120,289 healthcare records were breached across those 38 incidents, which is well above the 12-month average of 3.94 million breached records a month. The high total was largely due to two major ransomware attacks on St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System and University Medical Center Southern Nevada, which involved 2.8 million healthcare records combined. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in August 2021 Ransomware gangs continued to target the healthcare industry in August. The attacks can cause disruption to care and can put patient safety at risk. Some of the attacks...

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NCCoE Releases Final Cybersecurity Practice Guide on Mobile Application Single Sign-On for First Responders
Sep08

NCCoE Releases Final Cybersecurity Practice Guide on Mobile Application Single Sign-On for First Responders

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently released the final version of the NIST Cybersecurity Practice Guide SP 1800-13, Mobile Application Single Sign-On: Improving Authentication for Public Safety First Responders. Public safety and first responder (PSFR) personnel require on-demand access to public safety data in order to provide proper support and emergency care. In order to access the necessary data, PSFR personnel are heavily reliant on mobile platforms. Through these platforms, PSFR personnel can access the personal and protected health information of patients and sensitive law enforcement information; however, in order to keep sensitive information secure and to prevent unauthorized access, strong authentication mechanisms are required. Those authentication mechanisms are needed to keep data secure and to protect privacy, but they have potential to hinder PSFR personnel and get in the way of them providing emergency services. While authentication may only take a matter of seconds, any...

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July 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Aug23

July 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

High numbers of healthcare data breaches continued to be reported by HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates. In July, there were 70 reported data breaches of 500 or more records, making it the fifth consecutive month where data breaches have been reported at a rate of 2 or more per day. The number of breaches was slightly lower than June, but the number of records exposed or compromised in those breaches jumped sharply, increasing by 331.5% month-over-month to 5,570,662 records. Over the past 12 months, from the start of August 2020 to the end of July 2021, there have been 706 reported healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records and the healthcare data of 44,369,781 individuals has been exposed or compromised. That’s an average of 58.8 data breaches and around 3.70 million records per month! Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in July 2021 Two healthcare data breaches stand out due to the sheer number of healthcare records that were exposed – and potentially stolen. The largest healthcare data breach to be reported in July was a hacking/IT incident reported by the...

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Future of HIPAA: Reflections at the 25th Anniversary of HIPAA
Aug21

Future of HIPAA: Reflections at the 25th Anniversary of HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is now 25 years old. How effective has this healthcare law been and what is the future of HIPAA? It is now exactly 25 years to the day since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law by President Clinton. On August 21, 1996, when President Clinton added his signature to the legislation, few people would have realized how HIPAA would evolve and grow into the comprehensive national health privacy law that it is today. It is difficult to argue that HIPAA has not been an overall success, but the legislation has attracted a fair amount of criticism over the years, especially due to the considerable administrative burden it initially placed on healthcare organizations. On balance, the improvements to healthcare that have come from compliance with HIPAA more than outweigh the negatives. The biggest successes are the improvements to patient privacy and data security, the rights given to patients with respect to their healthcare data, greater efficiency in the healthcare system, and changes...

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Scripps Health Ransomware Attack Cost Increases to Almost $113 Million
Aug18

Scripps Health Ransomware Attack Cost Increases to Almost $113 Million

Ransomware attacks on hospitals can cause huge financial losses, as the Ryuk ransomware attack on Universal Health Services showed. UHS is one of the largest healthcare providers in the United States, and operates 26 acute care hospitals, 330 behavioral health facilities, and 41 outpatient facilities. UHS said in March 2021 that the September 2020 ransomware attack resulted in $67 million in pre-tax losses due the cost of remediation, loss of acute care services, and other expenses incurred due to the attack. While the losses suffered by UHS were significant, the ransomware attack on Scripps Health has proven to be far more expensive. Scripps Health is a California-based nonprofit operator of 5 hospitals and 19 outpatient facilities in the state. In the May 2021 ransomware attack, Scripps Health lost access to information systems at two of its hospitals, staff couldn’t access the electronic medical record system, and its offsite backup servers were also affected. Without access to critical IT systems, Scripps Health was forced to re-route stroke and heart attack patients from four...

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NCSC Password Recommendations
Aug10

NCSC Password Recommendations

The UK’s NCSC password recommendations have been updated and a new strategy is being promoted that meets password strength requirements but improves usability.  There are multiple schools of thought when it comes to the creation of passwords, but all are based on the premise that passwords need to be sufficiently complex to ensure they cannot be easily guessed, not only by humans, but also the algorithms used by hackers in brute force attacks. Each year lists of the worst passwords are published that are compiled from credentials exposed in data breaches. These worst password lists clearly demonstrate that some people are very poor at choosing passwords. Passwords such as “password,” “12345678,” and “qwertyuiop” all feature highly in the lists. Due to the risk of end users creating these weak passwords, many organizations now have minimum requirements for password complexity, but that does not always mean end users will set strong passwords. The Problem with Password Complexity Requirements The minimum requirements for password complexity are typically to have at least one lower-...

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Healthcare Industry has Highest Number of Reported Data Breaches in 2021
Aug05

Healthcare Industry has Highest Number of Reported Data Breaches in 2021

Data breaches declined by 24% globally in the first 6 months of 2021, although breaches in the United States increased by 1.5% in that period according to the 2021 Mid-Year Data Breach QuickView Report from Risk-Based Security. Risk Based Security identified 1,767 publicly reported breaches between January 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Across those breaches, 18.8 billion records were exposed, which represents a 32% decline from the first 6 months of 2020 when 27.8 billion records were exposed. 85% of the exposed records in the first half of 2021 occurred in just one breach at the Forex trading service FBS Markets. The report confirms the healthcare industry continues to be targeted by cyber threat actors, with the industry having reported more data breaches than any other industry sector this year. Healthcare has been the most targeted industry or has been close to the top since at least 2017 and it does not appear that trend will be reversed any time soon. 238 healthcare data breaches were reported in the first 6 months of 2021, with finance & insurance the next most attacked...

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NSA & CISA Issue Guidance on Hardening Security and Managing Kubernetes Environments
Aug04

NSA & CISA Issue Guidance on Hardening Security and Managing Kubernetes Environments

Kubernetes is a popular open-source cloud solution for deploying and managing containerized apps.  Recently there have been several security breaches where hackers have gained access to poorly secured Kubernetes environments to steal sensitive data, deploy cryptocurrency miners, and conduct denial-of-service attacks. This month, security researchers discovered Kubernetes clusters were being targeted by cyber actors who were exploiting misconfigured permissions for the web-facing dashboard of Argo Workflows instances. In these attacks, the computing power of Kubernetes environments were harnessed for mining cryptocurrencies. In another attack, a vulnerability in the Kubernetes API Server was being exploited to steal sensitive data. In light of these attacks, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued a 52-page technical report that includes detailed guidance on how to correctly set up and manage Kubernetes environments to make it harder for the environments to be compromised by hackers. The report includes details...

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The Average Cost of a Healthcare Data Breach is Now $9.42 Million
Jul29

The Average Cost of a Healthcare Data Breach is Now $9.42 Million

IBM Security has published its 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, which shows data breach costs have risen once again and are now at the highest level since IBM started publishing the reports 17 years ago. There was a 10% year-over-year increase in data breach costs, with the average cost rising to $4.24 million per incident. Healthcare data breaches are the costliest, with the average cost increasing by $2 million to $9.42 million per incident. Ransomware attacks cost an average of $4.62 million per incident. The large year-over-year increase in data breach costs has been attributed to the drastic operational shifts due to the pandemic. With employees forced to work remotely during the pandemic, organizations had to rapidly adapt their technology. The pandemic forced 60% of organizations to move further into the cloud. Such a rapid change resulted in vulnerabilities being introduced and security often lagged behind the rapid IT changes. Remote working also hindered organizations’ ability to quickly respond to security incidents and data breaches. According to IBM, data breaches...

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Report: The State of Privacy and Security in Healthcare
Jul28

Report: The State of Privacy and Security in Healthcare

2020 was a particularly bad year for the healthcare industry with record numbers of data breaches reported. Ransomware was a major threat, with Emsisoft identifying 560 ransomware attacks on healthcare providers in 2020. Those attacks cost the healthcare industry dearly. $20.8 billion was lost in downtime in 2020, according to Comparitech, which is more than twice the ransomware downtime cost to the healthcare industry in 2019. With the healthcare industry facing such high numbers of cyberattacks, the risk of a security breach is considerable, yet many healthcare organizations are still not fully conforming with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) and the HIPAA Security Rule, according to the 2021 Annual State of Healthcare Privacy and Security Report published today by healthcare cybersecurity consulting firm CynergisTek. To compile the report – The State of Healthcare Privacy and Security – Maturity Paradox: New World, New Threats, New Focus – CynergisTek used annual risk assessments at 100 healthcare organizations and measured progress alongside overall NIST CSF...

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June 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jul21

June 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

For the third consecutive month, the number of reported healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records increased. June saw an 11% increase in reported breaches from the previous month with 70 data breaches of 500 or more records reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights – the highest monthly total since September 2020 and well above the average of 56 breaches per month over the past year. While the number of reported breaches increased, there was a substantial fall in the number of breached healthcare records, which decreased 80.24% from the previous month to 1,290,991 breached records. That equates to more than 43,000 breached records a day in June. More than 40 million healthcare records have been exposed or impermissibly disclosed over the past 12 months across 674 reported breaches. On average, between July 2020 and June 2021, an average of 3,343,448 healthcare records were breached each month. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in June 2021 There were 19 healthcare data breaches of 10,000 or more records reported in June. Ransomware continues to pose problems for healthcare...

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Kaseya KSA Supply Chain Attack Sees REvil Ransomware Sent to 1,000+ Companies
Jul05

Kaseya KSA Supply Chain Attack Sees REvil Ransomware Sent to 1,000+ Companies

A Kaseya KSA supply chain attack has affected dozens of its managed service provider (MSP) clients and saw REvil ransomware pushed out to MSPs and their customers. Kaseya is an American software company that develops software for managing networks, systems, and information technology infrastructure. The software is used to provide services to more than 40,000 organizations worldwide. The REvil ransomware gang gained access to Kaseya’s systems, compromised the Kaseya’s VSA remote monitoring and management tool, and used the software update feature to install ransomware. The Kaseya VSA tool is used by MSPs to monitor and manage their infrastructure. It is not clear when the ransomware gang gained access to Kaseya’s systems, but ransomware was pushed out to customers when the software updated on Friday July 2. The attack was timed to coincide with the July 4th holiday weekend in the United States, when staffing levels were much lower and there was less chance of the attack being detected and blocked before the ransomware payload was deployed. Fast Response Limited Extent of the Attack...

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HHS: Take Action Now to Secure Vulnerable PACS Servers
Jul05

HHS: Take Action Now to Secure Vulnerable PACS Servers

The HHS’ Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) has issued a TLP:White Alert warning about vulnerabilities in the Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACS) used by hospitals, clinics, small healthcare practices, and research institutions for sharing patient data and medical images. The HC3 Sector Alert warns that PACS vulnerabilities are exposing sensitive patient data and placing systems at risk of compromise. Vulnerable Internet-exposed PACS servers can easily be identified and compromised by hackers, threatening not just the PACS servers but also any systems to which those servers connect. PACS was initially developed to help with the transition from analog to digital storage of medical images. PACS servers receive medical images from medical imaging systems such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), radiography, and ultrasound and store the images digitally using the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) format. DICOM is now three decades old and was discovered to have vulnerabilities that could easily be exploited....

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CISA Releases Ransomware Readiness Assessment Audit Tool
Jul05

CISA Releases Ransomware Readiness Assessment Audit Tool

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has launched a new tool that can be used by organizations to assess how well they are equipped to defend and recover from a ransomware attack. The threat from ransomware has gown significantly over the past year. The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report shows 10% of cyberattacks now involve the use of ransomware, with SonicWall reporting a 62% global increase in ransomware attacks since 2019 and a 158% spike in attacks in North America during the same period. BlackFog predicts loses due to ransomware attacks will increase to $6 trillion in 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. The Ransomware Readiness Assessment (RRA) audit module has been added to CISA’s Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET). CSET is a desktop software tool that guides network defenders through a step-by-step process of assessing their cybersecurity practices for both their information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) networks. CSET can be used to perform a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s cybersecurity posture using...

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CISA Publishes Catalog of Cybersecurity Bad Practices That Must Be Eradicated
Jul01

CISA Publishes Catalog of Cybersecurity Bad Practices That Must Be Eradicated

The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published a new resource that lists cybersecurity bad practices that are exceptionally dangerous and significantly increase risk to critical infrastructure. There are many published resources that provide information about cybersecurity best practices that should be adopted to improve security, but CISA felt an additional perspective was required as it is equally, if not more, important to ensure that bad cybersecurity practices are eliminated. “Ending the most egregious risks requires organizations to make a concerted effort to stop bad practices,” explained CISA. CISA is urging leaders of all organizations to engage in urgent conversations to address technology bad practices, especially organizations that support national critical functions. One of the foundational elements of risk management is “focus on the critical few”, explained CISA Executive Assistant Director Eric Goldstein in a blog post announcing the launch of the new website resource. Organizations may have limited resources to identify and mitigate...

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NIST Publishes Critical Software Definition for U.S. Agencies
Jun30

NIST Publishes Critical Software Definition for U.S. Agencies

President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order requires all federal agencies to reevaluate their approach to cybersecurity, develop new methods of evaluating software, and implement modern security approaches to reduce risk, such as encryption for data at rest and in transit, multi-factor authentication, and using a zero-trust approach to security. One of the first requirements of the Executive Order was for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to publish a definition of critical software, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) will use to create a list of all software covered by the Executive Order and for creating security rules that federal agencies will be required to follow when purchasing and deploying the software. These measures will help to prevent cyberattacks such as the SolarWinds Orion supply chain attack that saw the systems of several federal agencies infiltrated by state-sponsored Russian hackers. The Executive Order required NIST to publish its critical software definition within 45 days. NIST sought input from...

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Government Watchdog Makes 7 Recommendations to HSS to Improve Cybersecurity
Jun30

Government Watchdog Makes 7 Recommendations to HSS to Improve Cybersecurity

The Government Accountability Office has published a report following a review of the organizational approach to cybersecurity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The study was conducted because both the HHS and the healthcare and public health sector are heavily reliant on information systems to fulfil their missions, which include providing healthcare services and responding to national health emergencies. Should any information systems be disrupted, it could have major implications for the HHS and healthcare sector organizations and could be catastrophic for Americans who rely on their services. “A cyberattack resulting in the disruption of IT systems supporting pharmacies, hospitals, and physicians’ offices would interfere with the approval and distribution of the life-saving medications and other products needed by patients and healthcare facilities,” said the GAO in the report. The HHS must implement safeguards in place to protect its computer systems from cyber threat actors looking to obtain sensitive data to commit fraud and identity theft,...

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Draft Federal Data Breach Notification Bill
Jun22

Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Draft Federal Data Breach Notification Bill

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a federal data breach notification bill – the Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 – that requires all federal agencies, contractors, and businesses that have oversight over critical infrastructure to report significant cyber threats to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours of discovery. The draft bill was introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Susan Collins (R-ME) but has yet to be formally introduced in the Senate. The bill seeks to address many of the issues that have been identified following recent cyberattacks that have impacted critical infrastructure, such as the SolarWinds Orion supply chain attack and the ransomware attacks on JBS and Colonial Pipeline. The purpose of the new bill is to ensure timely federal government awareness of cyber intrusions that pose a threat to national security, which will enable the development of a common operating picture of national-level cyber threats. Entities discovering cyber threats will be required to provide...

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NIST Releases Draft Guidance for Ransomware Risk Management
Jun22

NIST Releases Draft Guidance for Ransomware Risk Management

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a draft Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Ransomware Risk Management to help organizations prevent, respond and recover from ransomware attacks. The Ransomware Profile is intended to be used by organizations that have adopted the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and want to improve their risk postures or any organization that has not yet adopted the Framework but wants to implement a risk management framework to meet ransomware threats. The Ransomware Profile can be used to identify and prioritize opportunities for improving their ransomware resistance. The Ransomware Profile includes a series of steps that should be taken to prevent ransomware attacks and effectively manage ransomware risk. It should be used in conjunction with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, other NIST guidance, and guidance issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security. The Ransomware Profile outlines basic measures that can be implemented to improve defenses against ransomware attacks. These include the...

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May 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jun18

May 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

May was the worst month of 2021 to date for healthcare data breaches. There were 63 breaches of 500 or more records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights in May. For the past three months, breaches have been reported at a rate of more than 2 per day. The average number of healthcare data breaches per month has now risen to 54.67. May was also the worst month of the year in terms of the severity of breaches. 6,535,130 healthcare records were breached across those 63 incidents. The average number of breached healthcare records each month has now risen to 3,323,116. 17,733,372 healthcare records have now been exposed or impermissibly disclosed so far in 2021 and almost 40 million records (39.87M) have been breached in the past 12 months. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in April 2021 As was the case in April, there were 19 healthcare data breaches involving 10,000 or more records and 7 of those breaches involved 100,000 or more records. All but one of those breaches was a hacking incident or involved It systems being compromised by...

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HSCC Urges Biden to Provide Funding to Bolster Cybersecurity Posture of the Healthcare Sector
Jun11

HSCC Urges Biden to Provide Funding to Bolster Cybersecurity Posture of the Healthcare Sector

The Healthcare and Public Health Sector Coordinating Council (HSCC) has urged President Biden to provide further funding and support to improve the cybersecurity posture of the healthcare sector to improve resilience to cyberattacks. In a recent letter addressed to President Biden and copied to Senate and House party leaders, the HSCC called for more funds to help the healthcare sector deal with cyber threats, improved collaboration between the healthcare industry and government, and for the government to provide a roadmap for making improvements to the cybersecurity readiness of the healthcare sector. Under the American Rescue Plan, the government has made funding available to modernize federal information technology systems to improve resilience against future cyberattacks. $9 billion will be invested to help the U.S. launch major new IT and cybersecurity shared services at the Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration, and $690 million has been made available to CISA to bolster cybersecurity across federal civilian networks;...

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NIST Publishes Guidance for First Responders on the Use of Biometric Authentication for Mobile Devices
Jun07

NIST Publishes Guidance for First Responders on the Use of Biometric Authentication for Mobile Devices

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a new report on the use of biometric authentication on mobile devices to allow first responders to gain rapid access to sensitive data, while ensuring that information can only be accessed by authorized individuals. Many public safety organizations (PSOs) are now using mobile devices to access sensitive data from any location, but ensuring access is secure and only authorized individuals can use the devices to view that information has previously relied on the use of passwords. Passwords can be secure; however, passwords need to be complex to resist brute force attempts to guess passwords. Having to type in a long and complex password can hinder access to essential data. Oftentimes, access to sensitive data needs to be provided immediately. It is not practical for first responders to have to type in a password. Any delay, even one that lasts just a few seconds, has potential to exacerbate an emergency. Biometrics offers a more secure authentication option than passwords and could allow access to data much more...

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Best Password Manager for the Healthcare Industry
Jun01

Best Password Manager for the Healthcare Industry

In this post we explore some of the leading solutions to find the best password manager for the healthcare industry – One that is easy to use, reasonably priced and, most importantly considering the extent to which the industry is targeted by hackers, has excellent security. HIPAA and Password Management The HIPAA Security Rule was signed into law at a time when the requirements for password complexity were far lower, fewer passwords had to be created and remembered, and cracking passwords was a long and slow process. In the 18 years since the HIPAA Security Rule took effect, a lot has changed. The changes to best practices over time is the reason why the HIPAA Security rule is not technology specific. The Security Rule was written to be flexible to allow for changes to best practices. What was perfectly acceptable in 2003 for passwords, is no where near enough in 2021. The HIPAA Security Rule has provisions covering passwords. The technical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule (45 CFR § 164.312), require covered entities to implement technical procedures for systems that maintain...

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Compliance Training for Medical Staff
May27

Compliance Training for Medical Staff

Because of the many different roles in the healthcare industry, there is no one-size-fits-all compliance training for medical staff. Furthermore, the nature of healthcare compliance training modules can vary according to location, specialty, or responsibility. Nonetheless, it is a legal requirement that all medical staff undergo HIPAA compliance training. If a Covered Entity is located in Texas, the nature of the privacy and data security training provided for medical staff will be a lot different from the training provided for medical staff located in New York. This is due to the Texas Medical Record Privacy Act (and subsequent amendments in Texas HB 300) which has tougher privacy protections for health data than HIPAA. Similarly, if a medical professional works in an area of healthcare in which they are likely to be exposed to HIV, HBV, or HCV, their compliance training will include compliance with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, while a person with responsibility for health and safety on a general ward should be trained on OSHA´s Incident Reporting procedures. Despite...

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April 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
May18

April 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

April was another particularly bad month for healthcare data breaches with 62 reported breaches of 500 or – the same number as March 2021. That is more than 2 reported healthcare data breaches every day, and well over the 12-month average of 51 breaches per month. High numbers of healthcare records continue to be exposed each month. Across the 62 breaches, 2,583,117 healthcare records were exposed or compromised; however, it is below the 12-month average of 2,867,243 breached records per month. 34.4 million healthcare records have now been breached in the past 12 months, 11.2 million of which were breached in 2021. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in April 2021 There were 19 reported data breaches in April that involved more than 10,000 records, including 7 that involved more than 100,000 records with all but one of the top 10 data breaches due to hacking incidents. Ransomware attacks continue to occur at high levels, with many of the reported attacks affecting business associates of HPAA-covered entities. These incidents, which include attacks on Netgain Technologies,...

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DarkSide RaaS Shut Down and Ransomware Gangs Ban Attacks on Healthcare Organizations
May17

DarkSide RaaS Shut Down and Ransomware Gangs Ban Attacks on Healthcare Organizations

The DarkSide ransomware gang has notified its affiliates that it has shut down its ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation. The announcement came after the group’s public infrastructure was taken offline in what appears to be a law enforcement operation. On May 13, the DarkSide data leak site went offline along with much of the group’s public infrastructure, including the payment server used to obtain ransom payments from victims and its breach data content delivery network. The gang also said its cryptocurrency wallets had been emptied and the funds transferred to an unknown account. Intel 471 obtained a copy of a note written by the gang explaining to its affiliates that part of its public infrastructure was lost, its servers could not be accessed via SSH, and its hosting panels had been blocked. The group said its hosting company did not provide any further information other than the loss of the servers was “at the request of law enforcement.” The group explained that it will be releasing the decryptors for all companies that have been attacked but have not paid the ransom;...

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President Biden Signs Expansive Executive Order to Improve Cybersecurity for Federal Networks
May14

President Biden Signs Expansive Executive Order to Improve Cybersecurity for Federal Networks

On May 13, 2021, President Biden signed an expansive Executive Order that aims to significantly bolster cybersecurity protections for federal networks, improve threat information sharing between the government, law enforcement and the private sector, and introduce a cyber threat response playbook to accelerate incident response and mitigation. The 34-page Executive Order includes short time frames for making significant improvements to cybersecurity, with all elements of the Executive Order due to be implemented within the next 360 days and the first elements due in 30 days.  The Executive Order was penned following a series of damaging cyberattacks that impacted government departments and agencies, such as the SolarWinds Orion Supply chain attack and attacks on Microsoft Exchange Servers. The recent DarkSide ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline served as yet another reminder of the importance of improving cybersecurity, not just for the Federal government but also the private sector which owns and operates much of the country’s critical infrastructure. President Biden is...

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Verizon: Healthcare Phishing and Ransomware Attacks Increase while Insider Breaches Fall
May14

Verizon: Healthcare Phishing and Ransomware Attacks Increase while Insider Breaches Fall

2020 was certainly not a typical year. The pandemic placed huge pressures on IT security teams and businesses were forced to rapidly accelerate their digital transformation plans and massively expand their remote working capabilities. Cyber actors seized the opportunities created by the pandemic and exploited vulnerabilities in security defenses to gain access to business networks and sensitive data. In 2020, phishing and ransomware attacks increased, as did web application attacks, according to the recently published Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report. The report provides insights into the tactics, techniques and procedures used by nation state actors and cybercriminal groups and how these changed during the pandemic. To compile the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, the researchers analyzed 79,635 incidents, of which 29,207 met the required quality standards and included 5,258 confirmed data breaches in 88 countries – one third more data breaches than the previous year’s DBIR. 2020 saw an 11% increase in phishing attacks, with cases of misrepresentation...

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Healthcare Groups Raise Concern About the Proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes
May13

Healthcare Groups Raise Concern About the Proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes

Several healthcare groups have expressed concern about the HIPAA Privacy Rule changes proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in December 2020 and published in the Federal Register in January. The HHS has received comments from more than 1,400 individuals and organizations and will now review all feedback before issuing a final rule or releasing a new proposed rule. There have been calls for changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to be made to align it more closely with other regulations, such as the 21st Century Cures Act, the 42 CFR Part 2 regulations covering federally assisted substance use disorder (SUD) treatment programs, and for there to be greater alignment with state health data privacy laws. Some of the proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule changes are intended to remove barriers to data sharing for care coordination, but the changes may still conflict with state laws, especially in relation to SUD treatment. There is concern that poor alignment with other regulations could be a major cause of confusion and could create new privacy and security risks. Another area...

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How Often Should Passwords be Changed in the EHR System?
May11

How Often Should Passwords be Changed in the EHR System?

In 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) – a branch of Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) – published “10 Best Practices for the Small Healthcare Environment” (PDF). The publication – the ONC claimed – was “not intended to provide guidance on how to comply with HIPAA”, but rather “a first step to the effective setup of new EHR systems in a way that minimizes the risk to health information maintained in EHRs”. However, the timing of the publication was not an accident. A year earlier, Congress had passed the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use program which incentivized Covered Entities to adopt technology for creating, maintaining, and providing access to Protected Health Information. The HITECH Act also required Business Associates to comply with HIPAA for the first time and, as many Business Associates operate in “small healthcare environments”, the publication was relevant. The publication also came at a time when larger Covered Entities, who had not previously adopted technologies such as EHR systems, were now doing so to...

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What are the HIPAA Password Expiration Requirements?
May07

What are the HIPAA Password Expiration Requirements?

According to the Administrative Guidelines of the HIPAA Security Rule, Covered Entities and Business Associates must create procedures for “creating, changing, and safeguarding passwords” (45 CFR § 164.308). The inclusion of the word “changing” implies passwords only have a certain lifecycle. But is that really the case? And, if so, what are the HIPAA password expiration requirements? The concept of HIPAA password expiration requirements goes back to the early 2000s when, within a short time of each other, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the HIPAA Final Security Rule (2003) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued “Special Publication 800-63” (2004), which included a section on password best practices. At the time “Special Publication 800-63 Appendix A” was issued, Covered Entities were preparing to meet the compliance requirements of the Security Rule by the 2006 deadline. However, the language of the Security Rule is deliberately flexible to cover as many different types of Covered Entity as possible, open to interpretation,...

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Network Intrusions and Ransomware Attacks Overtake Phishing as Main Breach Cause
May06

Network Intrusions and Ransomware Attacks Overtake Phishing as Main Breach Cause

Network intrusion incidents have overtaken phishing as the leading cause of healthcare data security incidents, which has been the main cause of data breaches for the past 5 years. In 2020, 58% of the security incidents dealt with by BakerHostetler’s Digitial Assets and Data Management (DADM) Practice Group were network intrusions, most commonly involving the use of ransomware. This is the 7th consecutive year that the BakerHostetler 2021 Data Security Incident Response (DSIR) Report has been published. The report provides insights into the current threat landscape and offers risk mitigation and compromise response intelligence to help organizations better defend against attacks and improve their incident response. The report is based on the findings of more than 1,250 data security incidents managed by the company in 2020, which included a wide variety of attacks on healthcare organizations and their vendors. Ransomware attacks are now the attack method of choice for many cybercriminal organizations and have proven to be very profitable. By exfiltrating data prior to encryption,...

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NIST Seeks Comment on Planned Updates to HIPAA Security Rule Implementation Guidance
May05

NIST Seeks Comment on Planned Updates to HIPAA Security Rule Implementation Guidance

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is planning on revising and updating its guidance on implementing the HIPAA Security Rule and is seeking comment from stakeholders on aspects of the guidance that should be changed. NIST published the guidance – NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-66, Revision 1, An Introductory Resource Guide for Implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule – in October 2008. During the past 13 years, cybersecurity has evolved and the threat landscape has changed considerably. NIST’s cybersecurity resources have also evolved during that time and an update to the guidance is now long overdue. NIST will be updating the guidance to reference its new cybersecurity resources, will amplify awareness of non-NIST resources relevant to compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule, and will update its implementation guidance for HIPAA-covered entities and business associates. Specifically, NIST has requested comment from stakeholders on their experiences applying and using the resource guide, including the...

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What is HIPAA Certification?
May03

What is HIPAA Certification?

A frequently asked question in the healthcare industry is what is HIPAA certification; for although there is no standard or implementation specification within HIPAA that requires Covered Entities or Business Associate to certify compliance, several third-party organizations offer HIPAA certification services. What is HIPAA Certification? Although there is no official HHS-mandated HIPAA certification process or accreditation, it would be beneficial if there was. A HIPAA compliance certification could demonstrate that a Covered Entity or Business Associate understands and complies with HIPPA regulations – thus, for example, saving Covered Entities a considerable amount of time conducting due diligence on prospective vendors. Nonetheless, despite there being no requirement for HIPAA certification, some companies claim to be certified as HIPAA compliant. What this means is they have passed a third-party organization´s HIPAA compliance program and implemented mechanisms to maintain compliance. In the absence of a program endorsed by the Department of Health and Human Services...

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Study: 1 in 5 Enterprise Users Have Set Weak Passwords
May01

Study: 1 in 5 Enterprise Users Have Set Weak Passwords

The sharing of passwords across multiple platforms is a bad idea. If one platform suffers a data breach, all other systems that have the same password set could also easily be compromised. Even though the reuse of passwords is unwise, and many organizations have policies in place prohibiting employees from recycling passwords, it remains a common practice. Many organizations have implemented policies, procedures and technology to prevent weak passwords from being used and they force end users to change their passwords frequently, but it is difficult for organizations to prevent password recycling. The practice has recently been investigated by Preempt. Preempt has developed a tool that can be used by enterprises to assess the strength of the passwords used by their employees. The tool reports on the accounts that have weak passwords set, allowing the enterprise to take action. The tool also compares passwords to a database of 10 million passwords compromised in previous data breaches that are now in the hands of cybercriminals. An analysis of data from enterprises that downloaded...

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Ransom Payment Increase Driven by Accellion FTA Data Exfiltration Extortion Attacks
Apr28

Ransom Payment Increase Driven by Accellion FTA Data Exfiltration Extortion Attacks

The increase in ransomware attacks in 2020 has continued in 2021 with healthcare one of the most targeted industries, according to the latest Coveware Quarterly Ransomware Report. Healthcare ransomware attacks accounted for 11.6% of all attacks in Q1, 2021, on a par with attacks on the public sector and second only to attacks on firms in professional services (24.9%). While ransom demands declined in Q4, 2020, that trend abruptly stopped in Q1, 2021 with the average ransom payment increasing by 43% to $220,298 and the median ransom payment up 59% to $78,398. The increase in payments was not due to ransomware attacks but data exfiltration extortion attacks by the Clop ransomware gang. The Clop ransomware gang exploited two zero-day vulnerabilities in the Accellion legacy File Transfer Appliance, exfiltrated customers’ data, then threatened to publish the stolen data if the ransom was not paid. When victims refused to pay, the stolen data were leaked on the Clop ransomware data leak site. These attacks show that file encryption is not always necessary, with the threat of publication...

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March 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Apr19

March 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There was a 38.8% increase in reported healthcare data breaches in March. 62 breaches of 500 or more records reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, with hacking incidents dominating the breach reports. The high number of reported breaches is largely due to an increase in data breaches at business associates. The number of breached records also increased sharply with 2,913,084 healthcare records exposed or impermissibly disclosed across those 62 incidents; an increase of 135.89% from February. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in March 2021 The table below shows the 25 largest healthcare data breaches to be reported in March, all of which were hacking/IT incidents. 76% involved compromised network servers with the remaining 24% involving breaches of email accounts. 60% of these breaches involved business associates. Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached Information Health Net Community Solutions Health Plan 686,556 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server Health Net of California Health Plan 523,709 Hacking/IT...

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100 Million+ Devices Affected by NAME:WRECK DNS Vulnerabilities
Apr14

100 Million+ Devices Affected by NAME:WRECK DNS Vulnerabilities

Researchers at Forescout and JSOF have identified 9 vulnerabilities in Internet-connected devices that could be exploited in denial-of-service and remote code execution attacks. The flaws have been identified in certain implementations of the Domain Name System (DNS) protocol in TCP/IP network communication stacks. The flaws are mostly due to how parsing of domain names occurs, which can breach DNS implementations, and problems with DNS compression, which devices use to compress data to communicate over the Internet using TCP/IP. This class of vulnerabilities has been named NAME:WRECK. They affect common IoT and operational technology systems, including FreeBSD, IPnet, Nucleus NET, and NetX. While the use of these IoT/OP systems does not necessarily mean devices are vulnerable, many will be. The researchers suggest that around 1% of IoT devices are likely to be susceptible to the flaws, which is more than 100 million devices worldwide. Vulnerable devices are used in a range of industry sectors, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and the government, with healthcare...

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Immediate Patching Required for 4 New Critical Microsoft Exchange Server Vulnerabilities
Apr14

Immediate Patching Required for 4 New Critical Microsoft Exchange Server Vulnerabilities

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has identified four zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server versions 2013, 2016, and 2019 which are used for on-premises Microsoft Exchange Servers. Immediate patching is required as the flaws are likely to be targeted by threat actors. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has ordered all federal agencies to patch all vulnerable on-premises Exchange Servers by 12.01 AM on Friday April 16, 2021 due to the high risk of exploitation of the flaws. At the time of issuing the patches there have been no known cases of exploitation of the flaws in the wild, but it is likely that now the flaws have been publicly disclosed, the patches could be reverse engineered and working exploits developed. All four of the vulnerabilities could lead to remote execution of arbitrary code and would allow threat actors to take full control of vulnerable Exchange Servers as well as persistent access and control of enterprise networks. Two of the vulnerabilities can be exploited remotely by unauthenticated attackers with no user...

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HHS OIG: HHS Information Security Program Rated ‘Not Effective’
Apr12

HHS OIG: HHS Information Security Program Rated ‘Not Effective’

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has published the findings of its annual evaluation of the HHS information security programs and practices, as required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). It was determined that the HHS information security program has not yet reached the level of maturity to be considered effective. The independent audit was conducted on behalf of the HHS’ OIG by Ernst & Young (EY) to determine compliance with FISMA reporting metrics and to assess whether the overall security program of the HHS met the required information security standards. The HHS was assessed against the Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover functional areas of the Cybersecurity Framework across the FISMA domains: Risk management, configuration management, identity and access management, data protection and privacy, security training, information security continuous monitoring (ISCM), incident response, and contingency planning. The levels of maturity for information security are Level 1 (Ad hoc...

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Survey Reveals Sharing EHR Passwords is Commonplace
Apr06

Survey Reveals Sharing EHR Passwords is Commonplace

While data on the practice of password sharing in healthcare is limited, one survey suggests the practice of sharing EHR passwords is commonplace, especially with interns, medical students, and nurses. The research was conducted by Ayal Hassidim, MD of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, and also involved researchers from Duke University, Harvard Medical School, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center. The study was conducted on 299 medical students, nurses, medical residents, and interns and the results of the survey were recently published in Healthcare Informatics Research. The information stored in EHRs is sensitive and must be protected. Regulations such as HIPAA control access to that information. All individuals that require access to the information in EHR systems must be issued with a unique user ID and password or alternate – but equally effective – authentication method. Any attempts to access protected health information must be logged to allow healthcare organizations to monitor for...

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What is Texas HB 300?
Apr03

What is Texas HB 300?

What is Texas HB 300, who is required to comply with the legislation, and what are the penalties for noncompliance? This article answers these and other important questions about Texas HB 300. What is Texas HB 300? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that sets minimum privacy and security standards for healthcare organizations. HIPAA naturally covers healthcare organizations based in Texas, but they also must comply with state laws. Texas has some of the most stringent laws in the United States as far as health data is concerned which are detailed in the Texas Health and Safety Code. In June 2011, Texas HB 300 was passed by the Texas legislature. HB 300 amended four areas of Texas legislature: The Texas Health and Safety Code (Chapters 181 and 182), the Texas Business and Commerce Code (Sections 521 and 522), the Texas Government Code (Chapter 531), and the Texas Insurance Code (Chapter 602) and introduced tougher privacy protections for health data than HIPAA. Who is Required to Comply with Texas HB 300? Compliance with Texas HB 300 is...

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What is the Relationship Between HITECH, HIPAA, and Electronic Health and Medical Records?
Apr02

What is the Relationship Between HITECH, HIPAA, and Electronic Health and Medical Records?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in August 1996 and led to the development of the HIPAA Privacy Rule in 2003 and the HIPAA Security Rule in 2005, but how did the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act change HIPAA and what is the relationship between HITECH, HIPAA, and electronic health and medical records? What is the Relationship Between HITECH and HIPAA and Medical Records? Title I of HIPAA is concerned with the portability of health insurance and protecting the rights of workers between jobs to ensure health insurance coverage is maintained, which have nothing to do with the HITECH Act. However, there is a strong relationship between HITECH and HIPAA Title II. Title II of HIPAA includes the administrative provisions, patient privacy protections, and security controls for health and medical records and other forms of protected health information (PHI). One of the main aims of the HITECH Act was to encourage the adoption of electronic health and medical records by creating financial incentives...

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FBI Issues Warning About Mamba Ransomware
Mar29

FBI Issues Warning About Mamba Ransomware

An increase in cyberattacks involving Mamba ransomware has prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security to issue a flash alert warning organizations and companies in multiple sectors about the dangers of the ransomware. In contrast to many ransomware variants that have their own encryption routines, Mamba ransomware has weaponized the open source full disk encryption software DiskCryptor. DiskCryptor is a legitimate encryption tool that is not malicious and is therefore unlikely to be detected as such by security software. The FBI has not provided any details of the extent to which the ransomware has been used in attacks, which have so far mostly targeted government agencies and transportation, legal services, technology, industrial, commercial, manufacturing, construction companies. Several methods are used to gain access to systems to deploy the ransomware, including exploitation of vulnerabilities in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and other unsecured methods of remote access. Rather than searching for certain file extensions to encrypt,...

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February 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Mar19

February 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There was a 40.63% increase in reported data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records in February 2021. 45 data breaches were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights by healthcare providers, health plans and their business associates in February, the majority of which were hacking incidents. After two consecutive months where more than 4 million records were breached each month there was a 72.35% fall in the number of breached records. 1,234,943 records were exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen across the 45 breaches. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in February 2021 Name of Covered Entity State Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Cause of Breach The Kroger Co. OH Healthcare Provider 368,100 Hacking/IT Incident Ransomware BW Homecare Holdings, LLC (Elara Caring single affiliated covered entity) TX Healthcare Provider 100,487 Hacking/IT Incident Phishing RF EYE PC dba Cochise Eye and Laser AZ Healthcare Provider 100,000 Hacking/IT Incident Ransomware Gore Medical Management, LLC GA Healthcare Provider...

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2020 Saw Major Increase in Healthcare Hacking Incidents and Insider Breaches
Mar16

2020 Saw Major Increase in Healthcare Hacking Incidents and Insider Breaches

2021 was a challenging year for healthcare organizations. Not only was the industry on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19, hackers who took advantage of overrun hospitals to steal data and conduct ransomware attacks. The 2021 Breach Barometer Report from Protenus shows the extent to which the healthcare industry suffered from cyberattacks and other breaches in 2020. The report is based on 758 healthcare data breaches that were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights or announced via the media and other sources in 2020, with the data for the report provided by databreaches.net. The number of data breaches has continued to rise every year since 2016 when Protenus started publishing its annual healthcare breach report. 2020 saw the largest annual increase in breaches with 30% more breaches occurring than 2019. Data was obtained on 609 of those incidents, across which 40,735,428 patient and health plan members were affected. 2020 was the second consecutive year that saw more than 40 million healthcare records exposed or compromised. Healthcare Hacking Incidents Increased...

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What is a HIPAA Violation?
Mar14

What is a HIPAA Violation?

Barely a day goes by without a news report of a hospital, health plan, or healthcare professional violating HIPAA, but what is a HIPAA violation and what happens when a violation occurs? What is a HIPAA Violation? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a landmark piece of legislation that was introduced to simplify the administration of healthcare, eliminate wastage, prevent healthcare fraud, and ensure that employees could maintain healthcare coverage when between jobs. There have been notable updates to HIPAA to improve privacy protections for patients and health plan members over the years which help to ensure healthcare data is safeguarded and the privacy of patients is protected. Those updates include the HIPAA Privacy Rule, HIPAA Security Rule, HIPAA Omnibus Rule, and the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. A HIPAA violation is a failure to comply with any aspect of HIPAA standards and provisions detailed in detailed in 45 CFR Parts 160, 162, and 164. The combined text of all HIPAA regulations published by the Department of Health and Human Services...

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Is it a HIPAA Violation to Email Patient Names?
Mar14

Is it a HIPAA Violation to Email Patient Names?

We have been asked is it a HIPAA violation to email patient names and other protected health information? In answer to this and similar questions, we will clarify how HIPAA relates to email and explain some of the precautions HIPAA covered entities and healthcare employees should take to ensure compliance when using email to send electronic protected health information. Is it a HIPAA Violation to Email Patient Names? Patient names (first and last name or last name and initial) are one of the 18 identifiers classed as protected health information (PHI) in the HIPAA Privacy Rule. HIPAA does not prohibit the electronic transmission of PHI. Electronic communications, including email, are permitted, although HIPAA-covered entities must apply reasonable safeguards when transmitting ePHI to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data. It is not a HIPAA violation to email patient names per se, although patient names and other PHI should not be included in the subject lines of emails as the information could easily be viewed by unauthorized individuals. Even when messages are protected...

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Hackers Access Live Feeds and Archived Footage from 150,000 Verkada Security Cameras
Mar12

Hackers Access Live Feeds and Archived Footage from 150,000 Verkada Security Cameras

A hacking collective has gained access to the systems of the Californian security camera startup Verkada Inc. and viewed live feeds and archived footage from cloud-connected surveillance cameras used by large corporations, schools, police departments, jails, and hospitals. As initially reported by Bloomberg, Verkada’s systems were accessed by a white hat hacking collective named Advanced Persistent Threat 69420 using credentials they found on the Internet. Those credentials gave the group super admin level privileges, which provided root access to the security cameras and, in some cases, the internal networks of the company’s clients. The hackers also said they were able to obtain the full list of Verkada clients and view the company’s private financial information. Verkada’s systems were not accessed with a view to conducting any malicious actions, instead the aim was to raise awareness of the ease at which the systems could be hacked. Malicious threat actors could also have easily gained access to the Verkada’s systems for a range of malicious purposes. Till Kottmann, one of the...

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HIPAA Social Media Rules
Mar12

HIPAA Social Media Rules

HIPAA was enacted several years before social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram were launched, so there are no specific HIPAA social media rules. However, as with all healthcare-related communications, the HIPAA Privacy Rule still applies whenever covered entities or business associates – or employees of either – use social media networks. There are many benefits to be gained from using social media. Social media networks allow healthcare organizations to interact with patients and get them more involved in their own healthcare. Healthcare organizations can quickly and easily communicate important messages or provide information about new services. Healthcare providers can attract new patients via social media networks. However, there is also considerable potential for HIPAA rules and patient privacy to be violated on social media networks. So how can healthcare organizations and their employees use social media without violating HIPAA Rules? HIPAA and Social Media Healthcare organizations must implement a HIPAA social media policy to reduce the risk of...

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Multistate Settlement Resolves 2019 American Medical Collection Agency Data Breach Investigation
Mar12

Multistate Settlement Resolves 2019 American Medical Collection Agency Data Breach Investigation

A coalition of 41 state Attorneys General has agreed to settle an investigation into Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau dba American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) over a 2019 data breach that resulted in the exposure/theft of the protected health information of at least 21 million Americans. Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau is a debt collection agency, with its AMCA arm providing small debt collection services to healthcare clients such as laboratories and medical testing facilities. From August 1, 2018 until March 30, 2019, an unauthorized individual had access to AMCA’s systems and exfiltrated sensitive data such as names, personal information, Social Security numbers, payment card information and, for some individuals, medical test information and diagnostic codes. The AMCA data breach was the largest healthcare data breach reported in 2019. AMCA notified states about the breach starting June 3, 2019, and individuals affected by the breach were offered two years of complimentary credit monitoring services. The high cost of remediation of the breach saw AMCA file for...

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What Happens if a Nurse Violates HIPAA?
Mar03

What Happens if a Nurse Violates HIPAA?

What happens if a nurse violates HIPAA Rules? How are HIPAA violations dealt with and what are the penalties for individuals that accidentally or deliberately violate HIPAA and access, disclose, or share protected health information (PHI) without authorization?   The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules must be followed by all covered entities and their business associates. The failure to comply with HIPAA Rules can result in significant penalties for HIPAA covered entities. Business associates of covered entities can also be fined directly for HIPAA violations, but what about individual healthcare workers such as nurses? What happens if a nurse violates HIPAA Rules? What are the Penalties if a Nurse Violates HIPAA? Accidental HIPAA violations by nurses happen, even when care is taken to follow HIPAA Rules. While all HIPAA violations can potentially result in disciplinary action, most employers would accept that accidental violations are bound to occur from time to time. In many cases, minor violations of HIPAA...

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Who Does HIPAA Apply To?
Feb28

Who Does HIPAA Apply To?

Who Does HIPAA Apply To? Confusion sometimes exists over the question of who does HIPAA apply to because the requirement to protect individually identifiable health information is covered in only a small section of a very substantial Act. Even when this small section is extracted and analyzed, it is still not always clear who does HIPAA apply to and which organizations need to implement HIPAA compliance programs. Does HIPAA Apply to Everybody? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (PDF) is a substantial body of legislation passed by Congress in 1996. As the title of the Act suggests, it addresses the portability of health insurance and the accountability of group health plans to provide benefits when members of group health plans have pre-existing conditions. In this respect, HIPAA applies to the majority of workers, most health insurance providers, and employers who sponsor or co-sponsor employee health insurance plans. However, HIPAA consists of four further titles covering topics from medical liability reform to taxes on expatriates who give up U.S....

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CISA Warns of Active Exploitation of Accellion File Transfer Appliance Vulnerabilities
Feb25

CISA Warns of Active Exploitation of Accellion File Transfer Appliance Vulnerabilities

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and cybersecurity authorities Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom have issued an alert for users of the Accellion File Transfer Appliance (FTA) about 4 vulnerabilities which are being actively exploited by a threat actor to gain access to sensitive data. The Accellion FTA is a legacy file transfer appliance used to share large files. Accellion identified a zero-day vulnerability in the product in mid-December and released a patch to address the flaw, although further vulnerabilities have since been identified. The vulnerabilities are tracked as: CVE-2021-27101 – SQL injection vulnerability via a crafted HOST header CVE-2021-27102 – Operating system command execution vulnerability via a local web service CVE-2021-27103 – Server-side request forgery via a crafted POST request CVE-2021-27104 – Operating system command execution vulnerability via a crafted POST request The SQL injection flaw (CVE-2021-27011) allows unauthorized individual to run remote commands on targeted devices. An exploit for the...

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Insights into Healthcare Industry Cyber Threats and the Supply Chain Supporting Criminal Activity
Feb23

Insights into Healthcare Industry Cyber Threats and the Supply Chain Supporting Criminal Activity

Throughout the pandemic, cybercriminals have taken advantage of new opportunities and have been attacking hospitals, clinics and other businesses and organizations on the front line in the fight against COVID-19. Ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry soared in 2020, especially in the fall when a coordinated campaign claimed many healthcare victims. Ransomware remains a major threat to the healthcare sector and the high numbers of attacks have continued into 2021. A recent report from the CTI League provides further information on these attacks and some of the other ways the healthcare industry was targeted in 2020. The report highlights the work conducted by the CTIL Dark team, which monitors the darknet and deep web for signs of data breaches and cybercriminal activity that has potential to impact the healthcare industry or general public health. This is the first report to be released that highlights the discoveries and achievements of the CTIL Dark team, and delves into realm of healthcare ransomware attacks and the dark markets where access to healthcare networks are...

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January 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb19

January 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

January saw a 48% month-over-month reduction in the number of healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records, falling from 62 incidents in December to just 32 in January. While this is well below the average number of data breaches reported each month over the past 12 months (38), it is still more than 1 data breach per day. There would have been a significant decline in the number of breached records were it not for a major data breach discovered by Florida Healthy Kids Corporation that affected 3.5 million individuals. With that breach included, 4,467,098 records were reported as breached in January, which exceeded December’s total by more than 225,000 records. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in January 2021 The breach reported by Florida Healthy Kids Corporation was one of the largest healthcare data breaches of all time. The breach was reported by the health plan, but actually occurred at one of its business associates. The health plan used an IT company for hosting its website and an application for applications for insurance coverage. The company failed to apply...

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100% of Tested mHealth Apps Vulnerable to API Attacks
Feb16

100% of Tested mHealth Apps Vulnerable to API Attacks

The personally identifiable health information of millions of individuals is being exposed through the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) used by mobile health (mHealth) applications, according to a recent study published by cybersecurity firm Approov. Ethical hacker and researcher Allissa Knight conducted the study to determine how secure popular mHealth apps are and whether it is possible to gain access to users’ sensitive health data. One of the provisos of the study was she would not be permitted to name any of the apps if vulnerabilities were identified. She assessed 30 of the leading mHealth apps and discovered all were vulnerable to API attacks which could allow unauthorized individuals to gain access to full patient records, including personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI), indicating security issues are systemic. mHealth apps have proven to be invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic and are now increasingly relied on by hospitals and healthcare providers. According to Pew Research, mHealth apps are now generating more user...

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OIG: Two VA Employees Concealed Privacy and Security Risks of a Big Data Project
Feb02

OIG: Two VA Employees Concealed Privacy and Security Risks of a Big Data Project

Two members of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) information technology staff are alleged to have made false representations about the privacy and security risks of a big data AI project between the VA and a private company that would have seen the private and confidential health data of tens of millions of veterans fed into the AI system. An administrative investigation was conducted by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) into a potential conflict of interest related to a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between the VA and a private company in 2016. The purpose of the collaboration was to improve the health and wellness of veterans using AI and deep learning technology developed by Flow Health. The project aimed to identify common elements that make people susceptible to disease, identify potential treatments and possible side effects to inform care decisions and to improve the accuracy of diagnoses. The CRADA would have resulted in the private and confidential health data, including genomic data, of all veterans who had received medical treatment...

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HIPAA Enforcement by State Attorneys General
Jan21

HIPAA Enforcement by State Attorneys General

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is the main enforcer of HIPAA compliance; however, state Attorneys General also play a role in enforcing compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Rules. The Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health (HITECH) Act gave state attorneys general the authority to bring civil actions on behalf of state residents who have been impacted by violations of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and can obtain damages on behalf of state residents. The Connecticut Attorney General was the first to exercise this right in 2010 against Health Net Inc. for the loss of unencrypted hard drive containing the electronic protected health information 1.5 million individuals and delayed breach notifications. The case was settled for $250,000. The Vermont Attorney General followed suit with a similar action against Health Net in 2011 that was settled for $55,000, and Indiana brought a civil action against Wellpoint Inc. in 2011 that was settled for $100,000. State Attorney HIPAA cases were...

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At Least 560 U.S. Healthcare Facilities Were Impacted by Ransomware Attacks in 2020
Jan20

At Least 560 U.S. Healthcare Facilities Were Impacted by Ransomware Attacks in 2020

Ransomware attacks have had a massive impact on businesses and organizations in the United States, and 2020 was a particularly bad year. The healthcare industry, education sector, and federal, state, and municipal governments and agencies have been targeted by ransomware gangs and there were at least 2,354 attacks on these sectors in 2020, according to the latest State of Ransomware report from the New Zealand-based cybersecurity firm Emsisoft. The number of ransomware attacks increased sharply toward the end of 2019, and while the attacks slowed in the first half of 2020, a major coordinated campaign was launched in September when attacks dramatically increased and continued to occur in large numbers throughout the rest of the year. In 2020 there were at least 113 ransomware attacks on federal, state, and municipal governments and agencies, 560 attacks on healthcare facilities in 80 separate incidents, and 1,681 attacks on schools, colleges, and universities. These attacks have caused significant financial harm and in some cases the disruption has had life threatening...

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2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report: 25% Increase in Breaches in 2020
Jan19

2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report: 25% Increase in Breaches in 2020

More large healthcare data breaches were reported in 2020 than in any other year since the HITECH Act called for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to start publishing healthcare data breach figures on its website. In 2020, healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported at a rate of more than 1.76 per day. 2020 saw 642 large data breaches reported by healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearing houses and business associates of those entities – 25% more than 2019, which was also a record-breaking year. More than twice the number of data breaches are now being reported than 6 years ago and three times the number of data breaches that occurred in 2010. Key Takeaways 25% year-over-year increase in healthcare data breaches. Healthcare data breaches have doubled since 2014. 642 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported in 2020. 1.76 data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records were reported each day in 2020. 2020 saw more than 29 million healthcare records breached. One breach involved more than 10...

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December 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jan18

December 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

2020 ended with healthcare data breaches being reported at a rate of 2 per day, which is twice the rate of breaches in January 2020. Healthcare data breaches increased 31.9% month over month and were also 31.9% more than the 2020 monthly average. There may still be a handful more breaches to be added to the OCR breach portal for 2020 but, as it stands, 642 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records have been reported to OCR in 2020. That is more than any other year since the HITECH Act required OCR to start publishing data breach summaries on its website.   December was the second worst month of 2020 in terms of the number of breached records. 4,241,603 healthcare records were exposed, compromised, or impermissibly disclosed across the month’s 62 reported data breaches. That represents a 272.35% increase in breached records from November and 92.25% more than the monthly average in 2020. For comparison purposes, there were 41 reported breaches in December 2019 and 397,862 healthcare records were breached. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in December 2020 Name of...

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Possible HIPAA Updates and HIPAA Changes in 2021
Jan18

Possible HIPAA Updates and HIPAA Changes in 2021

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into law in 1996 and while there have been some significant HIPAA updates over the last two decades, the last set of major HIPAA updates occurred in 2013 with the introduction of the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule. Updates to HIPAA have been long overdue and steps were finally made to update HIPAA win December 2020, when the HHS issued a notice of Proposed Rulemaking that detailed several changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Major HIPAA Updates in the Past 20 Years Since HIPAA was signed into law there have been some major HIPAA updates. The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules were followed by the incorporation of provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which saw the introduction of the Breach Notification Rule in 2009 and the Omnibus Final Rule in 2013. Such major HIPAA updates placed a significant burden on HIPAA covered entities and considerable time and effort was required to introduce new policies and procedures to ensure continued compliance. It is now 7 years since...

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Excellus Health Plan Settles HIPAA Violation Case and Pays $5.1 Million Penalty
Jan18

Excellus Health Plan Settles HIPAA Violation Case and Pays $5.1 Million Penalty

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has announced the health insurer Excellus Health Plan has agreed to pay a $5.1 million penalty to settle a HIPAA violation case stemming from a 2015 data breach that affected 9.3 million individuals. The breach in question was discovered by Excellus Health Plan in 2015, the same year that massive data breaches were discovered by the health insurers Anthem Inc. (78.8 million records) and Premera Blue Cross (10.6 million records). All three entities have now settled breach investigations with OCR and have paid substantial financial penalties. Excellus Health Plan, doing business as Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Univera Healthcare, serves individuals in upstate and western New York. In August 2015, the health insurer discovered hackers had gained access to its computer systems. The breach investigation revealed access to its systems was first gained around December 23, 2013 and continued until May 11, 2015. The breach was reported to OCR on September 9, 2015. The hackers installed malware on its systems,...

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2020 HIPAA Violation Cases and Penalties
Jan13

2020 HIPAA Violation Cases and Penalties

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) settled 19 HIPAA violation cases in 2020. More financial penalties were issued in 2020 than in any other year since the Department of Health and Human Services was given the authority to enforce HIPAA compliance. $13,554,900 was paid to OCR to settle the HIPAA violation cases. Penalties for Noncompliance with the HIPAA Right of Access In late 2019, the OCR announced a new HIPAA enforcement initiative to tackle noncompliance with the Right of Access standard of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Since then, OCR has been highly active and has imposed 14 financial penalties for noncompliance, 11 of which were announced in 2020. The HIPAA Right of Access standard – 45 C.F.R. § 164.524(a) – gives patients the right to access, inspect, and obtain a copy of their own protected health information in a designated record set.  When a request is received from an individual or their personal representative, the records must be provided within 30 days. A reasonable, cost-based fee may be charged for providing a copy of...

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FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Egregor Ransomware Activity
Jan11

FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Egregor Ransomware Activity

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a Private Industry Alert about the growing threat of Egregor ransomware attacks. Egregor ransomware is a ransomware-as-a-service operation that was first identified in September 2020. The threat actors behind the operation recruit affiliates to distribute their ransomware and give them a cut of any ransoms they generate. The affiliates have been highly active over the past three months and have conducted attacks on many large enterprises. High-profile victims include Barnes & Noble, Ubisoft, Kmart, Crytek, and the Canadian transportation agency TransLink. The threat group claims to have gained access to more than 150 corporate networks and deployed their ransomware, with the ransom demands exceeding $4 million. Many affiliates have been recruited by the Egregor ransomware gang and each has their preferred method of distributing the ransomware. With a wide range of tactics, techniques, and procedures used to deliver the ransomware, defending against attacks can be a challenge for network defenders. Initial access to corporate...

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New HIPAA Regulations in 2021
Jan10

New HIPAA Regulations in 2021

Tt has been several years since new HIPAA regulations have been introduced but that is likely to change very soon. The last update to the HIPAA Rules was the HIPAA Omnibus Rule changes in 2013, which introduced new requirements mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. There are, however, expected to be several 2021 HIPAA changes as OCR has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in December 2020 that outlines several changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The Trump Administration’s policy of two regulations out for every new one introduced was always likely to mean any new HIPAA regulations in 2020 would be limited, as first there would need to be some removal of regulations. In 2019 and 2020, updates under consideration included changes to how substance abuse and mental health information records are protected. As part of efforts to tackle the opioid crisis, the HHS is considering changes to both HIPAA and 42 CFR Part 2 regulations that serve to protect the privacy of substance abuse disorder patients who seek treatment at federally...

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NSA Releases Guidance on Eliminating Weak Encryption Protocols
Jan06

NSA Releases Guidance on Eliminating Weak Encryption Protocols

The National Security Agency (NSA) has released guidance to help organizations eliminate weak encryption protocols, which are currently being exploited by threat actors to decrypt sensitive data. Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols were developed to create protected channels using encryption and authentication to ensure the security of sensitive data between a server and a client.  The algorithms used by these protocols to encrypt data have since been updated to improve the strength of encryption, but obsolete protocol configurations are still in use. New attacks have been developed that exploit weak encryption and authentication protocols, which are being actively used by threat actors to decrypt and obtain sensitive data. The NSA explains that most products that use obsolete TLS versions, cipher suites, and key exchange methods have been updated, but implementations have often not kept up and continued use of these out-of-date TLS configurations carries an elevated risk of exploitation. Continued use of outdated protocols provides a false sense...

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Healthcare Industry Cyberattacks Increase by 45%
Jan06

Healthcare Industry Cyberattacks Increase by 45%

In the fall of 2020, a warning was issued to the healthcare and public health sector following a spike in ransomware activity. The joint CISA, FBI, and HHS cybersecurity advisory explained that the healthcare industry was being actively targeted by threat actors with the aim of infecting systems with ransomware. Several ransomware gangs had stepped up attacks on the healthcare and public health sector, with the Ryuk and Conti operations the most active. A new report from Check Point shows attacks continued to increase in November and December 2020, when there was a 45% increase in cyber-attacks on healthcare organizations globally. The increase was more than double the percentage rise in attacks on all industry sectors worldwide over the same period. Globally, there was an average of 626 cyberattacks on healthcare organizations each week in November and December, compared to 430 attacks in October. The vectors used in the attacks have been varied, with Check Point researchers identifying an increase in ransomware, botnet, remote code execution, and DDoS attacks in November and...

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Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in 2020
Jan01

Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in 2020

2020 was the worst ever year for healthcare industry data breaches. 616 data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. 28,756,445 healthcare records were exposed, compromised, or impermissibly disclosed in those breaches, which makes 2020 the third worst year in terms of the number of breached healthcare records. The chart below clearly shows how healthcare industry data breaches have steadily increased over the past decade and the sharp rise in breaches in the past two years. The Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in 2020 When a breach occurs at a business associate of a HIPAA-covered entity, it is often the covered entity that reports the breach rather than the business associate. In 2020, a massive data breach was experienced by the cloud service provider Blackbaud Inc. Hackers gained access to its systems and stole customer fundraising databases before deploying ransomware. Blackbaud was issued with a ransom demand and a threat that the stolen data would be released publicly if the ransom was not paid. Blackbaud decided to pay the ransom...

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NIST Releases Final Guidance on Securing the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) Ecosystem
Dec22

NIST Releases Final Guidance on Securing the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) Ecosystem

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released final guidance for healthcare delivery organizations on securing the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) ecosystem. PACS is a medical imaging technology that is used to securely store and digitally transmit medical images such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays and associated clinical reports and is ubiquitous in healthcare. These systems eliminate the need to store, send, and receive medical images manually, and assist healthcare delivery organizations by allowing the images to be securely and cheaply stored offsite in the cloud. PACS allows medical images to be easily retrieved using PACS software from any location. PACS is a system that by design cannot operate in isolation. In healthcare delivery organizations, PACS is usually integrated into highly complex environments and interfaces with many interconnected systems. The complexity of those environments means securing the PACS ecosystem can be a major challenge and it is easy for...

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OCR HIPAA Audits Industry Report Identifies Common Areas of Noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules
Dec18

OCR HIPAA Audits Industry Report Identifies Common Areas of Noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has published its 2016-2017 HIPAA Audits Industry Report, highlighting areas where HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates are complying or failing to comply with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act requires the HHS to conduct periodic audits of HIPAA covered entities and business associates to assess compliance with the HIPAA Rules. Between 2016 and 2017, the HHS conducted its second phase of compliance audits on 166 covered entities and 41 business associates to assess compliance with certain provisions of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules. The 2016/2017 HIPAA compliance audits were conducted on a geographically representative, broad cross-section of covered entities and business associates and consisted of desk audits – remote reviews of HIPAA documentation – rather than on-site audits. All entities have since been notified of the findings of their...

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Serious Vulnerabilities Identified in Medtronic MyCareLink Smart Patient Readers
Dec14

Serious Vulnerabilities Identified in Medtronic MyCareLink Smart Patient Readers

Three serious vulnerabilities have been identified in Medtronic MyCareLink (MCL) Smart Patient Readers, which could potentially be exploited to gain access to and modify patient data from the paired implanted cardiac device. Exploitation of the vulnerabilities together could permit remote code execution on the MCL Smart Patient Reader, allowing an attacker to take control of a paired cardiac device. In order to exploit the vulnerabilities, an attacker would need to be within Bluetooth signal proximity to the vulnerable product. The flaws are present in all versions of the MCL Smart Model 25000 Patient Reader. The first vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-25183, is an authentication protocol vulnerability. The method used to authenticate the MCL Smart Patient Reader and the Medtronic MyCareLink Smart mobile app can be bypassed. An attacker using another mobile device or malicious app on the patient’s smartphone could authenticate to the patient’s MCL Smart Patient Reader, tricking it into believing it is communicating with the patient’s smartphone app. The vulnerability has been...

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How to Make Your Email HIPAA Compliant
Dec07

How to Make Your Email HIPAA Compliant

Many healthcare organizations would like to be able to send protected health information via email, but how do you make your email HIPAA compliant? What must be done before electronic PHI (ePHI) can be sent via email to patients and other healthcare organizations? How to Make Your Email HIPAA Compliant Whether you need to make your email HIPAA compliant will depend on how you plan to use email with ePHI. If you will only ever send emails internally, it may not be necessary to make your email HIPAA compliant. If your email network is behind a firewall, it is not necessary to encrypt your emails.  Encryption is only required when your emails are sent beyond your firewall. However, access controls to email accounts are required, as it is important to ensure that only authorized individuals can access email accounts that contain ePHI. If you want to use email to send ePHI externally – beyond your firewall – you will need to make your email HIPAA-compliant. There are many email service providers that offer an encrypted email service, but not all are HIPAA compliant and incorporate all...

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Xavier Becerra Named Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
Dec07

Xavier Becerra Named Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services

President-elect Joe Biden has named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. While the decision has been made according to The New York Times, the appointment has yet to be announced by his transition team. Biden is committed to building the most diverse administration in history and while progress has been made so far, Biden has faced criticism over the number of Latinos appointed to date. If the appointment of Becerra is confirmed by the senate, he will become the first ever Latino Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The news of his selection has drawn praise from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Becerra has a long record of supporting the Affordable Care Act and helped steer the legislation through Congress in 2009 and 2010. The former Los Angeles area congressman also led the coalition of Democratic states that defended the Affordable Care Act and resisted attempts by the Trump Administration to overturn it. Becerra will be responsible for expanding the Affordable Care Act and is likely to...

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AMA Issues Guidance to Help Healthcare Organizations Mitigate COVID-19 Cyber Risks
Dec04

AMA Issues Guidance to Help Healthcare Organizations Mitigate COVID-19 Cyber Risks

The American Medical Association has warned hospitals, health systems, and medical practices about the increase in cyber risks targeting the healthcare sector and has provided recommendations on the steps that can be taken to ensure threats are mitigated and network security is improved. Laura Hoffman, AMA assistant director of federal affairs, explained the current threats in a recent AMA COVID-19 Update and announced a new resource has been developed by the AMA and American Hospital Association (AHA) on technology considerations for healthcare organizations for the remainder of 2020 to improve network security and bolster patient privacy efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic has created many new challenges for healthcare organizations which are having to treat increased numbers of patients while working in ways that may be unfamiliar. The pandemic has seen a major expansion of telehealth services, with many patients now receiving care virtually using new technology platforms. These new technologies and platforms have introduced vulnerabilities and broadened the attack surface and...

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Vulnerabilities in OpenClinic Application Could Allow Unauthorized PHI Access
Dec03

Vulnerabilities in OpenClinic Application Could Allow Unauthorized PHI Access

Four vulnerabilities have been identified in the OpenClinic application, the most severe of which could allow authentication to be bypassed and protected health information (PHI) to be viewed from the application by unauthorized users. OpenClinic is an open source, PHP-based health record management software that is used in many private clinics, hospitals, and physician practices for administration, clinical and financial tasks. A BishopFox Labs researcher has identified four vulnerabilities in the software which have yet to be corrected. The most serious vulnerability involves missing authentication, which could be exploited to gain access to any patient’s medical test results. Authenticated users of the platform can upload patient’s test results to the application, which are loaded into the /tests/ directory. Requests for files in that directory do not require users to be authenticated to the application to return and display the test results. In order for the test results to be obtained, an unauthenticated user would need to guess the names of the files; however, the BishopFox...

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HHS Releases Final Rules with Safe Harbors for Cybersecurity Donations
Nov25

HHS Releases Final Rules with Safe Harbors for Cybersecurity Donations

On Friday last week, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) published final rules that aim to improve the coordination of care and reduce regulatory barriers. Both final rules contain safe harbor provisions that allow hospitals and healthcare delivery systems to donate cybersecurity technology to physician practices. The CMS released the final version of the 627-page Modernizing and Clarifying the Physician Self-Referral Regulations, commonly called Stark Law, and the OIG finalized revisions to the 1,049-page Safe Harbors Under the Anti-Kickback Statute and Civil Monetary Penalty Rules Regarding Beneficiary Inducements. Physician practices often have limited resources, which makes it difficult for them to implement solutions to address cybersecurity risks. Without the necessary protections, sensitive healthcare data could be accessed by unauthorized individuals, stolen, deleted, or encrypted by threat actors. Threat actors could also conduct attacks on small physician practices and...

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ASPR Provides Update on Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare Sector
Nov18

ASPR Provides Update on Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare Sector

The HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) has issued an update on ransomware activity targeting the healthcare and public health sectors, saying, “At this time, we consider the threat to be credible, ongoing, and persistent.” In late October, a joint alert was issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the HHS warning of an imminent increase in ransomware activity targeting the healthcare sector. Within a week of the alert being issued, six healthcare providers reported ransomware attacks in a single day. More than a dozen healthcare organizations have reported being attacked in the past two months, with over 62 attacks reported by healthcare organizations so far in 2020. Human-operated ransomware attacks have previously seen attackers gain access to networks many weeks and even months prior to the deployment of ransomware. ASPR notes that in many recent ransomware attacks, the time from the initial compromise to the deployment of ransomware has been very short, just a...

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Vendor Access and HIPAA Compliance: Are you Secured?
Nov17

Vendor Access and HIPAA Compliance: Are you Secured?

It can be hard to remember a time before the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, was enacted in 1996. These were the days that paper files were still stored in cabinets and sensitive information was generally delivered by hand, or if you were really sophisticated, it was sent via a fax machine. Fast forward almost 25 years later and unsurprisingly, the world in the healthcare industry looks completely different, except some do still use fax machines. Nothing surprising here, but everything is now stored on computers and transmitted over the internet, which has led to obvious increases in terms of efficiency, but, with this comes risk. We’ve seen an increase in serious data breaches tied to healthcare entities that are exposing highly sensitive personal health information. And not just any type of data breach, these are the ones that are tied to third-party and vendor access, which are known to be more costly in terms of fines and reputational damage. A hacker can quickly access hundreds of patient files and cause widespread damage, including a...

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Hackers Blackmail Finnish Psychotherapy Provider and Patients and Leak Psychotherapy Notes
Oct27

Hackers Blackmail Finnish Psychotherapy Provider and Patients and Leak Psychotherapy Notes

A major psychotherapy provider in Finland has suffered a cyberattack in which highly sensitive patient data were stolen. Threats have been issued to publish the stolen data if the ransom is not paid and some patient data has already been leaked online. Vastaamo serves approximately 40,000 patients across more than two dozen clinics in Finland. Vastaamo started alerting patients about a data breach last week after three of its employees were contacted by an individual who demanded payment of 40 Bitcoin ($500,000) to prevent the publication of stolen patient data. It is not only Vastaamo that has received ransom demands. After Vastaamo refused to pay the ransom, the attacker – who refers to himself/themselves as “the ransom guy” – also sent individual ransom demands to patients telling them to make a payment of €200 ($236) in Bitcoin to prevent the publication of their records. Initial reports suggested the data of approximately 300 patients were published on a dark net site, although later reports indicate a 10GB file containing the records of around 2,000 patients was...

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September 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report: 9.7 Million Records Compromised
Oct22

September 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report: 9.7 Million Records Compromised

September has been a bad month for data breaches. 95 data breaches of 500 or more records were reported by HIPAA-covered entities and business associates in September – A 156.75% increase compared to August 2020. Not only did September see a massive increase in reported data breaches, the number of records exposed also increased significantly. 9,710,520 healthcare records were exposed in those breaches – 348.07% more than August – with 18 entities suffering breaches of more than 100,000 records. The mean breach size was 102,216 records and the median breach size was 16,038 records. Causes of September 2020 Healthcare Data Breaches The massive increase in reported data breaches is due to the ransomware attack on the cloud software company Blackbaud. In May 2020, Blackbaud suffered a ransomware attack in which hackers gained access to servers housing some of its customers’ fundraising databases. Those customers included many higher education and third sector organizations, and a significant number of healthcare providers. Blackbaud was able to contain the breach; however, prior...

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Exposed Broadvoice Databases Contained 350 Million Records, Including Health Data
Oct19

Exposed Broadvoice Databases Contained 350 Million Records, Including Health Data

Comparitech security researcher Bob Diachenko has discovered an exposed cluster of databases belonging to the Voice over IP (VoIP) telecommunications vendor Broadvoice that contained the records of more than 350 million customers. The exposed Elasticsearch cluster was discovered on October 1, 2020, the day the database cluster was indexed by the Shodan.io search engine. The Elasticsearch cluster was found to contain 10 collections of data, the largest of which consisted of 275 million records and included information such as caller names, phone numbers, and caller locations, along with other sensitive data. One database in the cluster was found to contain transcribed voicemail messages which included a range of sensitive data such as information about financial loans and medical prescriptions. More than 2 million voicemail records were included in that subset of data, 200,000 of which had been transcribed. The voicemails included caller names, phone numbers, voicemail box identifiers, internal identifiers, and the transcripts included personal information such as full names, phone...

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What Are Covered Entities Under HIPAA?
Oct18

What Are Covered Entities Under HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates, but what are covered entities under HIPAA, and what sort of companies are classed as business associates? Covered Entities Under HIPAA Covered entities under HIPAA are individuals or entities that transmit protected health information for transactions for which the Department of Health and Human Services has adopted standards (see 45 CFR 160.103). Transactions include transmission of healthcare claims, payment and remittance advice, healthcare status, coordination of benefits, enrollment and disenrollment, eligibility checks, healthcare electronic fund transfers, and referral certification and authorization. Covered entities under HIPAA include health plans, healthcare providers, and healthcare clearinghouses. Health plans include health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, government programs that pay for healthcare (Medicare for example), and military and veterans’ health programs. Healthcare clearinghouses are organizations that...

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Community Health Systems Pays $5 Million to Settle Multi-State Breach Investigation
Oct09

Community Health Systems Pays $5 Million to Settle Multi-State Breach Investigation

Franklin, TN-based Community Health Systems and its subsidiary CHSPCS LLC have settled a multi-state action with 28 state attorneys general for $5 million. A joint investigation, led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, was launched following a breach of the protected health information (PHI) of 6.1 million individuals in 2014. At the time of the breach, Community Health Systems owned, leased, or operated 206 affiliated hospitals. According to a 2014 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the health system was hacked by a Chinese advanced persistent threat group which installed malware on its systems that was used to steal data. PHI stolen by the hackers included names, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, sex, ethnicity, Social Security numbers, and emergency contact information. The same breach was investigated by the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, which announced late last month that a settlement had been reached with CHSPCS over the breach and a $2.3 million penalty had been paid to resolve potential HIPAA violations discovered during...

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CISA Releases Telework Toolkit to Help Businesses Transition to a Permanent Telework Environment
Oct05

CISA Releases Telework Toolkit to Help Businesses Transition to a Permanent Telework Environment

The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published a Telework Essentials Toolkit to help business leaders, IT staff, and end users transition to a permanent teleworking environment. The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to rapidly change from having a largely office-based workforce to allowing virtually all employees to work from home to reduce the risk of infection. The speed at which the transition had to be made potentially introduced security vulnerabilities that weakened organizational cybersecurity defenses. The CISA Toolkit is intended to provide support to organizations to help them re-evaluate and strengthen their cybersecurity defenses and fully transition into a long-term teleworking solution. The Toolkit includes three personalized modules that include best practices for executive leaders, IT professionals and teleworkers, and include the security considerations appropriate to each role. Executive leaders are provided with information to help them drive cybersecurity strategy, investment, and develop a cyber...

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How Employees Can Help Prevent HIPAA Violations
Oct03

How Employees Can Help Prevent HIPAA Violations

Healthcare organizations and their business associates must comply with the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notifications Rules and implement safeguards to prevent HIPAA violations. However, even with controls in place to reduce the risk of HIPAA violations, data breaches still occur. In most industries, it is hackers and other cybercriminals that are responsible for the majority of security breaches, but in healthcare it is insiders. While healthcare organizations can take steps to improve their defenses and implement technologies to identify breaches rapidly when they occur, healthcare employees also need to help prevent HIPAA violations.  Employers can help employees by providing regular HIPAA training. Employees Can Help to Prevent HIPAA Violations Healthcare privacy breaches often occur as a result of carelessness or a lack of understanding of HIPAA Rules. Healthcare organizations should therefore ensure employees receive full training on HIPAA and know the allowable uses and disclosures of PHI and to secure ePHI at all times. Refresher training sessions should also be...

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August 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Sep22

August 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

37 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights in August 2020, one more than July 2020 and one below the 12-month average. The number of breaches remained fairly constant month-over-month, but there was a 63.9% increase in breached records in August. 2,167,179 records were exposed, stolen, or impermissibly disclosed in August. The average breach size of 58,572 records and the median breach size was 3,736 records.     Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in August 2020   Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached PHI Incident Northern Light Health Business Associate 657,392 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server, Other Blackbaud ransomware attack Saint Luke’s Foundation Healthcare Provider 360,212 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server Blackbaud ransomware attack Assured Imaging Healthcare Provider 244,813 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server Ransomware attack MultiCare Health System Healthcare Provider 179,189 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server Blackbaud...

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Senators Demand Answers from VA on 46,000-Record Data Breach
Sep21

Senators Demand Answers from VA on 46,000-Record Data Breach

On September 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs announced it had suffered a data breach that had impacted 46,000 veterans. Several Senate Democrats are now demanding answers from the VA on the breach and the cybersecurity measures the VA has put in place to prevent data breaches. Hackers gained access to an application used by the VA’s Financial Services Center to send payments to community healthcare providers to pay for veterans’ medical care. Six payments intended for community care providers were redirected to bank accounts under the control of the hackers and veterans’ data in the system was exposed and potentially stolen. When the breach was discovered, the application was taken offline and will remain down until a full review has been conducted by the VA’s Office of Information and Technology. Affected veterans have been offered complimentary credit monitoring services and the VA is currently working on compensating the community care providers whose payments were redirected. Officials at the VA Office of Information and Technology told Senate and House...

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Hospital Ransomware Attack Results in Patient Death
Sep18

Hospital Ransomware Attack Results in Patient Death

Ransomware attacks on hospitals pose a risk to patient safety. File encryption results in essential systems crashing, communication systems are often taken out of action, and clinicians can be prevented from accessing patients’ medical records. Highly disruptive attacks may force hospitals to redirect patients to alternate facilities, which recently happened in a ransomware attack on the University Clinic in Düsseldorf, Germany. One patient who required emergency medical treatment for a life threatening condition had to be rerouted to an alternate facility in Wuppertal, approximately 21 miles away. The redirection resulted in a one-hour delay in receiving treatment and the patient later died. The death could have been prevented had treatment been provided sooner. The attack occurred on September 10, 2020 and completely crippled the clinic’s systems. Investigators determined that the attackers exploited a vulnerability in “widely used commercial add-on software” to gain access to the network. As the encryption process ran, hospital systems started to crash and medical records could...

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Resources to Help Healthcare Organizations Improve Resilience Against Insider Threats
Sep08

Resources to Help Healthcare Organizations Improve Resilience Against Insider Threats

September 2020 is the second annual National Insider Threat Awareness Month (NITAM). Throughout the month, resources are being made available to emphasize the importance of detecting, deterring, and reporting insider threats. NITAM is a collaborative effort between several U.S. government agencies including the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence and Security (USD(I&S)), National Insider Threat Task Force (NITTF), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). NITAM was devised last year to raise awareness of the risks posed by insiders and to encourage organizations to take action to manage those risks. Security teams often concentrate on protecting their networks, data, and resources from hackers and other external threat actors, but it is also important to protect against insider threats. An insider is an individual within an organization who has been granted access to hardware, software, data, or knowledge about an organization. Insiders include...

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OCR Publishes New Resources for MHealth App Developers and Cloud Services Providers
Sep04

OCR Publishes New Resources for MHealth App Developers and Cloud Services Providers

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has announced it has published additional resources for mobile health app developers and has updated and renamed its Health App Developer Portal. The portal – Resources for Mobile Health Apps Developers – provides guidance for mobile health app developers on the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules and how they apply to mobile health apps and application programming interfaces (APIs). The portal includes a guidance document on Health App Use Scenarios and HIPAA, which explains when mHealth applications must comply with the HIPAA Rules and if an app developer will be classed as a business associate. “Building privacy and security protections into technology products enhances their value by providing some assurance to users that the information is secure and will be used and disclosed only as approved or expected,” explained OCR. “Such protections are sometimes required by federal and state laws, including the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules.” The portal provides access to...

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OCR Highlights the Importance of Creating and Maintaining a Comprehensive IT Asset Inventory
Aug27

OCR Highlights the Importance of Creating and Maintaining a Comprehensive IT Asset Inventory

The risk analysis is one of the most important requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule, yet it is one of the most common areas of noncompliance discovered during Office for Civil Rights data breach investigations, compliance reviews, and audits. While there have been examples of HIPAA-covered entities ignoring this requirement entirely, in many cases noncompliance is due to the failure to perform a comprehensive risk analysis across the entire organization. In order to perform a comprehensive risk analysis to identity all threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI), you must first know how ePHI arrives in your organization, where it flows, where all ePHI is stored, and the systems that can be used to access that information. One of the common reasons for a risk analysis compliance failure, is not knowing where all ePHI is located in the organization. In its Summer 2020 Cybersecurity Newsletter, OCR highlighted the importance of maintaining a comprehensive IT asset inventory and explains how it can assist with the...

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Study Reveals Increase in Credential Theft via Spoofed Login Pages
Aug26

Study Reveals Increase in Credential Theft via Spoofed Login Pages

A new study conducted by IRONSCALES shows there has been a major increase in credential theft via spoofed websites. IRONSCALES researchers spent the first half of 2020 identifying and analyzing fake login pages that imitated major brands. More than 50,000 fake login pages were identified with over 200 brands spoofed. The login pages are added to compromised websites and other attacker-controlled domains and closely resemble the genuine login pages used by those brands. In some cases, the fake login is embedded within the body of the email. The emails used to direct unsuspecting recipients to the fake login pages use social engineering techniques to convince recipients to disclose their usernames and passwords, which are captured and used to login to the real accounts for a range of nefarious purposes such as fraudulent wire transfers, credit card fraud, identity theft, data extraction, and more. IRONSCALES researchers found the brands with the most fake login pages closely mirrored the brands with the most active phishing websites. The brand with the most fake login pages – 11,000...

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New FritzFrog P2P Botnet Targets SSH Servers of Banks, Educational Institutions, and Medical Centers
Aug21

New FritzFrog P2P Botnet Targets SSH Servers of Banks, Educational Institutions, and Medical Centers

A new peer-to-peer (P2P) botnet has been discovered that is targeting SSH servers found in IoT devices and routers which accept connections from remote computers. The botnet, named FritzFrog, spreads like a computer worm by brute forcing credentials. The botnet was analyzed by security researchers at Guardicore Labs and was found to have successfully breached more than 500 servers, with that number growing rapidly. FritzFrog is modular, multi-threaded, and fileless, and leaves no trace on the machines it infects. FritzFrog assembles and executes malicious payloads entirely in the memory, making infections hard to detect. When a machine is infected, a backdoor is created in the form of an SSH public key, which provides the attackers with persistent access to the device. Additional payloads can then be downloaded, such as a cryptocurrency miner. Once a machine is compromised, the self-replicating process starts to execute the malware throughout the host server. The machine is added to the P2P network, can receive and execute commands sent from the P2P network, and is used to...

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Researchers Raise Concerns About Patient Safety and Privacy with COVID-19 Home Monitoring Technologies
Aug20

Researchers Raise Concerns About Patient Safety and Privacy with COVID-19 Home Monitoring Technologies

A team of researchers at Harvard University has investigated COVID-19 home monitoring technologies, which have been developed to decrease interpersonal contacts and reduce the risk of exposure to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. A range of technologies have been developed to reduce the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and diagnose symptoms quickly to allow interventions that improve patient safety and limit the spread of COVID-19. The researchers define a home monitoring technology as “a product that is used for monitoring without (direct) supervision by a healthcare professional, such as in a patient’s home, and that collects health-related data from a person.” These technologies are being used to monitor patients in their homes for signs of COVID-19 and include smartwatches and mobile apps that connect to wireless networks and transmit health data. Algorithms are then applied to the data obtained by those technologies. The study, recently published in Nature Medicine, raises several concerns about these home monitoring tools as they were found to increase the risks to...

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July 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Aug19

July 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

July saw a major fall in the number of reported data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records, dropping below the 12-month average of 39.83 breaches per month. There was a 30.8% month-over-month fall in reported data breaches, dropping from 52 incidents in June to 36 in July; however, the number of breached records increased 26.3%, indicating the severity of some of the month’s data breaches.   1,322,211 healthcare records were exposed, stolen, or impermissibly disclosed in July’s reported breaches. The average breach size was 36,728 records and the median breach size was 6,537 records. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in July 2020 14 healthcare data breaches of 10,000 or more records were reported in July, with two of those breaches involving the records of more than 100,000 individuals, the largest of which was the ransomware attack on Florida Orthopaedic Institute which resulted in the exposure and potential theft of the records of 640,000 individuals. The other 100,000+ record breach was suffered by Behavioral Health Network in Maine. The breach was reported as...

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Healthcare Data Leaks on GitHub: Credentials, Corporate Data and the PHI of 150,000+ Patients Exposed
Aug17

Healthcare Data Leaks on GitHub: Credentials, Corporate Data and the PHI of 150,000+ Patients Exposed

A new report has revealed the personal and protected health information of patients and other sensitive data are being exposed online without the knowledge of covered entities and business associates through public GitHub repositories. Jelle Ursem, a security researcher from the Netherlands, discovered at least 9 entities in the United States – including HIPAA-covered entities and business associates – have been leaking sensitive data via GitHub. The 9 leaks – which involve between 150,000 and 200,000 patient records – may just be the tip of the iceberg. The search for exposed data was halted to ensure the entities concerned could be contacted and to produce the report to highlight the risks to the healthcare community. Even if your organization does not use GitHub, that does not necessarily mean that you will not be affected. The actions of a single employee or third-party contracted developer may have opened the door and allowed unauthorized individuals to gain access to sensitive data. Exposed PII and PHI in Public GitHub Repositories Jelle Ursem is an ethical security...

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IBM Security 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report Shows 10% Annual Increase in Healthcare Data Breach Costs
Jul29

IBM Security 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report Shows 10% Annual Increase in Healthcare Data Breach Costs

The 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report from IBM Security has been released and reveals there has been a slight reduction in global data breach costs, falling to $3.86 million per breach from $3.92 million in 2019 – A reduction of 1.5%. There was considerable variation in data breach costs in different regions and industries. Organizations in the United States faced the highest data breach costs, with a typical breach costing $8.64 million, up 5.5% from 2019. COVID-19 Expected to Increase Data Breach Costs This is the 15th year that IBM Security has conducted the study. The research was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, and included data from 524 breached organizations, and 3,200 individuals were interviewed across 17 countries and regions and 17 industry sectors. Research for the report was conducted between August 2019 and April 2020. The research was mostly conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to have an impact on data breach costs. To explore how COVID-19 is likely to affect the cost of a data breaches, the Ponemon Institute re-contacted study participants to...

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Is Google Voice HIPAA Compliant?
Jun30

Is Google Voice HIPAA Compliant?

Google Voice is a popular telephony service, but is Google Voice HIPAA compliant or can it be used in a HIPAA compliant way? Is it possible for healthcare organizations – or healthcare employees – to use the service without violating HIPAA Rules? Is Google Voice HIPAA Compliant? Google Voice is a popular and convenient telephony service that includes voicemail, voicemail transcription to text, the ability to send text messages free of charge, and many other useful features. It is therefore unsurprising that many healthcare professionals would like to use the service at work, as well as for personal use. In order for a service to be used in healthcare in conjunction with any protected health information (PHI) it must be possible to use it in a HIPAA compliant way. That means the service must be covered by the conduit exemption rule – which was introduced when the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule came into effect – or it must incorporate a range of controls and safeguards to meet the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule. As with SMS, faxing, and email, Google Voice is not...

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University of California San Francisco Pays $1.14 Million Ransom to Resolve NetWalker Ransomware Attack
Jun29

University of California San Francisco Pays $1.14 Million Ransom to Resolve NetWalker Ransomware Attack

University of California San Francisco has paid a $1.14 million ransom to the operators of NetWalker ransomware to resolve an attack that saw data on servers within the School of Medicine encrypted. The attack occurred on June 1, 2020. UCSF isolated the affected servers, but not in time to prevent file encryption. UCSF School of Medicine is engaged in research to find a cure for COVID-19 and the university is heavily involved in antibody testing. The ransomware attack did not impede the work being conducted on COVID-19, patient care delivery operations were not affected, and UCSF does not believe the attackers gained access to patient data, although some files were stolen in the attack. The encrypted data was essential to research being conducted by the university, and since it was not possible to recover files from backups, UCSF had little option other than to negotiate with the attackers. “We therefore made the difficult decision to pay some portion of the ransom, approximately $1.14 million, to the individuals behind the malware attack in exchange for a tool to unlock the...

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May 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jun23

May 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

May 2020 saw a marked fall in the number of reported healthcare data breaches compared to April, with 28 data breaches of 500 or more records reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. That is the lowest number of monthly breaches since December 2018 and the first time in 17 months that healthcare data breaches have been reported at a rate of less than one per day. The monthly total would have been even lower had one breach been reported by the business associate responsible for an improper disposal incident, rather than the 7 healthcare providers impacted by the breach.   Several cybersecurity companies have reported an increase in COVID-19-related breaches, such as phishing attacks that use COVID-19-themed lures. While there is strong evidence to suggest that these types of attacks have increased since the start of the pandemic, the number of cyberattacks appears to have broadly remained the same or increased slightly. Microsoft has reported that its data shows a slight increase in attacks, but says it only represents a blip and the number of threats and cyberattacks has...

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Fake VPN Alerts Used as Lure in Office 365 Credential Phishing Campaign
Jun05

Fake VPN Alerts Used as Lure in Office 365 Credential Phishing Campaign

A phishing campaign has been identified that uses fake VPN alerts as a lure to get remote workers to divulge their Office 365 credentials. Healthcare providers have increased their telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that healthcare services can continue to be provided to patients who are self-isolating at home. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are used to support telehealth services and provide secure access the network and patient data. Several vulnerabilities have been identified in VPNs which are being exploited by threat actors to gain access to corporate networks to steal sensitive data and deploy malware and ransomware. It is therefore essential for VPN systems to be patched promptly and for VPN clients on employee laptops to be updated. Employees may therefore be used to updating their VPN. Researchers at Abnormal Security have identified a phishing campaign that impersonates a user’s organization and claims there is a problem with the VPN configuration that must be addressed to allow...

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Russian Sandworm Group Targeting Exim Mail Servers, Warns NSA
Jun01

Russian Sandworm Group Targeting Exim Mail Servers, Warns NSA

A Russian hacking outfit called Sandworm (Fancy Bear) is exploiting a vulnerability in the Exim Mail Transfer Agent, which is commonly used for Unix-based systems. The flaw, tracked as CVE-2019-10149, is a remote code execution vulnerability that was introduced in Exim version 4.87. An update was released on June 5, 2019 to correct the flaw, but many organizations have still not updated Exim and remain vulnerable to attack. The vulnerability can be exploited by sending a specially crafted email which allows commands to be executed with root privileges. After exploiting the flaw, an attacker can install programs, execute code of their choosing, modify data, create new accounts, and potentially gain access to stored messages. According to a recent National Security Agency (NSA) alert, Sandworm hackers have been exploiting the flaw by incorporating a malicious command in the MAIL FROM field of an SMTP message. Attacks have been performed on organizations using vulnerable Exim versions that have internet-facing mail transfer agents. After exploiting the vulnerability, a shell script is...

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Senators Seek Answers from CISA and FBI About Threat to COVID-19 Research Data
May26

Senators Seek Answers from CISA and FBI About Threat to COVID-19 Research Data

Four Senators have written to the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in response to the recent alert warning COVID-19 research organizations that hackers with links to China are conducting attacks to gain access to COVID-19 vaccine and research data. On May 13, 2020, CISA and the FBI issued a joint alert warning organizations in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and research sectors that they are prime targets for hackers. Hacking groups linked to the People’s Republic of China have been attempting to infiltrate the networks of U.S. companies to gain access to intellectual property, public health data, and information related to COVID-19 testing, potential vaccines, and treatment information. “China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,” warned CISA and the FBI. “The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.” In the letter, Thom Tills (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Cornyn...

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H-ISAC Publishes Framework for Managing Identity in Healthcare
May26

H-ISAC Publishes Framework for Managing Identity in Healthcare

The Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (H-ISAC) has published a framework for CISOs to manage identity and defend their organization against identity-based cyberattacks. This is the second white paper to be published by H-ISAC covering the identity-centric approach to security. The first white paper explains why an identity-centric approach to cybersecurity is now needed, with the latest white paper detailing how that approach can be implemented. By adopting the framework, CISOs will be able to manage the full identity lifecycle of employees, patients, practitioners, and business partners in a way that guards against cyberattacks on identity, lowers risk, and increases operational efficiencies. The framework has been developed for CISOs at healthcare organizations of all sizes. As such, it does not offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, components of the framework can be applied differently based on different environments and use cases. CISOs will need to assess the resources available and their unique risks and decide how best to apply the framework. The...

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Alert Issued by Feds to Raise Awareness of Scams Related to COVID-19 Economic Payments
May22

Alert Issued by Feds to Raise Awareness of Scams Related to COVID-19 Economic Payments

A joint alert issued has been issued by the IRS, DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Department of the Treasury to raise awareness of the risk of phishing and other cyberattacks related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act has made $2 trillion available to support businesses and individuals adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will help to reduce the financial burden through economic impact payments to eligible Americans. CARES Act payments are being used as a lure in phishing attacks to obtain personal and financial information and attempts have been made to redirect CARES Act payments. All Americans have been urged to be on the lookout for criminal fraud related to the CARES Act and COVID-19. The U.S. Government reports that many cybercriminal groups are using stimulus-themed lures in phishing emails and text messages to obtain sensitive information such as bank account information. Financial institutions have been asked to remind their customers to practice good cybersecurity hygiene and...

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Web Application Attacks Double as Threat Actors Target Cloud Data
May21

Web Application Attacks Double as Threat Actors Target Cloud Data

The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report shows malware attacks are falling as threat actors target data in the cloud.  This is the 13th year that the report has been produced, which this year contains an analysis of 32,002 security incidents and 3,950 confirmed data breaches from 81 global contributors in 81 countries. The report confirms that the main motivator for conducting attacks is financial gain. 86% of all security breaches were financially motivated, up from 71% last year. 70% of breaches were due to external actors, with 55% of attacks conducted by cybercriminals. 67% of breaches were the result of credential theft or brute forcing of weak credentials (37%) and phishing and other social engineering attacks (25%). 22% of those breaches involved human error. Only 20% of breaches were due to the exploitation of vulnerabilities. It should be noted that it is much easier to conduct attacks using stolen credentials rather than exploiting vulnerabilities, so the relatively low number of vulnerability-related attacks may not be due to organizations patching...

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April 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
May20

April 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There were 37 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records reported in April 2020, up one from the 36 breaches reported in March. As the graph below shows, the number of breaches reported each month has been fairly consistent and has remained well below the 12-month average of 41.9 data breaches per month. While the number of breaches increased slightly, there was a significant reduction in the number of breached healthcare records in April. 442,943 healthcare records were breached in April, down 46.56% from the 828,921 records breached in March. This is the second successive month where the number of exposed records has fallen. While this is certainly good news, it should be noted that in the past 12 months, 39.92 million healthcare records have been breached. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in April 2020   Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached Information Beaumont Health Healthcare Provider 112,211 Hacking/IT Incident Email Meridian Health Services Corp. Healthcare Provider 111,372 Hacking/IT Incident Email...

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Republicans and Democrats Introduce Competing Bills Covering COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps
May18

Republicans and Democrats Introduce Competing Bills Covering COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps

Two privacy bills have been introduced relating to COVID-19 contact tracing apps that are now being considered by Congress. The competing bills, introduced by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, share some common ground and and introduce measures to protect the privacy of Americans and ensure personal data is not misused. The first bill, the COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act, was introduced by Republican senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss), John Thune (R-S.D), Jerry Moran, (R-Kan), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) last month “to protect the privacy of consumers’ personal health information, proximity data, device data, and geolocation data during the coronavirus public health crisis.” The bill would make it illegal for personal health information, proximity data, device data, and geolocation data to be collected unless notice was given to consumers about the purpose of collecting data and consumers are required to give their consent to the collection, processing, and transfer of their data. The bill prohibits the collection, use, or transfer of data for any secondary purposes. The...

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CISA and FBI Publish List of Top 10 Exploited Vulnerabilities
May14

CISA and FBI Publish List of Top 10 Exploited Vulnerabilities

On Tuesday, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a joint public service announcement detailing the top 10 most exploited vulnerabilities between 2016 and 2019. These vulnerabilities have been exploited by sophisticated nation state hackers to attack organizations in the public and private sectors to gain access to their networks to steal sensitive data. The vulnerabilities included in the list have been extensively exploited by hacking groups with ties to China, Iran, Russia and North Korea with those cyber actors are still conducting attacks exploiting the vulnerabilities, even though patches have been released to address the flaws. In some cases, patches have been available for more than 5 years, but some organizations have still not applied the patches. Exploiting the vulnerabilities in the top 10 list requires fewer resources compared to zero-day exploits, which means more attacks can be conducted. When patches are applied to address the top 10 vulnerabilities, nation state hackers will be forced to develop new exploits which will limit their...

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AMA Publishes Set of Privacy Principles for Non-HIPAA-Covered Entities
May13

AMA Publishes Set of Privacy Principles for Non-HIPAA-Covered Entities

The American Medical Association (AMA) has published a set of privacy principles for non-HIPAA-covered entities to help ensure that the privacy of consumers is protected, even when healthcare data is provided to data holders that do not need to comply with HIPAA Rules. HIPAA only applies to healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses (covered entities) and business associates of those entities. HIPAA requires those entities to protect the privacy of patients and implement security controls to keep their healthcare data private and confidential. When the same healthcare data is shared with an entity that is not covered by HIPAA, those protections do not need to be in place. HIPAA also gives patients rights over their health data, but those rights do not apply to health data sent to a non-HIPAA-covered entity. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONS) have recently published rules to prevent information blocking and improve sharing of healthcare data. One requirement is to allow patients to...

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Zoom Reaches Settlement with NY Attorney General Over Privacy and Security Issues
May12

Zoom Reaches Settlement with NY Attorney General Over Privacy and Security Issues

Zoom has reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General’s office and has made a commitment to implement better privacy and security controls for its teleconferencing platform. Zoom has proven to be one of the most popular teleconferencing platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, more than 200 million individuals were participating in Zoom meetings with usership growing by 2,000% in the space of just three months. As the number of users grew and the platform started to be used more frequently by consumers and students, flaws in the platform started to emerge. Meeting participants started reporting cases of uninvited people joining and disrupting private meetings. Several of these “Zoombombing” attacks saw participants racially abused and harassed on the basis of religion and gender. There were also several reported cases of uninvited individuals joining meetings and displaying pornographic images. Then security researchers started uncovering privacy and security issues with the platform. Zoom stated on its website that Zoom meetings were protected with end-to-end...

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Government Healthcare Agencies and COVID-19 Research Organizations Targeted by Nigerian BEC Scammers
May08

Government Healthcare Agencies and COVID-19 Research Organizations Targeted by Nigerian BEC Scammers

Business email compromise scammers operating out of Nigeria have been targeting government healthcare agencies, COVID-19 research organizations, and pandemic response organizations to obtain fraudulent wire transfer payments and spread malware. The attacks were detected by Palo Alto Networks’ Unit 42 team researchers and have been attributed to a cybercriminal organization called SilverTerrier. SilverTerrier actors have been highly active over the past 12 months and are known to have conducted at least 2.1 million BEC attacks since the Unit 42 team started tracking their activity in 2014. In 2019, the group conducted an average of 92,739 attacks per month, with activity peaking in June when 245,637 attacks were conducted. The gang has been observed exploiting the CVE-2017-11882 vulnerability in Microsoft Office to install malware, but most commonly uses spear phishing emails targeting individuals in the finance department. The gang uses standard phishing lures such as fake invoices and payment advice notifications to trick recipients into opening malicious email attachments that...

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HHS Has Been Slow to Address High Priority GAO Recommendations
May05

HHS Has Been Slow to Address High Priority GAO Recommendations

The Department of Health and Human Services has been slow to address high priority recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Out of the 54 high priority recommendations outlined in a GAO March 2019 report, only 13 (24%) have been addressed so far. GAO explained in a letter to HHS’ Secretary Alex Azar that its November 2019 report showed that government-wide, 77% of GAO recommendations made 4 years ago had been implemented, but the implementation rate at the HHS was only 61%. As of April 2020, there were 405 outstanding recommendations. The March 2019 report identified 54 high priority recommendations and a further 18 high priority recommendations have been made. The total number of outstanding high priority recommendations now stands at 55. Several of the outstanding recommendations relate to enhancing cybersecurity and fraud risk reduction. GAO says there are nine open priority recommendations related to public health related programs and issues “that would help ensure that relevant federal agencies are coordinating, managing risks, and have the resources...

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Advice for Healthcare Organizations on Preventing and Detecting Human-Operated Ransomware Attacks
Apr30

Advice for Healthcare Organizations on Preventing and Detecting Human-Operated Ransomware Attacks

Human-operated ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations and critical infrastructure have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dozens of attacks have occurred on healthcare organizations in recent weeks, including Parkview Medical Center, ExecuPharm, and Brandywine Counselling and Community Services. Many ransomware attacks are automated and start with a phishing email. Once ransomware is downloaded, it typically runs its encryption routine within an hour. Human-operated ransomware attacks are different. Access is gained to systems several weeks or months before ransomware is deployed. During that time, the attackers obtain credentials, move laterally, and collect and exfiltrate data before encrypting files with ransomware. The attackers can lay dormant in systems for several months before choosing their moment to deploy the ransomware to maximize the disruption caused. The COVID-19 pandemic is the ideal time for deployment of ransomware on healthcare organizations and others involved in the response to COVID-19, as there is a higher probability that the ransom will be paid...

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EFF Warns of Privacy and Security Risks with Google and Apple’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology
Apr30

EFF Warns of Privacy and Security Risks with Google and Apple’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology

The contact tracing technology being developed by Apple and Google to help track people who have come into close contact with individuals confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 could be invaluable in the fight against SARS-CoV-19; however, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has warned that in its current form, the system could be abused by cybercriminals. Google and Apple are working together on the technology, which is expected to be fully rolled out next month. The system will allow app developers to build contact tracing apps to help identify individuals who may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. When a user downloads a contact tracing app, each time they come into contact with another person with the app installed on their phone, anonymous identifier beacons called rolling proximity identifiers (RPIDs) will be exchanged via Bluetooth Low Energy. How Does the Contact-Tracing System Work? RPIDs will be exchanged only if an individual moves within a predefined range – 6 feet – and stays in close contact for a set period of time. Range can be determined by strength of...

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March 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Apr24

March 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

March 2020 saw a 7.69% month-over-month decrease in the number of reported healthcare data breaches and a 45.88% reduction in the number of breached records. In March, 36 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is more than 16% fewer than the average number of monthly breaches over the past 12 months. 828,921 healthcare records were breached in March, which is 194% higher than the monthly average number of breached records. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in March 2020 The largest healthcare data breach of the month was reported by the genetic testing company, Ambry Genetics Corporation. An unauthorized individual gained access to an employee’s email account that contained the data of 232,772 patients. A major phishing attack was reported by the medical device manufacturer Tandem Diabetes Care. Several employees’ email accounts were compromised and the protected health information of 140,781 patients was exposed. The third largest data breach of the month was reported by Brandywine Urology Consultants, which...

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AHA and AMA Release Joint Cybersecurity Guidance for Telecommuting Physicians
Apr17

AHA and AMA Release Joint Cybersecurity Guidance for Telecommuting Physicians

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have issued joint cybersecurity guidance for physicians working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic to help them secure their computers, mobile devices, and home networks and safely provide remote care to patients. Physicians are able to use their mobile devices to access patients’ medical records over the internet as if they were in the office, and medical teleconferencing solutions allow them to conduct virtual visits using video, audio, and text to diagnose and treat patients. However, working from home introduces risks that can jeopardize the privacy and security of patient data. The AMA/AHA guidance is intended to help physicians secure their home computers and home network to protect patient data and keep their work environment safe from cyber threats such as malware and ransomware, which could have a negative impact on patent safety and well-being. “For physicians helping patients from their homes and using personal computers and mobile devices, the AMA and AHA have moved quickly to provide...

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February 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Mar24

February 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There were 39 reported healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records in February and 1,531,855 records were breached, which represents a 21.9% month-over-month increase in data breaches and a 231% increase in breached records. More records were breached in February than in the past three months combined. In February, the average breach size was 39,278 records and the mean breach size was 3,335 records. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in February 2020 The largest healthcare data breach was reported by the health plan, Health Share of Oregon. An unencrypted laptop computer containing the records of 654,362 plan members was stolen from its transportation vendor in an office break in. The second largest breach was a ransomware attack on the accounting firm BST & Co. CPAs which saw client records encrypted, including those of the New York medical group, Community Care Physicians. Aside from the network server breach at SOLO Laboratories, the cause of which has not been determined, the remaining 7 breaches in the top 10 were all email security incidents. Name of Covered Entity...

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Cybersecurity Firms Offer Free Assistance to Healthcare Organizations During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Mar20

Cybersecurity Firms Offer Free Assistance to Healthcare Organizations During the Coronavirus Pandemic

There have been several reported cases of cyberattacks on healthcare organizations that are currently working round the clock to ensure patients with COVID-19 receive the medical are they need. These attacks cause major disruption at the best of times, but during the COVID-19 outbreak the attacks have potential to cause even greater harm and place patient safety at risk. Many phishing campaigns have been detected using COVID-19 as a lure, fear about the 2019 Novel coronavirus is being exploited to deliver malware, and more than 2,000 coronavirus and COVID-19-themed domains have been registered, many of which are expected to be used for malicious purposes. One of the largest testing laboratories in the Czech Republic, Brno University Hospital, experienced a cyberattack forcing the shutdown of its computer systems. The attack also affected its Children’s Hospital and Maternity hospital and patients had to be re-routed to other medical facilities. Cyberattacks have also experienced in the United States, with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District of Illinois suffering a...

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HIPAA Compliance and COVID-19 Coronavirus
Mar16

HIPAA Compliance and COVID-19 Coronavirus

HIPAA covered entities – healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses – and business associates of covered entities no doubt have many questions about HIPAA compliance and COVID-19 coronavirus cases. There may be confusion about the information that can be shared about individuals who have contracted COVID-19, those suspected of exposure to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and those with whom information can be shared. HIPAA Compliance and the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic There is understandably concern about HIPAA compliance and the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and how the HIPAA Privacy Rule and Security Rule apply. In the age of HIPAA, no disease outbreak on this scale has ever been experienced. It is important to remember that during a public health emergency such as a disease outbreak, and this applies to HIPAA compliance and COVID-19, that the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules still apply. The HIPAA Security Rule ensures the security of patients’ protected health information (PHI) and requires reasonable safeguards to be implemented to protect PHI against...

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HSCC Publishes Best Practices for Cyber Threat Information Sharing
Mar16

HSCC Publishes Best Practices for Cyber Threat Information Sharing

The Healthcare and Public Health Sector Coordinating Council (HSCC) has published best practices for cyber threat information sharing. The new guidance document is intended to help healthcare organizations develop, implement, and maintain a successful cyber threat information sharing program to reduce cyber risk. The new document builds on previously published guidance – the Health Industry Cybersecurity Matrix of Information Sharing Organizations (HIC-MISO) – in which HSCC identified key Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations (ISAOs) for the healthcare sector. The latest guidance document helps organizations determine what information to share, how to share the information, and how to protect any sensitive information they receive, as well as providing best practices for obtaining internal and legal approvals for information sharing processes. One of the main benefits of participating in these programs is to learn about possible attacks and the mitigations to implement to avoid becoming a victim. If an attack occurs at one healthcare organization, it is...

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Maximum Severity SMBv3 Flaw Identified: Patch Released
Mar11

Maximum Severity SMBv3 Flaw Identified: Patch Released

Update 03/12/20: Microsoft has updated its security advisory and has released an out of band update for the flaw for CVE-2020-0796 Windows 10 and Windows Server 1903 / Server 1909:  A critical flaw has been identified in Windows Server Message Block version 3 (SMBv3) which could potentially be exploited in a WannaCry-style attack. The vulnerability is wormable, which means an attacker could combine it with a worm and compromise all other vulnerable devices on the network from a single infected machine. This is a pre-auth remote code execution vulnerability in the SMBv3 communication protocol due to an error that occurs when SMBv3 handles maliciously crafted compressed data packets. If exploited, an unauthenticated attacker could execute arbitrary code in the context of the application and take full control of a vulnerable system. The vulnerability can be exploited remotely by sending a specially crafted packet to a targeted SMBv3 server. The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-0796, affects Windows 10 Version 1903, Windows Server Version 1903 (Server Core installation), Windows 10...

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University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare Impacted by Month-Long Cryptominer Attack
Mar09

University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare Impacted by Month-Long Cryptominer Attack

The University of Kentucky (UK) has been battling to remove malware that was downloaded on its network in February 2020. Cybercriminals gained access to the UK network and installed cryptocurrency mining malware that used the processing capabilities of UK computers to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The malware caused a considerable slowdown of the network, with temporary failures of its computer system causing repeated daily interruptions to day to day functions, in particular at UK healthcare. UK believes the attack was resolved on Sunday morning after a month-long effort. On Sunday morning, UK performed a major reboot of its IT systems – a process that took around 3 hours. UK believes the attackers have now been removed from its systems, although they will be monitoring the network closely to ensure that external access has been blocked. The attack is believed to have originated from outside the United States. UK Healthcare, which operates UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, KY, serves more than 2 million patients. While computer...

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53% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced a PHI Breach in the Past 12 Months
Mar09

53% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced a PHI Breach in the Past 12 Months

The 2019 Global State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Report from Keeper Security shows approximately two thirds of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach in the past, and 53% have experienced a breach of protected health information in the past 12 months. The survey was conducted by the Ponemon Institute on 2,391 IT and IT security professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, DACH, Benelux, and Scandinavia, including 219 respondents from the healthcare industry. Keeper Security reports indicates the average healthcare data breach results in the exposure of more than 7,200 confidential records and the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $1.8 million, including the cost of disruption to normal operations. The most common causes of healthcare data breaches are phishing attacks (68%), malware infections (41%), and web-based attacks (40%). Healthcare data breaches have increased considerably in the past few years. Even though there is a high risk of an attack, healthcare organizations do not feel that they are well prepared. Only...

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Senators Demand Answers from Ascension About Project Nightingale as Google’s Response was Deemed Incomplete
Mar05

Senators Demand Answers from Ascension About Project Nightingale as Google’s Response was Deemed Incomplete

Following the revelation that a considerable volume of patient data had been shared with Google by the Catholic health system Ascension, the second largest health system in the United States, a bipartisan group of Senators – Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) – wrote to Google demanding answers about the nature of the agreements and the information the company received. Ascension operates 150 hospitals and more than 2,600 care facilities in 20 states and the District of Columbia and has more than 10 million patients. In November 2019, a whistleblower at Google passed information to the Wall Street Journal on the nature of the collaboration and claimed that patient data, including patient names, dates of birth, lab test results, diagnoses, health histories and other protected health information, had been shared with Google and was accessible by more than 150 Google employees. In response to the story, Google announced that the partnership, named Project Nightingale, was a cloud migration and data sharing initiative....

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‘SweynTooth’ Vulnerabilities in Bluetooth Low Energy Chips Affect Many Medical Devices
Mar05

‘SweynTooth’ Vulnerabilities in Bluetooth Low Energy Chips Affect Many Medical Devices

12 vulnerabilities – collectively called SweynTooth – have been identified by researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design which are present in the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) software development kits used by at least 7 manufacturers of software-on-a-chip (SOC) chipsets. SOCs are used in smart home devices, fitness trackers, wearable health devices, and medical devices and give them their wireless connectivity. SoCs with the SweynTooth vulnerabilities are used in insulin pumps, pacemakers, and blood glucose monitors as well as hospital equipment such as ultrasound machines and patient monitors. It is not yet known exactly how many medical devices and wearable health devices are impacted by the flaws as manufacturers obtain their SoCs from several sources. Some security researchers believe millions of medical devices could be vulnerable. SoCs are used in around 500 different products. Hundreds of millions of devices could be affected. The vulnerabilities are present in SoCs from Cypress, Dialog Semiconductors, Microchip, NXP Semiconductors,...

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IT Weaknesses at the National Institutes of Health Placed EHR Data at Risk
Mar03

IT Weaknesses at the National Institutes of Health Placed EHR Data at Risk

An audit of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has revealed technology control weaknesses in the NIH electronic medical records system and IT systems that placed the protected health information of patients at risk. NIH received $5 million in congressional appropriations in FY 2019 to conduct oversight of NIH grant programs and operations. Congress wanted to ensure that cybersecurity controls had been put in place to protect sensitive data and determine whether NIH was in compliance with Federal regulations. The audit was conducted on July 16, 2019 by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA) on behalf of OIG to determine the effectiveness of certain NIH information technology controls and to assess how NIH receives, processes, stores, and transmits Electronic Health Records (EHR) within its Clinical Research Information System (CRIS), which contained the EHRs of patients of the NIH Clinical Center. NHS has approximately 1,300 physicians, dentists and PhD researchers, 830 nurses, and around 730...

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Healthcare Organizations are Overconfident About Their Ability to Protect PHI and Control Data Sharing
Feb28

Healthcare Organizations are Overconfident About Their Ability to Protect PHI and Control Data Sharing

Healthcare organizations are confident they are protecting regulated data and are controlling data sharing, but that confidence appear to be misplaced in many cases according to a recent report from Netwrix. Data has a life cycle. When it is no longer required it should be deleted, but oftentimes sensitive data can remain hidden away on networks for long periods of time. Documents containing sensitive information can be stored in the wrong place where they are no longer subject to the protection measures organizations have implemented to keep confidential information secure and prevent unauthorized access. Misplaced data can be exposed for weeks or months. A recent survey conducted by Netwrix has revealed the extent of the problem. For its 2020 Data Risk & Security Report, Netwrix surveyed 1,045 IT professionals from a wide range of industries and found that the 91% were confident that their sensitive data was stored securely. However, a quarter of respondents said they had found sensitive data stored outside designated storage locations in the past 12 months, indicating that...

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January 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb21

January 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In January, healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights at a rate of more than one a day. As our 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report showed, 2019 was a particularly bad year for healthcare data breaches with 510 data breaches reported by HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates. That equates to a rate of 42.5 data breaches per month. January’s figures are an improvement, with a reporting rate of 1.03 breaches per day and a 15.78% decrease in reported breaches compared to December 2019. While the number of breaches was down, the number of breached records increased by 17.71% month-over-month. 462,856 healthcare records were exposed, stolen, or impermissibly disclosed across 32 reported data breaches. As the graph below shows, the severity of data breaches has increased in recent years. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in January 2020 Name of Covered Entity State Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached Information PIH Health CA Healthcare Provider...

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Alarming Number of Medical Devices Vulnerable to Exploits Such as BlueKeep
Feb20

Alarming Number of Medical Devices Vulnerable to Exploits Such as BlueKeep

The healthcare industry is digitizing business management and data management processes and is adopting new technology to improve efficiency and cut costs, but that technology, in many cases, has been added to infrastructure, processes, and software from a different era and as a result, many vulnerabilities are introduced. The healthcare industry is being targeted by cybercriminals who are looking for any chink in the armor to conduct their attacks, and many of those attacks are succeeding. The healthcare industry is the most targeted industry sector and one third of data breaches in the United States happen in hospitals. According to the recently published 2020 Healthcare Security Vision Report from CyberMDX almost 30% of healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) have experienced a data breach in the past 12 months, clearly demonstrating that the healthcare industry is struggling to address vulnerabilities and block cyberattacks. Part of the reason is the number of difficult-to-secure devices that connect to healthcare network. The attack surface is huge. It has been estimated that...

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eHI and CDT Collaborate to Develop Consumer Privacy Framework for Health Data not Covered by HIPAA
Feb14

eHI and CDT Collaborate to Develop Consumer Privacy Framework for Health Data not Covered by HIPAA

The eHealth Initiative (eHI) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) have joined forces to develop a new consumer privacy framework for health data not covered by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Rules. Personally identifiable health data collected, stored, maintained, processed, or transmitted by HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates is subject to the protections of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. If the same data is collected, stored, maintained, processed, or transmitted by a non-HIPAA covered entity, those protections are not required by law. Currently health data is collected, stored, and transmitted by health and wellness apps, wearable devices, and informational health websites, but without HIPAA-like protections the privacy of consumer health data is put at risk. eHI and CDT have received funding for the new initiative, Building a Consumer Privacy Framework for Health Data, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They have already formed a Steering Committee for Consumer Health Privacy consisting of experts and leaders...

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2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb13

2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal show a major increase in healthcare data breaches in 2019. Last year, 510 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported, which represents a 196% increase from 2018. As the graph below shows, aside from 2015, healthcare data breaches have increased every year since the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights first started publishing breach summaries in October 2009. 37.47% more records were breached in 2019 than 2018, increasing from 13,947,909 records in 2018 to 41,335,889 records in 2019. Last year saw more data breaches reported than any other year in history and 2019 was the second worst year in terms of the number of breached records. More healthcare records were breached in 2019 than in the six years from 2009 to 2014. In 2019, the healthcare records of 12.55% of the population of the United States were exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2019 The table below shows the largest healthcare data breaches of 2019, based on the entity...

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Ransomware Attacks Have Cost the Healthcare Industry at Least $157 Million Since 2016
Feb13

Ransomware Attacks Have Cost the Healthcare Industry at Least $157 Million Since 2016

A new study by Comparitech has shed light on the extent to which ransomware has been used to attack healthcare organizations and the true cost of ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry. The study revealed there have been at least 172 ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations in the United States in the past three years. 1,446 hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities have been affected as have at least 6,649,713 patients. 2018 saw a reduction in the number of attacks, falling from 53 incidents in 2017 to 31 in 2018, but the attacks increased to 2017 levels in 2019 with 50 reported attacks on healthcare organizations. 74% of healthcare ransomware attacks since 2016 have targeted hospitals and health clinics. The remaining 26% of attacks have been on other healthcare organizations such as nursing homes, dental practices, medical testing laboratories, health insurance providers, plastic surgeons, optometry practices, medical supply companies, government healthcare providers, and managed service providers. Ransom demands can vary considerably from attack to...

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Average Ransomware Payment Increased Sharply in Q4, 2019
Feb03

Average Ransomware Payment Increased Sharply in Q4, 2019

A new report from the ransomware incident response firm Coveware shows payments made by ransomware victims increased sharply in Q4, 2019. The average ransomware payment doubled in Q4, as two of the most prolific ransomware gangs – Sodinokibi and Ryuk – shifted their attention to attacking large enterprises. In Q3, 2019 the average ransom payment was $41,198. In Q4, that figure jumped to $84,116, with a median payment of $41,179. The large increase in ransom amounts is largely due to changing tactics of the two main ransomware gangs, Ryuk especially. Ryuk is now heavily focused on attacking large enterprises. The average number of employees at victim companies increased from 1,075 in Q3 to 1,686 in Q4. The largest ransom amount was $779,855.5 in Q4; a considerable jump from the largest demand of $377,027 in Q3. In Q4, the most prevalent ransomware threats were Sodinokibi (29.4%), Ryuk (21.5%), Phobos (10.7%), Dharma (9.3%), DoppelPaymer (6.1%), and NetWalker (5.1%). 10.7% of attacks involved the Rapid, Snatch, IEncrypt or GlobeImposter ransomware variants. Many of the above...

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NIST Seeks Comment on Two Draft Cybersecurity Practice Guides on Ransomware and Other Data Integrity Events
Jan31

NIST Seeks Comment on Two Draft Cybersecurity Practice Guides on Ransomware and Other Data Integrity Events

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at NIST (NCCoE) has released two draft cybersecurity practice guides on ransomware and other destructive events. The first guide concerns identifying and protecting assets (SP 1800-25) and the second concerns detection and response to cyberattacks that compromise data integrity (SP 1800-26). The guides consist of three volumes, an executive summary; approach, architecture and security characteristics; and how to guides. They are intended to be used by executives, chief Information security officers, system administrators, or individuals who have a stake in protecting their organizations’ data, privacy, and overall operational security. The first guide concerns the first two core functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework: Identify and Protect. Organizations need to take steps to protect their assets from ransomware, destructive malware, malicious insiders, and accidental data loss. In order to protect assets, organizations must first identify where they are located. Only then can the necessary steps be taken to secure those...

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65% of U.S. Organizations Experienced a Successful Phishing Attack in 2019
Jan28

65% of U.S. Organizations Experienced a Successful Phishing Attack in 2019

The 2020 State of the Phish report from the cybersecurity firm Proofpoint shows 65% of U.S. organizations (55% globally) had to deal with at least one successful phishing attack in 2019. For the report, Proofpoint drew data from a third-party survey of 3,500 working adults in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Spain along with a survey of 600 IT security professionals in those countries. Data was also taken from 9 million suspicious emails reported by its customers and more than 50 million simulated phishing emails in the past year. Infosec professionals believe the number of phishing attacks remained the same or declined in 2019 compared to the previous year. This confirms what may cybersecurity firms have found: Phishing tactics are changing. Cybercriminals are now focusing on quality over quantity. Standard phishing may have declined, but spear phishing attacks are more common. 88% of organizations said they faced spear phishing attacks in 2019 and 86% said they faced business email compromise (BEC) attacks. Phishing attacks are most commonly...

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Critical ‘MDHex’ Vulnerabilities Identified in GE Healthcare Patient Monitoring Products
Jan24

Critical ‘MDHex’ Vulnerabilities Identified in GE Healthcare Patient Monitoring Products

Critical vulnerabilities have been identified in GE Healthcare patient monitoring products by a security researcher at CyberMDX. Elad Luz, Head of Research at CyberMDX, identified six vulnerabilities, five of which have been rated critical and one high severity. The five critical vulnerabilities have been assigned the maximum CVSS v3 score of 10 out of 10. The other vulnerability has a CVSS v3 score of 8.5 out of 10. Exploitation of the flaws could render the affected products unusable. Remote attackers could also alter the functionality of vulnerable devices, including changing or disabling alarm settings, and steal protected health information stored on the devices. CyberMDX initially investigated the CARESCAPE Clinical Information Center (CIC) Pro product, but discovered the flaws affected patient monitors, servers, and telemetry systems. The vulnerabilities have been collectively named MDHex and are tracked under the CVEs: CVE-2020-6961, CVE-2020-6962, CVE-2020-6963, CVE-2020-6964, CVE-2020- 6965, and CVE-2020-6966. GE Healthcare has confirmed that the vulnerabilities could...

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Maze Ransomware Gang Publishes Research Data of Medical Diagnostic Laboratories
Jan23

Maze Ransomware Gang Publishes Research Data of Medical Diagnostic Laboratories

The operators of Maze ransomware are following through on their threats to publish stolen data if victims do not pay the ransoms. In December, the Carrollton, GA-based wire and cable manufacturer Southwire refused to pay a 200 BTC ransom ($1,664,320) and the threat actors went ahead and published some of the stolen data. Southwire filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia against the Maze team and the ISP hosting the Maze Team’s website. The case was won, and the website was taken offline; however, the website was back online with a different hosting provider a few days later. Listed on the webpage are the names of the companies that have been attacked and refused to pay the ransom demand, along with some of the data stolen in the attacks. One of those companies is New Jersey-based Medical Diagnostic Laboratories (MDLab). According to the Maze Team, MD Lab was attacked on December 2, 2019. MD Lab made contact with the Maze team, but negotiations stalled, and no ransom was paid. According the Maze website, 231 workstations were encrypted in the attack. When MD Lab refused...

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Emergency Directives Issued by CISA and OCR to Mitigate Critical Windows Vulnerabilities
Jan16

Emergency Directives Issued by CISA and OCR to Mitigate Critical Windows Vulnerabilities

Microsoft has issued patches for several critical vulnerabilities in all supported Windows versions that require urgent attention to prevent exploitation. While there have been no reports of exploitation of the flaws in the wild, the seriousness of the vulnerabilities and their potential to be weaponized has prompted both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue emergency directives about the vulnerabilities. One of the vulnerabilities was discovered by the National Security Agency (NSA), which took the unusual step of reporting the vulnerability to Microsoft. This is the first time that a vulnerability has been reported by the NSA to a software vendor. Windows CryptoAPI Vulnerability Requires Immediate Patching The NSA-discovered vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-0601, affects Windows 10 and Server 2016/2019 systems. The vulnerability is due to how the Windows CryptoAPI validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates. The flaw would allow a remote attacker to sign malicious code with an ECC certificate to...

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SecureLink Launches Healthcare-Specific Vendor Privileged Access Management Solution
Jan15

SecureLink Launches Healthcare-Specific Vendor Privileged Access Management Solution

The vendor privileged access management (VPAM) solution provider, SecureLink, has launched SecureLink for Healthcare: A healthcare-specific centralized solution for managing third-party access to internal systems. SecureLink’s new offering has been developed to meet the needs of organizations required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The platform allows administrators to easily provide and carefully control access to internal systems, applications, and resources, including restricting access to systems containing ePHI. The platform creates a HIPAA-compliant, detailed audit trail that includes the logging of all keystrokes by vendors and videos of their activities while remotely connected to internal resources, at both the vendor and vendor user level. The platform provides full visibility into all business and clinical applications, such as EHR systems, for compliance with HIPAA, the HITECH Act, PCI, and other regulations. The platform includes a best...

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DHS Warns of Continuing Cyberattacks Exploiting Pulse Secure VPN Vulnerability
Jan14

DHS Warns of Continuing Cyberattacks Exploiting Pulse Secure VPN Vulnerability

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a warning to Pulse Secure customers urging them to patch the 2019 Pulse Secure VPN vulnerability, CVE-2019-11510. Pulse Secure VPN servers that have not been patched are continuing to be attacked by cybercriminals. The threat actors behind Sodinokibi (REvil) ransomware are targeting unpatched Pulse Secure VPN servers and are exploiting CVE-2019-11510 to install ransomware. Several attacks have been reported in January 2020. In addition to encrypting data, the attackers are stealing and threatening to publish victims’ sensitive information. Last week data belonging to Artech Information Systems was published when the ransom was not paid. CISA continues to see widespread exploitation of the flaw by multiple threat actors, including nation-state sponsored advanced persistent threat actors, who are exploiting the flaw to steal passwords, data, and deploy malware. Exploitation of the vulnerability can allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to gain access to all active VPN users and obtain their plain-text...

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Support for Windows 7 Finally Comes to an End
Jan14

Support for Windows 7 Finally Comes to an End

Microsoft is stopping free support for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2 on January 14, 2020, meaning no more patches will be released to fix vulnerabilities in the operating systems. Support for Office 2010 has also come to an end. The operating systems will be up to date as of January 14, 2020 and all known vulnerabilities will have been fixed, but it will only be a matter of time before exploitable vulnerabilities are discovered and used by cybercriminals to steal data and deploy malware. Even though Microsoft has given a long notice period that the operating system was reaching end of life, it is still the second most used operating system behind Windows 10. According to NetMarketShare, 33% of all laptop and desktop computers were running Windows 7 in December 2019. Many healthcare organizations are still using Windows 7 on at least some devices. The continued use of those devices after support is stopped places them at risk of cyberattacks and violating the HIPAA Security Rule. The natural solution is to update Windows 7 to Windows 10, although that...

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DHS Warns of Critical Citrix Vulnerability Being Exploited in the Wild
Jan13

DHS Warns of Critical Citrix Vulnerability Being Exploited in the Wild

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a warning about a recently discovered vulnerability in the Citrix Application Delivery Controller and Citrix Gateway web server appliances. Exploitation of the vulnerability – tracked as CVE-2019-19781 – is possible over the internet and can allow remote execution of arbitrary code on vulnerable appliances. Exploitation of the flaw would allow a threat actor to gain access to the appliances and attack other resources connected to the internal network. Some security researchers have described the bug as one of the most dangerous to be discovered in recent years. The alert, issued on January 8, 2020, urges all organizations using the affected Citrix appliances (formerly NetScaler ADC and NetScaler Gateway) to apply mitigations immediately to limit the potential for an attack, and to apply the firmware updates as soon as they are released later this month. Two proof of concept exploits have already been published on GitHub which makes exploitation of the flaws trivial. Scans for...

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Healthcare Data Breaches Predicted to Cost Industry $4 Billion in 2020
Jan08

Healthcare Data Breaches Predicted to Cost Industry $4 Billion in 2020

Healthcare industry data breaches are occurring more frequently than ever before. The healthcare data breach figures for 2019 have yet to be finalized, but so far 494 data breaches of more than 500 records have been reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and more than 41.11 million records were exposed, stolen, or impermissibly disclosed in 2019. That makes 2019 the worst ever year for healthcare data breaches and the second worst in terms of the number of breached healthcare records. The healthcare industry now accounts for around four out of every five data breaches and 2020 looks set to be another record-breaking year. The cost to the healthcare industry from those breaches is expected to reach $4 billion in 2020. The poor state of healthcare cybersecurity was highlighted by a survey of healthcare security professionals conducted in late 2019 by Black Book Market Research. The survey was conducted on 2,876 security professionals from 733 provider organizations to identify cybersecurity gaps, vulnerabilities, and deficiencies in the healthcare industry. The survey revealed...

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FBI Issues Alert as Maze Ransomware Attacks Increase in the U.S.
Jan07

FBI Issues Alert as Maze Ransomware Attacks Increase in the U.S.

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a flash alert warning private companies in the United States about the threat of attacks involving Maze ransomware. The warning came just a few days after the FBI issued an alert about two other ransomware variants, LockerGoga and MegaCortex. The Maze ransomware TLP: Green warning is not intended for public distribution as it provides technical details about the attacks and indicators of compromise which can be used by private firms to prevent attacks. If published in the public domain, it could aid the attackers. In the alert, victims of Maze ransomware attacks were urged to share information with the FBI as soon as possible to help its agents trace the attackers and bring them to justice. Maze ransomware was first identified in early 2019, but it was not until November 2019 when the first attacks hit companies in the United States. Those attacks have been increasing in recent weeks. When network access is gained, data is exfiltrated prior to file encryption. A ransom demand is then issued specific to the organization....

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DHS Warns of Retaliatory Cyberattacks in Response to U.S. Drone Strike
Jan06

DHS Warns of Retaliatory Cyberattacks in Response to U.S. Drone Strike

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning about retaliatory cyberattacks following the military action in Iraq in which Iran’s top general, Major General Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a drone strike. The U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement saying “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” President Trump tweeted soon after the attack saying, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” Iran has condemned the attack and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed to take “forceful revenge” on the United States. The U.S. State Department has advised all Americans in Iraq to leave the country over concerns for their safety and on Sunday, Iraqi MPs voted to expel all US troops from the country, There are genuine fears of reprisal attacks from Iran and growing concern that those attacks will take place in cyberspace rather than on the ground. US companies, government agencies, and...

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