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HIPAA compliance news

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.

HHS Pressed to Act on Cybersecurity Task Force Recommendations for Medical Device Security
Nov23

HHS Pressed to Act on Cybersecurity Task Force Recommendations for Medical Device Security

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has urged the HHS to act on all recommendations for medical device security suggested by the Healthcare Cybersecurity Task Force, calling for prompt action to be taken to address risks. The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 required Congress to form the Healthcare Cybersecurity Task Force to help identify and address the unique challenges faced by the healthcare industry when securing data and protecting against cyberattacks. While healthcare organizations are increasing their spending on technologies to prevent cyberattacks, medical devices remain a major weak point and could easily be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to healthcare networks and data. Earlier this year, the Healthcare Cybersecurity Task Force made a number of recommendations for medical device security. However, the Department of Health and Human Services has not yet acted on all of the recommendations. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has now urged the HHS to take action on all the Cybersecurity Task Force’s recommendations. Last week, Greg Walden (D-Or),...

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Endpoint Security Trends and the Rising Threat of Fileless Malware Attacks
Nov23

Endpoint Security Trends and the Rising Threat of Fileless Malware Attacks

A recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute has highlighted current endpoint security trends, details the ever-present threat from ransomware, and shows that fileless malware attacks are on the rise. Each year, endpoint attacks cost the healthcare industry more than $1 billion. The high cost of mitigating attacks and the growing threat means endpoint security should be a priority for healthcare organizations. Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations are continuing to rely on traditional cybersecurity technologies, which fail to adequately protect against new threats. Further, investment in cybersecurity defenses often involves doubling down on existing technologies, rather than strategic spending on new technologies that are far more effective at reducing the risk of endpoint attacks. The Barkly-sponsored study was conducted on 665 IT and security professionals. 54% of respondents said they had experienced at least one successful endpoint attack in the past 12 months. Ransomware attacks are rife. More than half of respondents said they had experienced at least one...

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Patches Released to Address Critical Intel Firmware Vulnerabilities
Nov22

Patches Released to Address Critical Intel Firmware Vulnerabilities

Patches have been released to address several Intel firmware vulnerabilities that affect 6th, 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core processors, and Xeon, Atom, Apollo Lake, and Celeron processors. While the patches have been released by Intel, it is likely to take days or weeks before they can be applied. Intel processors are used by a wide variety of PC and laptop manufacturers, which are now required to customize the patches to ensure they are compatible with their systems. The patches were released late on Monday to fix vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by attackers to load and run arbitrary code outside the operating system, unbeknown to users. If exploited, attackers could crash systems, cause system instability, or gain access to privileged system information. Millions of PCs and servers around the world have these vulnerabilities and require the patches to be applied. Most organizations around the world will have at least one device containing one of the Intel firmware vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities have been assigned eight CVEs, four affect Intel...

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November Healthcare Breach Barometer Report Highlights Seriousness of Insider Data Breaches
Nov20

November Healthcare Breach Barometer Report Highlights Seriousness of Insider Data Breaches

Protenus has released its November 2017 healthcare Breach Barometer Report. After a particularly bad September, healthcare data breach incidents fell to more typical levels, with 37 breaches tracked in October. The monthly summary of healthcare data breaches includes incidents reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and incidents announced via the media and tracked by databreaches.net. Those incidents include several breaches that have yet to be reported to OCR, including a major breach that has impacted at least 150,000 individuals – The actual number of individuals impacted will not be known until the investigation has been completed. The numbers of individuals impacted by 8 breaches have not yet been disclosed. Including the 150,000 individuals impacted by largest breach of the month, there were 246,246 victims of healthcare data breaches in October 2017 – the lowest monthly total since May 2017. The healthcare industry has historically recorded a higher than average number of data breaches due to insiders, although over the...

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PCI and HIPAA Compliance Comparison
Nov20

PCI and HIPAA Compliance Comparison

PCI and HIPAA Compliance Comparison For organizations in healthcare-related industries, who both have access to PHI and accept credit card payments, a PCI and HIPAA compliance comparison can help find overlaps and similarities in their compliance obligations. These overlaps and similarities can assist organizations with their risk assessments in order to avoid duplication and better mitigate the risk of a data breach. In this comparison between PCI compliance and HIPAA compliance, we have used the PCI Data Security Standard v3.2 as our reference. Readers are advised to review the PCI Security Standards website periodically for updates to the Data Security Standard that may affect the accuracy of this PCI and HIPAA compliance comparison. PCI and HIPAA Compliance Comparison – Introduction The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies to any organization that accepts credit card payments, or that stores, processes or transmits cardholder data and/or sensitive authentication data. Similarly, the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)...

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Is Slack HIPAA Compliant?
Nov17

Is Slack HIPAA Compliant?

Slack is a powerful communication tool for improving collaboration, but is Slack HIPAA compliant? Can Slack be used by healthcare organizations for sharing protected health information without risking a HIPAA violation? Is Slack HIPAA Compliant? There has been considerable confusion about the use of Slack in healthcare and whether Slack is HIPAA compliant. Since its launch, Slack has not been HIPAA compliant, although steps have been taken to develop a version of the platform that can be used by healthcare organizations. That version is called Slack Enterprise Grid. Earlier this year, Geoff Belknap, Chief Security Officer at Slack, said “our team has spent over a year investing our time and effort into meeting the rigorous security needs of our customers who work in highly regulated industries.” Slack Enterprise Grid was announced at the start of 2017. Slack Enterprise Grid is not the same as Slack. It has been built on different code, and has been developed specifically for use by companies with more than 500 employees. Slack Enterprise Grid incorporates several security features...

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October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches
Nov16

October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches

In October 2017, there were 27 healthcare data breaches reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. Those data breaches resulted in the theft/exposure of 71,377 patient and plan member records. October saw a significant fall in the number of reported breaches compared to September, and a major fall in the number of records exposed. October saw a major reduction in the number of breached records, with the monthly total almost 85% lower than September and almost 88% lower than the average number of records breached over the preceding three months. Healthcare providers were the worst hit in October with 19 reported data breaches. There were six data breaches reported by health plans and at least two incidents involved business associates of HIPAA-covered entities. October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches by Covered Entity Type Main Causes of October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches Unauthorized access/disclosures were the biggest causes of healthcare data breaches in October. There were 14 breaches reported involving unauthorized access/disclosures, 8...

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Cybersecurity in Healthcare Report Highlights Sorry State of Security
Nov15

Cybersecurity in Healthcare Report Highlights Sorry State of Security

Infoblox has released a new cybersecurity in healthcare report which has revealed many healthcare organizations are leaving themselves wide open to attack and are making it far too easy for hackers to succeed. The cybersecurity in healthcare report was commissioned to help determine whether the healthcare industry is prepared to deal with the increased threat of cyberattacks. Healthcare IT and security professionals from the United States and United Kingdom were surveyed for the report The report highlighted the sorry state of cybersecurity in healthcare and revealed why cyberattacks so commonly succeed. Devices are left unprotected, outdated operating systems are still in use, many healthcare organizations have poor visibility into network activity, employees are not being trained to identify threats, and there is apathy about security in many organizations. The Poor State of Cybersecurity in Healthcare The use of mobile devices in hospitals has increased significantly in recent years. While the devices can help to improve efficiency, mobile devices can introduce considerable...

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Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant?
Nov14

Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant?

Is Google Hangouts HIPAA compliant? Can Google Hangouts be used by healthcare professionals to transmit and receive protected health information (PHI)? Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant? Healthcare organizations frequently ask about Google services and HIPAA compliance, and one product in particular has caused some confusion is Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts is the latest incarnation of the Hangouts video chat system, and has taken the place of Huddle (Google+ Messenger). Google Hangouts is a cloud-based communication platform that incorporates four different elements: Video chat, SMS, VOIP, and an instant messaging service. Google will sign a business associate agreement for G Suite, which currently covers the following Google core services Gmail Calendar Google Drive (Includes Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms) Apps Script Keep Sites Jamboard Google Cloud Search Vault (If applicable) Google Hangouts (Chat messaging) Hangouts Meet The Business Associate Agreement does not cover Google Groups, Google Contacts, and Google+, none of which can be used in...

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Ursnif Trojan Steals Contacts and Sends Spear Phishing Emails
Nov13

Ursnif Trojan Steals Contacts and Sends Spear Phishing Emails

The banking Trojan Ursnif, one of the most commonly used banking Trojans, has previously been used to attack financial institutions. However, it would appear the actors behind the malware have broadened their horizons, with attacks now being conducted on a wide range of organizations across many different industries, including healthcare. The new version of the Ursnif Trojan was detected by researchers at security firm Barkly. The malware arrived in a phishing email that appeared to have been sent in response to a message sent to another organization. The spear phishing email included the message thread from past conversations, suggesting the email account of the contact had been compromised. The email contained a Word document as an attachment with the message “Morning, Please see attached and confirm.”  While such a message would arouse suspicion if that was the only content in the email body, the inclusion of the message thread added legitimacy to the email. The document contained a malicious macro that ran Powershell commands which tried to download the malicious payload;...

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President Trump Nominates Alex Azar for HHS Secretary
Nov13

President Trump Nominates Alex Azar for HHS Secretary

Former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, is tipped to take over from former Secretary Tom Price after receiving the presidential nomination for the role. Azar previously served as general counsel to the HHS and Deputy Secretary during the George W. Bush administration. President Trump confirmed on Twitter that he believes Azar is the man for the job, tweeting “Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” The position of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was vacated by former Secretary Tom Price in September, following revelations about his controversial use of military aircraft and expensive charter flights to travel around the country. While there were several potential candidates tipped to receive the nomination, including commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, and administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, President Trump has made a controversial choice. Alex...

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In What Year Was HIPAA Passed into Legislature?
Nov13

In What Year Was HIPAA Passed into Legislature?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA was passed into legislature on August 21, 1996, when Bill Clinton added his signature to the bill. Initially, the purpose of HIPAA was to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage, especially for employees that were between jobs. HIPAA also standardized amounts that could be saved in pre-tax medical savings accounts, prohibited tax-deduction of interest on life insurance loans, enforced group health plan requirements, simplified the administration of healthcare with standard codes and practices, and introduced measures to prevent healthcare fraud. Many of the details of the five titles of HIPAA took some time to be developed, and several years passed before HIPAA Rules became enforceable. The HIPAA Enforcement Rule, which allows the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to impose financial penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA Rules, was not passed until February 16, 2006 – A decade after HIPAA was first introduced. There have been several important dates in the past...

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MongoDB and AWS Incorporate New Security Controls to Prevent Data Breaches
Nov10

MongoDB and AWS Incorporate New Security Controls to Prevent Data Breaches

Amazon has announced that new safeguards have been incorporated into its cloud server that will make it much harder for users to misconfigure their S3 buckets and accidentally leave their data unsecured. While Amazon will sign a business associate agreement with HIPAA-covered entities, and has implemented appropriate controls to ensure data can be stored securely, but user errors can all too easily lead to data exposure and breaches. Those breaches show that even HIPAA-compliant cloud services have potential to leak data. This year has seen many organizations accidentally leave their S3 data exposed online, including several healthcare organizations. Two such breaches were reported by Accenture and Patient Home Monitoring. Accenture was using four unsecured cloud-based storage servers that stored more than 137 GB of data including 40,000 plain-text passwords. The Patient Home Monitoring AWS S3 misconfiguration resulted in the exposure of 150,000 patients’ PHI. In response to multiple breaches, Amazon has announced that new safeguards have been implemented to alert users to exposed...

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2017 Data Breach Report Reveals 305% Annual Rise in Breached Records
Nov09

2017 Data Breach Report Reveals 305% Annual Rise in Breached Records

A 2017 data breach report from Risk Based Security (RBS), a provider of real time information and risk analysis tools, has revealed there has been a 305% increase in the number of records exposed in data breaches in the past year. For its latest breach report, RBS analyzed breach reports from the first 9 months of 2017. RBS explained in a recent blog post, 2017 has been “yet another ‘worst year ever’ for data breaches.” In Q3, 2017, there were 1,465 data breaches reported, bringing the total number of publicly disclosed data breaches up to 3,833 incidents for the year. So far in 2017, more than 7 billion records have been exposed or stolen. RBS reports there has been a steady rise in publicly disclosed data breaches since the end of May, with September the worst month of the year to date. More than 600 data breaches were disclosed in September. Over the past five years there has been a steady rise in reported data breaches, increasing from 1,966 data breaches in 2013 to 3,833 in 2017. Year on year, the number of reported data breaches has increased by 18.2%. The severity of data...

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Healthcare Data Breach Analysis Questioned
Nov08

Healthcare Data Breach Analysis Questioned

Large healthcare providers experience more data breaches than smaller healthcare providers, at least that is what a healthcare data breach analysis from Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business suggests. For the study, the researchers used breach reports submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. HIPAA-covered entities are required to submit breach reports to OCR, and under HITECT Act requirements, OCR publishes the breaches that impact more than 500 individuals. The Ge Bai, PhD., led study, which was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, indicates between 2009 and 2016, 216 hospitals had reported a data breach and 15% of hospitals reported more than one breach. The analysis of the breach reports suggest teaching hospitals are more likely to suffer data breaches – a third of breached hospitals were major teaching centers. The study also suggested larger hospitals were more likely to experience data breaches. Now, a team of doctors from Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, TN have called the data breach statistics details...

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How Can Healthcare Organizations Prevent Phishing Attacks?
Nov07

How Can Healthcare Organizations Prevent Phishing Attacks?

The threat from phishing is greater than ever before. Healthcare organizations must now invest heavily in phishing defenses to counter the threat and prevent phishing attacks and the theft of credentials and protected health information. Phishing on an Industrial Scale More phishing websites are being developed than ever before. The scale of the problem was highlighted in the Q3 Quarterly Threat Trends Report from Webroot. In December 2016, Webroot reported there were more than 13,000 new phishing websites created every day – Around 390,000 new phishing webpages every month. By Q3, 2017, that figure had risen to more than 46,000 new phishing webpages a day – around 1,385,000 per month. The report indicated 63% of companies surveyed had experienced a phishing related security incident in the past two years. Phishing webpages need to be created on that scale as they are now detected much more rapidly and added to blacklists. Phishing websites now typically remain active for between 4-6 hours, although that short time frame is sufficient for each site to capture many users’...

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When Should You Promote HIPAA Awareness?
Nov06

When Should You Promote HIPAA Awareness?

All employees must receive training on HIPAA Rules, but when should you promote HIPAA awareness? How often should HIPAA retraining take place? HIPAA-covered entities, business associates and subcontractors are all required to comply with HIPAA Rules, and all workers must receive training on HIPAA. HIPAA training should ideally be provided before any employee is given access to PHI. Training should cover the allowable uses and disclosures of PHI, patient privacy, data security, job-specific information, internal policies covering privacy & security, and HIPAA best practices. The penalties for HIPAA violations, and the consequences for individuals discovered to have violated HIPAA Rules, must also be explained. If employees do not receive training, they will not be aware of their responsibilities and privacy violations are likely to occur. Additional training must also be provided whenever there is a material change to HIPAA Rules or internal policies with respect to PHI, following the release of new guidance, or implementation of new technology. HIPAA Training Cannot be a...

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Is G Suite HIPAA Compliant?
Nov03

Is G Suite HIPAA Compliant?

Is G Suite HIPAA compliant? Can G Suite be used by HIPAA-covered entities without violating HIPAA Rules? Google has developed G Suite to include privacy and security protections to keep data secure, and those protections are of a sufficiently high standard to meet the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule. Google will also sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with HIPAA covered entities. So, is G Suite HIPAA compliant? G Suite can be used without violating HIPAA Rules, but HIPAA compliance is more about the user than the cloud service provider. Making G Suite HIPAA Compliant (by default it isn’t) As with any secure cloud service or platform, it is possible to use it in a manner that violates HIPAA Rules. In the case of G Suite, all the safeguards are in place to allow HIPAA covered entities to use G Suite in a HIPAA compliant manner, but it is up to the covered entity to ensure that G Suite is configured correctly. It is possible to use G Suite and violate HIPAA Rules. Obtain a BAA from Google One important requirement of HIPAA is to obtain a signed, HIPAA-compliant...

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What Happens if a Nurse Violates HIPAA?
Nov03

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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New Study Reveals Lack of Phishing Awareness and Data Security Training
Nov03

New Study Reveals Lack of Phishing Awareness and Data Security Training

There is a commonly held view among IT staff that employees are the biggest data security risk; however, when it comes to phishing, even IT security staff are not immune. A quarter of IT workers admitted to falling for a phishing scam, compared to one in five office workers (21%), and 34% of business owners and high-execs, according to a recent survey by Intermedia. For its 2017 Data Vulnerability Report, Intermedia surveyed more than 1,000 full time workers and asked questions about data security and the behaviors that can lead to data breaches, malware and ransomware attacks. When all it takes is for one employee to fall for a phishing email to compromise a network, it is alarming that 14% of office workers either lacked confidence in their ability to detect phishing attacks or were not aware what phishing is. Confidence in the ability to detect phishing scams was generally high among office workers, with 86% believing they could identify phishing emails, although knowledge of ransomware was found to be lacking, especially among female workers. 40% of female workers did not know...

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Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) Introduced by NY AG
Nov03

Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) Introduced by NY AG

The Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) has been introduced into the legislature in New York by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The aim of the act is to protect New Yorkers from needless breaches of their personal information and to ensure they are notified when such breaches occur. The program bill, which was sponsored by Senator David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) and Assembly member Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), is intended to improve protections for New York residents without placing an unnecessary burden on businesses. The introduction of the SHIELD Act comes weeks after the announcement of the Equifax data breach which impacted more than 8 million New Yorkers. In 2016, more than 1,300 data breaches were reported to the New York attorney general’s office – a 60% increase in breaches from the previous year. Attorney General Schneiderman explained that New York’s data security laws are “weak and outdated” and require an urgent update. While federal laws require some organizations to implement data security controls, in New York, there are no...

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HIMSS Draws Attention to Five Current Cybersecurity Threats
Nov02

HIMSS Draws Attention to Five Current Cybersecurity Threats

In its October Cybersecurity report, HIMSS draws attention to five current cybersecurity threats that could potentially be used against healthcare organizations to gain access to networks and protected health information. Wi-Fi Attacks Security researchers have identified a new attack method called a key reinstallation (CRACK) attack that can be conducted on WiFi networks using the WPA2 protocol. These attacks take advantage of a flaw in the way the protocol performs a 4-way handshake when a user attempts to connect to the network. By manipulating and replaying the cryptographic handshake messages, it would be possible to reinstall a key that was already in use and to intercept all communications. The use of a VPN when using Wi-Fi networks is strongly recommended to limit the potential for this attack scenario and man-in-the-middle attacks. BadRabbit Ransomware Limited BadRabbit ransomware attacks have occurred in the United States, although the NotPetya style ransomware attacks have been extensive in Ukraine. As with NotPetya, it is believed the intention is to cause disruption...

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Survey Reveals Sharing EHR Passwords is Commonplace
Nov02

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. Any attempts to access protected health information must be logged to allow healthcare organizations to monitor for unauthorized access. If login credentials are shared with other individuals, it is...

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Tips for Reducing Mobile Device Security Risks
Nov01

Tips for Reducing Mobile Device Security Risks

An essential part of HIPAA compliance is reducing mobile device security risks to a reasonable and acceptable level. As healthcare organizations turn to mobiles devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones, and tablets to improve efficiency and productivity, many are introducing risks that could all too easily result in a data breach and the exposure of protected health information (PHI). As the breach reports submitted to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights show, mobile devices are commonly involved in data breaches. Between January 2015 and the end of October 2017, 71 breaches have been reported to OCR that have involved mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, and portable storage devices. Those breaches have resulted in the exposure of 1,303,760 patients and plan member records. 17 of those breaches have resulted in the exposure of more than 10,000 records, with the largest breach exposing 697,800 records. The majority of those breaches could have easily been avoided. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule does not demand...

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Who Does HIPAA Apply To?
Oct31

Who Does HIPAA Apply To?

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules cover the allowable uses and disclosures of protected health information secure and data security, but who does HIPAA apply to? Which types of organizations must implement HIPAA compliance programs? Who Does HIPAA Apply to? HIPAA applies to healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses if those organizations transmit health data electronically in connection with transactions for which the Department of Health and Human Services has adopted standards. Healthcare providers that are typically required to comply with HIPAA Rules includes hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, chiropractors, and psychologists. Health plans include HMO’s, health insurance providers, company health plans, government programs that pay for health care such as Medicaid and Medicare, and veterans’ health programs. Self-insured companies that provide health coverage to their employees are also required to comply with HIPAA Rules. Healthcare clearinghouses include entities that process...

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Phishing Attacks Using Malicious URLs Rose 600 Percent in Q3, 2017
Oct27

Phishing Attacks Using Malicious URLs Rose 600 Percent in Q3, 2017

As recent healthcare breach notices have shown, phishing poses a major threat to the confidentiality of protected health information (PHI). The past few weeks have seen several healthcare organizations announce email accounts containing the PHI of thousands of patients have been accessed by unauthorized individuals as a result of healthcare employees responding to phishing emails. Report Shows Massive Rise in Phishing Attacks Using Malicious URLs This week has seen the publication of a new report that confirms there has been a major increase in malicious email volume over the past few months. Proofpoint’s Quarterly Threat Report, published on October 26, shows malicious email volume soared in quarter 3, 2017. Compared to the volume of malicious emails recorded in quarter 2, there was an 85% rise in malicious emails in Q3. While attachments have long been used to deliver malware downloaders and other malicious code, Q3 saw a massive rise in phishing attacks using malicious URLs. Clicking those links directs end users to websites where malware is downloaded or login credentials are...

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Is AWS HIPAA Compliant?
Oct27

Is AWS HIPAA Compliant?

Is AWS HIPAA compliant? Amazon Web Services has all the protections to satisfy the HIPAA Security Rule and Amazon will sign a business associate agreement with healthcare organizations. So, is AWS HIPAA compliant? Yes. And No. AWS can be HIPAA compliant, but it is also easy to make configuration mistakes that will leave protected health information (PHI) unprotected and accessible by unauthorized individuals, violating HIPAA Rules. Amazon Will Sign a Business Associate Agreement for AWS Amazon is keen for healthcare organizations to use AWS, and as such, a business associate agreement will be signed. Under that agreement, Amazon will support the security, control, and administrative processes required under HIPAA. Previous, under the terms of the AWS BAA, the AWS HIPAA compliance program required covered entities and business associates to use Amazon EC2 Dedicated Instances or Dedicated Hosts to process Protected Health Information (PHI), although that is now no longer the case. As part of its efforts to help healthcare organizations use AWS safely and securely without violating...

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Bad Rabbit Ransomware Spread Via Fake Flash Player Updates
Oct25

Bad Rabbit Ransomware Spread Via Fake Flash Player Updates

A new ransomware threat has been detected – named Bad Rabbit ransomware – that has crippled businesses in Russia, Ukraine, and Europe. Some Bad Rabbit ransomware attacks have occurred in the United States. Healthcare organizations should take steps to block the threat. There are similarities between Bad Rabbit ransomware and NotPetya, which was used in global attacks in June. Some security researchers believe the new threat is a NotPetya variant, others have suggested it is more closely related to a ransomware variant called HDDCryptor. HDDCryptor was used in the ransomware attack on the San Francisco Muni in November 2016. Regardless of the source of the code, it spells bad news for any organization that has an endpoint infected. Bad Rabbit ransomware encrypts files using a combination of AES and RSA-2048, rendering files inaccessible. As with NotPetya, changes are made to the Master Boot Record (MBR) further hampering recovery. This new ransomware threat is also capable of spreading rapidly inside a network. The recent wave of attacks started in Russia and Ukraine on...

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Employees Sue Lincare Over W2 Phishing Attack
Oct23

Employees Sue Lincare Over W2 Phishing Attack

In February 2017, Lincare Holdings Inc., a supplier of home respiratory therapy products, experienced a breach of sensitive employee data. The W2 forms of thousands of employees were emailed to a fraudster by an employee of the human resources department. The HR department employee was fooled by a business email compromise (BEC) scam. While health data was not exposed, names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and details of employees’ earnings were obtained by the attacker. This year has seen an uptick in W2 phishing scams, with healthcare organizations and schools extensively targeted by scammers. The scam involves the attacker using a compromised company email account – or a spoofed company email address – to request copies of W2 forms from HR department employees. Cyberattacks that result in the sensitive data of patients and consumers being exposed often results in class action lawsuits, although it is relatively rare for employees to take legal action against their employers. Lincare is one of few companies to face a lawsuit for failing to protect employee data. Three former...

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Beazley Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct23

Beazley Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report

Beazley, a provider of data breach insurance and response services, has published a special report on healthcare data breaches covering the first nine months of 2017. While hacking and malware attacks are common, by far the biggest cause of healthcare data breaches in 2017 was unintended disclosures. Hacking and malware accounted for 19% of breaches, while unintended disclosures accounted for 41% of incidents. The figures show healthcare organizations are still struggling to prevent human error from resulting in the exposure of health data. As Beazley explains in its report, it is easier to control and mitigate internal breaches than it is to block cyberattacks by outsiders, yet many healthcare organizations are failing to address the problem effectively. “We urge organizations not to ignore this significant risk and to invest time and resources towards employee training.” Beazley notes that the number of cases of employee snooping on records and other insider incidents is getting worse. This time last year, 12% of healthcare data breaches were insider incidents, but in 2017 the...

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Who Should HIPAA Complaints be Directed to Within the Covered Entity?
Oct23

Who Should HIPAA Complaints be Directed to Within the Covered Entity?

Who should HIPAA complaints be directed to within the covered entity? Any healthcare employee who believes they have witnessed a HIPAA violation should report the incident internally. Typically, the person to report the violation to is your Privacy Officer, if your organization has appointed one. Reporting Potential HIPAA Violations Internally During your HIPAA training, you should have been told who should HIPAA complaints be directed to within the covered entity, and the procedures to follow for making complaints about potential HIPAA violations. Generally speaking, the HIPAA violation should be reported to the person in your organization who is responsible for HIPAA compliance, which is typically your Privacy Officer or CISO. You may feel more comfortable reporting the incident to your supervisor. All HIPAA violations, even HIPAA violations that seem relatively minor, should be reported. They could be indicative of a wider problem, so it is important they are investigated internally. Accidental HIPAA violations should also be reported. It is better to own up to a minor HIPAA...

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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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Namaste Health Care Pays Ransom to Recover PHI
Oct17

Namaste Health Care Pays Ransom to Recover PHI

A hacker gained access to a file server used by Ashland, MI-based Namaste Health Care and installed ransomware, encrypting a wide range of data including patients’ protected health information. Access was gained to the file server over the weekend of August 12-13 and ransomware was installed; however, prior to the installation of ransomware it is unclear whether patients’ PHI was accessed or stolen. The Ashland clinic discovered its data had been encrypted when staff returned to work on Monday, August 14. Prompt action was taken to prevent any further accessing of its file server, including disabling access and taking the server offline. An external contractor was brought in to help remediate the attack and remove all traces of malware from its system. In order to recover data, Namaste Health Care made the decision to pay the attacker’s ransom demand. In this case, a valid key was supplied by that individual and it was possible to unlock the encrypted files. The clinic was able to recover data and bring its systems back online after a few days. The incident prompted the clinic to...

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Q3, 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct16

Q3, 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In Q3, 2017, there were 99 breaches of more than 500 records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), bringing the total number of data breaches reported in 2017 up to 272 incidents. The 99 data breaches in Q3, 2017 saw 1,767,717 individuals’ PHI exposed or stolen. So far in 2017, the records of 4,601,097 Americans have been exposed or stolen as a result of healthcare data breaches. Q3 Data Breaches by Covered Entity Healthcare providers were the worst hit in Q3, reporting a total of 76 PHI breaches. Health plans reported 17 breaches and there were 6 data breaches experienced by business associates of covered entities. There were 31 data breaches reported in July, 29 in August, and 39 in September. While September was the worst month for data breaches, August saw the most records exposed – 695,228. The Ten Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in Q3, 2017 The ten largest healthcare data breaches reported to OCR in Q3, 2017 were all the result of hacking/IT incidents. In fact, 36 out of the 50 largest healthcare data breaches in...

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What Federal Department Regulates HIPAA?
Oct16

What Federal Department Regulates HIPAA?

Healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates of those organizations must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but what federal department regulates HIPAA and takes action against organizations that fail to comply with HIPAA Rules? What Federal Department Regulates HIPAA? HIPAA is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Since the introduction of the HIPAA Enforcement Rule in March 2006, OCR was given the power to investigate complaints about HIPAA violations. OCR was also given the right to issue civil monetary penalties if HIPAA-covered entities were found to have violated HIPAA Rules. While OCR had the power to issue financial penalties, it is relatively rare for HIPAA violations to result in financial penalties. Over the years since the Enforcement Rule was passed, OCR has steadily increased enforcement of HIPAA Rules, although it has only been in the past four years that financial penalties for HIPAA violations have become more common. Since the...

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Is Skype HIPAA Compliant?
Oct13

Is Skype HIPAA Compliant?

Text messaging platforms such as Skype are a convenient way of quickly communicating information, but is Skype HIPAA compliant? Can Skype be used to send text messages containing electronic protected health information (ePHI) without risking violating HIPAA Rules? There is currently some debate surrounding Skype and HIPAA compliance. Skype includes security features to prevent unauthorized access of information transmitted via the platform and messages are encrypted. But does Skype satisfy all requirements of HIPAA Rules? This article will attempt to answer the question, Is Skype HIPAA compliant? Is Skype a Business Associate? Is Skype a HIPAA business associate? That is a matter that has been much debated. Skype could be considered an exception under the Conduit Rule – being merely a conduit through which information flows. If that is the case, a business associate agreement would not be necessary. However, a business associate agreement is necessary if a vendor creates, receives, maintains, or transmits PHI on behalf of a HIPAA-covered entity or one of its business associates....

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How to Secure Patient Information (PHI)
Oct13

How to Secure Patient Information (PHI)

HIPAA requires healthcare organizations of all sizes to secure protected health information (PHI), but how can covered entities secure patient information? If you are asked how you secure patient information, could you provide an answer? How Can You Secure Patient Information? HIPAA requires healthcare organizations and their business associates to implement safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI, although there is little detail provided on how to secure patient information in HIPAA regulations. This is intentional, as the pace that technology is advancing is far greater than the speed at which HIPAA can be updated. If details were included, they would soon be out of date. Technology is constantly changing and new vulnerabilities are being discovered in systems and software previously thought to be secure. Securing patient information is therefore not about implementing security solutions and forgetting about them. To truly secure patient information you must regularly review your security controls, update policies and procedures, maintain...

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Why is HIPAA Important?
Oct12

Why is HIPAA Important?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a landmark piece of legislation, but why is HIPAA important? What changes did HIPAA introduce and what are the benefits to the healthcare industry and patients? HIPAA was introduced in 1996, primarily to address one particular issue: Insurance coverage for individuals that are between jobs. Without HIPAA, employees faced a loss of insurance coverage when they were between jobs. A second goal of HIPAA was to prevent healthcare fraud and ensure that all ‘protected health information’ was appropriately secured and to restrict access to health data to authorized individuals. Why is HIPAA Important for Healthcare Organizations? HIPAA introduced a number of important benefits for the healthcare industry to help with the transition from paper records to electronic copies of health information. HIPAA has helped to streamline administrative healthcare functions, improve efficiency in the healthcare industry, and ensure protected health information is shared securely. The standards for recording health data and electronic...

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Do Medical Practices Need to Monitor Business Associates for HIPAA Compliance?
Oct11

Do Medical Practices Need to Monitor Business Associates for HIPAA Compliance?

Should covered entities monitor business associates for HIPAA compliance or is it sufficient just obtain a signed, HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement? If a business associate provides reasonable assurances to a covered entity that HIPAA Rules are being followed, and errors are made by the BA that result in the exposure, theft, or accidental disclosure of PHI, the covered entity will not be liable for the BA’s HIPAA violations – provided the covered entity has entered into a business associate agreement with its business associate. It is the responsibility of the business associate to ensure compliance with HIPAA Rules. The failure of a business associate to comply with HIPAA Rules can result in financial penalties for HIPAA violations for the business associate, not the covered entity. A covered entity should ‘obtain satisfactory assurances’ that HIPAA Rules will be followed prior to disclosing PHI. While covered entities are not required by HIPAA to monitor business associates for HIPAA compliance, they should obtain proof that their business associate has performed an...

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47GB of Medical Records and Test Results Found in Unsecured Amazon S3 Bucket
Oct11

47GB of Medical Records and Test Results Found in Unsecured Amazon S3 Bucket

Researchers at Kromtech Security have identified another unsecured Amazon S3 bucket used by a HIPAA-covered entity. The unsecured Amazon S3 bucket contained 47.5GB of medical data relating to an estimated 150,000 patients. The medical data in the files included blood test results, physician’s names, case management notes, and the personal information of patients, including their names, addresses, and contact telephone numbers. The researchers said many of the stored documents were PDF files, containing information on multiple patients that were having weekly blood tests performed. In total, approximately 316,000 PDF files were freely accessible. The tests had been performed in patient’s homes, as requested by physicians, by Patient Home Monitoring Corporation. Kromtech researchers said the data could be accessed without a password. Anyone with an Internet connection, that knew where to look, could have accessed all 316,000 files. Whether any unauthorized individuals viewed or downloaded the files is not known. The researchers were also unable to tell how long the Amazon S3 bucket...

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Summary of September 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches
Oct10

Summary of September 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches

There were 39 healthcare data breaches involving more than 500 records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights in September 2017. Those breaches resulted in the theft/exposure of 473,074 patients’ protected health information. September 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches September 2017 healthcare data breaches followed a similar pattern to previous months. Healthcare providers suffered the most breaches with 27 reported incidents, followed by health plans with 10 breaches, and 2 breaches reported by business associates of covered entities. The biggest cause of healthcare data breaches in September was unauthorized access/disclosures (18 breaches), closely followed by hacking and IT incidents (17 breaches). Three theft incidents were reported and one covered entity reported the loss of an unencrypted device containing ePHI. All of the incidents involving loss or theft of devices related to laptops. One incident also involved a desktop computer and another the theft of physical records. There were no reported cases of improper disposal of PHI....

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New AEHIS/ MDISS Partnership to Focus on Advancing Medical Device Cybersecurity
Oct10

New AEHIS/ MDISS Partnership to Focus on Advancing Medical Device Cybersecurity

A new partnership has been announced between CHIME’s Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS) and the Foundation for Innovation, Translation and Safety Science’s Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium (MDISS). The aim of the new collaboration is to help advance medical device cybersecurity and improve patient safety. The two organizations will work together to help members identify, mitigate, and prevent cybersecurity threats by issuing cybersecurity best practices, educating about the threats to device security, training members, and promoting information sharing. For the past three years, AEHIS has been helping healthcare organizations improve their information security defences. More than 700 CISOs and other healthcare IT security leaders have benefited from the education and networking opportunities provided by AEHIS. AEHIS helps its members protect patients from cyber threats, including cyberattacks on their medical devices, though its educational efforts, sharing best practices, and many other activities. MDISS now consists of...

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What Does HIPAA Stand For?
Oct10

What Does HIPAA Stand For?

What does HIPAA stand for? HIPAA is an acronym of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 – a legislative act that had the primary aim of improving portability and accountability of healthcare coverage for employees between jobs. HIPAA also helped to ensure employees with pre-existing health conditions were provided with health insurance coverage. HIPAA also introduced standards that healthcare organizations were required to follow to reduce the paperwork burden and simplify the administration of health insurance. The HIPAA administrative simplification regulations streamlined billing, sending and receiving payments, and verifying eligibility. They also helped to ensure the smooth transition from paper to electronic health records and transitions. Since 1996, there have been several major updates to HIPAA, notably the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the HIPAA Security Rule, the HIPAA Enforcement Rule, the inclusion of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act requirements (The HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule), and the Breach Notification...

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Internet of Medical Things Resilience Partnership Act Bill Introduced
Oct09

Internet of Medical Things Resilience Partnership Act Bill Introduced

The Internet of Medical Things Resilience Partnership Act has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The main aim of the bill is to establish a public-private stakeholder partnership, which will be tasked with developing a cybersecurity framework that can be adopted by medical device manufacturers and other stakeholders to prevent data breaches and make medical devices more resilient to cyberattacks. The range of medical devices now being used in healthcare is considerable and the number is only likely to grow. As more devices are introduced, the risk to patients increases. These devices are currently used in hospitals, worn by patients, fitted surgically, or used at home. The devices include drug infusion pumps, ventilators, radiological technologies, pacemakers, and monitors. If appropriate safeguards are not incorporated into the devices, they will be vulnerable to attack. Those attacks could be performed to gain access to the data stored or recorded by the devices, to use the devices to launch attacks on healthcare networks, or to alter the function of the...

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53% of Businesses Have Misconfigured Secure Cloud Storage Services
Oct09

53% of Businesses Have Misconfigured Secure Cloud Storage Services

The healthcare industry has embraced the cloud. Many healthcare organizations now use secure cloud storage services to host web applications or store files containing electronic protected health information (ePHI). However, just because secure cloud storage services are used, it does not mean data breaches will not occur, and neither does it guarantee compliance with HIPAA. Misconfigured secure cloud storage services are leaking sensitive data and many organizations are unaware sensitive information is exposed. A Business Associate Agreement Does Not Guarantee HIPAA Compliance Prior to using any cloud storage service, HIPAA-covered entities must obtain a signed business associate agreement from their service providers. Obtaining a signed, HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement prior to the uploading any ePHI to the cloud is an important element of HIPAA compliance, but a BAA alone will not guarantee compliance. ePHI can easily be exposed if cloud storage services are not configured correctly. As Microsoft explains, “By offering a BAA, Microsoft helps support your HIPAA...

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Is WhatsApp HIPAA Compliant?
Oct06

Is WhatsApp HIPAA Compliant?

When WhatsApp announced it was introducing end-to-end encryption, it opened up the prospect of healthcare organizations using the platform as an almost free secure messaging app, but is WhatsApp HIPAA compliant? Many healthcare employees have been asking if WhatsApp is HIPAA compliant, and some healthcare professionals are already using the text messaging app to send protected health information (PHI). However, while WhatsApp does offer far greater protection than SMS messages and some other text messaging platforms, we believe WhatsApp is not a HIPAA compliant messaging platform. Why Isn’t WhatsApp HIPAA Compliant? First, it is important to point out that no software platform or messaging app can be truly HIPAA compliant, because HIPAA compliance is not about software. It is about users. Software can support HIPAA compliance and incorporate all the necessary safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI, but those controls can easily be undone by users. HIPAA does not demand that encryption is used. Provided an alternate, equivalent measure is...

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What are the Differences Between a HIPAA Business Associate and HIPAA Covered Entity
Oct06

What are the Differences Between a HIPAA Business Associate and HIPAA Covered Entity

The terms covered entity and business associate are used extensively in HIPAA legislation, but what are the differences between a HIPAA business associate and HIPAA covered entity? What Are HIPAA Covered Entities? HIPAA covered entities are healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses that electronically transmit health information for transactions covered by HHS standards. Healthcare providers include hospitals and clinics, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, pharmacies and nursing homes. Health plans include health insurance companies, company health plans, government programs that pay for healthcare, and HMO’s. Healthcare clearinghouses include transcription service companies that format data to make it compliant and organizations that process non-standard health information. Even if an entity is a healthcare provider, health plan or healthcare clearinghouse, they are not considered a HIPAA covered entity if they do not transmit any information electronically for transactions that HHS has adopted standards. In such cases, the entity would not be...

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Government Accountability Office Report Confirms Widespread Security Failures at 24 Federal Agencies
Oct06

Government Accountability Office Report Confirms Widespread Security Failures at 24 Federal Agencies

A Government Accountability Office report has shown federal agencies are struggling to implement effective information security programs and are placing data systems and data at risk of compromise. In its report to Congress – Federal Information Security – Weaknesses Continue to Indicate Need for Effective Implementation of Policies and Practices – GAO explained, “The emergence of increasingly sophisticated threats and continuous reporting of cyber incidents underscores the continuing and urgent need for effective information security.” However, “Systems used by federal agencies are often riddled with security vulnerabilities—both known and unknown.” GAO explained that “The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) requires federal agencies in the executive branch to develop, document, and implement an information security program and evaluate it for effectiveness.” Every year, each federal agency is required to have information security program and practices reviewed by its inspector general, or an external auditor, to determine the effectiveness of the...

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70% of Employees Lack Privacy and Security Awareness
Oct05

70% of Employees Lack Privacy and Security Awareness

When it comes to privacy and security awareness, many U.S. workers still have a lot to learn. Best practices for privacy and security are still not well understood by 70% of U.S. employees, according to a recent study by MediaPro, a provider of privacy and security awareness training. For the study, MediaPro surveyed 1,012 U.S. employees and asked them a range of questions to determine their understanding of privacy and security, whether they followed industry best practices, and to find out what types of risky behaviors they engage in. 19.7% of respondents came from the healthcare industry – the best represented industry in the study. Respondents were rated on their overall privacy and security awareness scores, being categorized as a hero, novice, or a risk to their organization. 70% of respondents were categorized as a novice or risk. Last year when the study was conducted, 88% of U.S. workers were rated as a novice or risk. Last year, only 12% of respondents ranked as a hero. This year the percentage increased to 30% – A good sign that some employees have responded to...

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HIPAA Compliance for Home Health Care
Oct05

HIPAA Compliance for Home Health Care

HIPAA compliance for home health care workers can be difficult due to unique challenges they encounter that do not exist in brick and mortar hospitals. Home health care workers provide a valuable service for patients in the community – either visiting patients who are unable to attend hospital in their homes, or checking on their well-being via phone or video. These two scenarios raise unique challenges, and complicate HIPAA compliance for home health care workers – particularly with regard to the permitted disclosure of Protected Health Information. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, patients have the right to request details of their illnesses are withheld from some or all third parties. These third parties can include friends, family members and members of the clergy. Even when consent is given, health care workers – wherever they are located – should not disclose more than the minimum necessary Protected Health Information to third parties. This can cause awkward situations – and awkward relationships – in home environments when friends and family...

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NIST Updates its Risk Management Framework for Information Systems and Organizations
Oct03

NIST Updates its Risk Management Framework for Information Systems and Organizations

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated its Risk Management Framework for Information Systems and Organizations: A System Life Cycle Approach for Security and Privacy (SP 800-37) – The first time the Risk Management Framework has been updated in the seven years since it was first published. NIST was called upon to update the Framework by the Defense Science Board, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President’s Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. Because of the importance of information risk management to an organization’s overall risk management strategy, the C-Suite needs to get more involved in the implementation of information risk management processes. Security and privacy need to be taken into account when larger risk management decisions are being made. The Information Risk Management Framework is typically implemented at the system level, the realm of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO). However, NIST found that...

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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. 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 provided regularly to ensure HIPAA Rules are not forgotten. Employees...

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month: What to Expect
Oct02

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: What to Expect

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month – A month when attention is drawn to the importance of cybersecurity and several initiatives are launched to raise awareness about how critical cybersecurity is to the lives of U.S. citizens. National Cyber Security Awareness Month is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and public/private partners. Throughout the month of October, the DHS, NCSA, and public and private sector organizations will be conducting events and launching initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity. Best practices will be shared to help U.S. citizens keep themselves safe online and protect their companies, with tips and advice published to help businesses improve their cybersecurity defenses and keep systems and data secure. DHS and NCSA will focus on a different aspect of cybersecurity each week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month: National Cyber Security Awareness Month Summary Week 1: Simple Steps to Online Safety (Oct. 2-6) Week 2:...

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What Does HIPAA Mean?
Oct01

What Does HIPAA Mean?

What does HIPAA mean? HIPAA is an acronym of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – A legislative act that was signed into law in the United States by Bill Clinton on August 21, 1996. Initially, HIPAA was introduced to reform the healthcare industry and had two main aims: To ensure that when employees were between jobs, they would still be able to maintain healthcare coverage – The P in HIPAA – Portability. The second aim was to ensure the security and confidentiality of health information – The first A in HIPAA – Accountability. HIPAA includes standards that were intended to simplify healthcare transactions, in particular, with respect to electronic data transmission. These included the use of specific code sets and identifiers. Over the past two decades, HIPAA has been transformed and now includes many new rules that healthcare organizations must follow to ensure the privacy of patients is protected, sensitive data is kept secure at all times, and in the event of a data breach, affected individuals are notified. Major revisions of HIPAA Rules took place in 2003...

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Is OneDrive HIPAA Compliant?
Sep30

Is OneDrive HIPAA Compliant?

Many covered entities want to take advantage of cloud storage services, but can Microsoft OneDrive be used? Is OneDrive HIPAA compliant? Many healthcare organizations are already using Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials, including exchange online for email. Office 365 Business Essentials includes OneDrive Online, which is a convenient platform for storing and sharing files. Microsoft Supports HIPAA-Compliance There is certainly no problem with HIPAA-covered entities using OneDrive. Microsoft supports HIPAA-compliance and many of its cloud services, including OneDrive, can be used without violating HIPAA Rules. That said, before OneDrive – or any cloud service – can be used to create, store, or send files containing the electronic protected health information of patients, HIPAA-covered entities must obtain and sign a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement (BAA). Microsoft was one of the first cloud service providers to agree to sign a BAA with HIPAA-covered entities, and offers a BAA through the Online Services Terms. The BAA includes OneDrive for Business, as well...

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Why Dental Offices Should be Worried About HIPAA Compliance
Sep28

Why Dental Offices Should be Worried About HIPAA Compliance

In 2015, Dr. Joseph Beck became the first dentist to be fined for a HIPAA violation, which sent a warning to dental offices about HIPAA compliance.  Until that point, dental offices had avoided fines for noncompliance with HIPAA Rules. The penalty was not issued by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), but by the Office of the Indiana attorney general. The fine of $12,000 was for the alleged mishandling of the protected health information of 5,600 patients. Since then, many settlements have been reached with covered entities for HIPAA violations. No further penalties have been issued to dental offices, although there is nothing to stop OCR or state attorneys general from fining dental offices for failing to comply with HIPAA Rules and settlements for alleged HIPAA violations are now being reached much more frequently than in 2015. Last year was a record year for settlements and 2017 has continued where 2016 left off. The probability of HIPAA violations being discovered has also increased. OCR has already commenced the much-delayed second phase...

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HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Computing Platforms
Sep27

HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Computing Platforms

Before cloud services can be used by healthcare organizations for storing or processing protected health information (PHI) or for creating web-based applications that collect, store, maintain, or transmit PHI, covered entities must ensure the services are secure. Even when a cloud computing platform provider has HIPAA certification, or claims their service is HIPAA-compliant or supports HIPAA compliance, the platform cannot be used in conjunction with ePHI until a risk analysis – See 45 CFR §§ 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(A) – has been performed. A risk analysis is an essential element of HIPAA compliance for cloud computing platforms. After performing a risk analysis, a covered entity must establish risk management policies in relation to the service – 45 CFR §§ 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(B). Any risks identified must be managed and reduced to a reasonable and appropriate level. It would not be possible to perform a comprehensive, HIPAA-compliant risk analysis unless the covered entity fully understands the cloud computing environment and the service being offered by the platform...

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HITRUST/AMA Launch Initiative to Help Small Healthcare Providers with HIPAA Compliance
Sep27

HITRUST/AMA Launch Initiative to Help Small Healthcare Providers with HIPAA Compliance

HITRUST has announced it has partnered with the American Medical Association (AMA) for a new initiative that will help small healthcare providers with HIPAA compliance, cybersecurity, and cyber risk management. Small healthcare providers can be particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, as they typically lack the resources to devote to cybersecurity and do not tend to have the budgets available to hire skilled cybersecurity staff. This week has underscored the need for small practices to improve their cybersecurity defenses, with the announcement of two cyberattacks on small healthcare providers by the hacking group TheDarkOverlord. Recent ransomware attacks have also shown that healthcare organizations of all sizes are likely to be attacked. Organizations of all sizes must practice good cyber hygiene and have the right defenses in place to improve resilience against ever changing cyber threats. HITRUST and AMA will be hosting 2-hour workshops where physicians and other healthcare staff will be educated on key areas of risk management, HIPAA compliance, and cybersecurity, with the...

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The Benefits of Using Blockchain for Medical Records
Sep26

The Benefits of Using Blockchain for Medical Records

Blockchain is perhaps best known for keeping cryptocurrency transactions secure, but what about using blockchain for medical records? Could blockchain help to improve healthcare data security? The use of blockchain for medical records is still in its infancy, but there are clear security benefits that could help to reduce healthcare data breaches while making it far easier for health data to be shared between providers and accessed by patients. Currently, the way health records are stored and shared leaves much to be desired. The system is not efficient, there are many roadblocks that prevent the sharing of data and patients’ health data is not always stored by a single healthcare provider – instead a patients’ full health histories are fragmented and spread across multiple providers’ systems. Not only does this make it difficult for health data to be amalgamated, it also leaves data vulnerable to theft. When data is split between multiple providers and their business associates, there is considerable potential for a breach. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act...

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OIG Discovers Multiple Security Vulnerabilities in Alabama’s Medicaid Management Information System
Sep25

OIG Discovers Multiple Security Vulnerabilities in Alabama’s Medicaid Management Information System

The HHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has conducted a review of Alabama’s Medicaid data and information systems to ascertain whether the state was in compliance with federal regulations. The review covered the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) and associated policies and procedures. OIG also conducted a vulnerability scan on networked devices, databases, websites, and servers to identify vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited to gain access to systems and sensitive data. The audit revealed Alabama’s MMIS had multiple vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by hackers to gain access to its systems and Medicaid data. Alabama had adopted a security program for its MMIS, although several vulnerabilities had been allowed to persist. OIG said in its report, the vulnerabilities were “collectively and, in some cases, individually significant.” OIG did not uncover any evidence to suggest the vulnerabilities had already been exploited, although the vulnerabilities did place the integrity of the state Medicaid program at risk. By exploiting the...

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Fall in Healthcare Data Breaches in August: Rise in Breach Severity
Sep21

Fall in Healthcare Data Breaches in August: Rise in Breach Severity

Healthcare data breaches have fallen for the second month in a row, according to the latest installment of the Breach Barometer report from Protenus/Databreaches.net. In August, there were 33 reported healthcare data breaches, down from 36 incidents in July and 56 in June. While the reduction in data breaches is encouraging, that is still more than one healthcare data breach per day. August may have been the second best month of the year to date in terms of the number of reported incidents, but it was the third worst in terms of the number of individuals impacted. 575,142 individuals were impacted by healthcare data breaches in July, with the figure rising to 673,934 individuals in August. That figure will rise further still, since two incidents were not included in that total since it is not yet known how many individuals have been affected. The worst incident of the month was reported by Pacific Alliance Medical Center – A ransomware attack that impacted 266,133 patients – one of the worst ransomware incidents of the year to date. Throughout the year, insider incidents have...

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FDA Releases Final Premarket Guidance for Medical Device Manufacturers on Secure Data Exchange
Sep12

FDA Releases Final Premarket Guidance for Medical Device Manufacturers on Secure Data Exchange

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released final guidance on medical device interoperability, making several recommendations for smart, safe, and secure interactions between medical devices and health IT systems. The FDA says, “Advancing the ability of medical devices to exchange and use information safely and effectively with other medical devices, as well as other technology, offers the potential to increase efficiency in patient care.” Providers and patients are increasingly reliant on rapid and secure interactions between medical devices. All medical devices must therefore be able to reliably communicate information about patients to healthcare providers and work seamlessly together. For that to be the case, safe connectivity must be a central part of the design process. Manufacturers must also consider the users of the devices and clearly explain the functionality, interfaces, and correct usage of the devices. The guidelines spell out what is required and should help manufacturers develop devices that can communicate efficiently, effectively, and securely;...

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Vulnerabilities Identified in Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 Devices
Sep11

Vulnerabilities Identified in Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 Devices

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a warning about vulnerabilities in Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 wireless syringe infusion pumps. The vulnerabilities could potentially be exploited by hackers to alter the performance of the devices. Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 devices are used to deliver small doses of medication and are used throughout the United States and around the world in acute care settings. Eight vulnerabilities have been identified in three versions of the wireless syringe infusion pumps (V1.1, v1.5 and v1.6), with CVSS v3 scores ranging from 3.7 to 8.1. The vulnerabilities could be exploited remotely, potentially causing harm to patients. Hackers could also exploit the vulnerabilities to gain access to other healthcare IT systems if the devices are not segmented on the network. DHS says the impact to organizations depends on several factors, based on specific clinical usage and hospital’s operational environments. Six of the vulnerabilities relate to hard-coded passwords/credentials, certificate validation issues, and authentication gaps which...

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HIPAA and Ransomware: NCCoE/NIST Release Draft Guidelines for Ransomware Recovery
Sep08

HIPAA and Ransomware: NCCoE/NIST Release Draft Guidelines for Ransomware Recovery

Draft guidelines for ransomware recovery have been issued by the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The guidelines – NIST Special Publication 1800-11 – apply to all forms of data integrity attacks. SP 1800-11 is a detailed, standards-based guide that can be used by organizations of all sizes to develop recovery strategies to deal with data integrity attacks and establish best practices to minimize the damage caused and ensure a speedy recovery. NIST says, “When data integrity events occur, organizations must be able to recover quickly from the events and trust that the recovered data is accurate, complete, and free of malware.” NCCoE/NIST collaborated with cybersecurity vendors (GreenTec, HP, IBM, Tripwire, the MITRE Corporation and Veeam) to develop the guidelines, which will help organizations prepare for the worst and develop an effective strategy to recove from a cybersecurity event such as a ransomware attack. By adopting the best practices detailed in the guidelines, the recovery process...

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OCR Stresses Need for Covered Entities to Prepare for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters
Sep08

OCR Stresses Need for Covered Entities to Prepare for Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters

Hospitals in Texas and Louisiana had to ensure medical services continued to be provided during and after Hurricane Harvey, without violating HIPAA Rules. Questions were raised about when it is permitted to share health information with patients’ friends and family, the media and the emergency services and how the Privacy Rule applies in emergencies. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights responded by issuing guidance to covered entities on the HIPAA Privacy Rule and disclosures of patient health information in emergency situations to help healthcare organizations protect patient privacy and avoid violating HIPAA Rules. Allowable disclosures are summarized in this document. Hot on the heels of hurricane Harvey comes hurricane Irma, closely followed by hurricane Jose. Hospitals in other parts of the United States will have to cope with the storm and its aftermath and still comply with HIPAA Rules. OCR has taken the opportunity to remind covered entities of the need to prepare. OCR has explained that the HIPAA Privacy Rule was carefully created to ensure...

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OCR Head Expects Major HIPAA Settlement for a Big, Juicy, Egregious Breach in 2017
Sep06

OCR Head Expects Major HIPAA Settlement for a Big, Juicy, Egregious Breach in 2017

Roger Severino, the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stated his main enforcement priority for 2017 is to find a “big, juicy, egregious” HIPAA breach and to use it as an example for other healthcare organizations on the dangers of failing to follow HIPAA Rules. When deciding on which cases to pursue, OCR considers the opportunity to use the case as an educational tool to remind covered entities of the need to comply with specific aspects of HIPAA Rules. At the recent ‘Safeguarding Health Information’ conference run by OCR and NIST, Severino explained that “I have to balance that law enforcement instinct with the educational component that we do.” Severino went on to say, “I really want to make sure people come into compliance without us having to enforce. I want to underscore that.” Severino did not explain what aspect of noncompliance with HIPAA Rules OCR is hoping to highlight with its next big, juicy settlement, although no healthcare organization is immune to a HIPAA penalty if they are found to have violated HIPAA...

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FDA Announces Voluntary Recall of St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Pacemakers
Aug30

FDA Announces Voluntary Recall of St. Jude Medical Implantable Cardiac Pacemakers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended all patients with vulnerable St. Jude Medical implantable cardiac pacemakers visit their providers to have the firmware on their devices updated. The update will make the devices more resilient to cyberattacks. Last year, MedSec Holdings passed on the findings of a study of cybersecurity vulnerabilities in St. Jude Medical devices to the short-selling firm Muddy Waters Capital. The report identified a number of vulnerabilities that could be exploited to alter the functioning of the devices and drain batteries prematurely. While St. Jude Medical initially denied the vulnerabilities existed, the FDA investigated the claims and confirmed that remotely exploitable vulnerabilities were present in certain St. Jude Medical Products. Now, a year after the vulnerabilities were disclosed, the FDA has announced a voluntary recall of the devices to update the firmware to prevent the devices from being hacked via radio frequency communications. There are between 450,000 and 500,000 vulnerable devices currently in use in the United...

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New Ransomware and Phishing Warnings for Healthcare Organizations
Aug30

New Ransomware and Phishing Warnings for Healthcare Organizations

Warnings have been issued about a new ransomware variant that is being used in targeted attacks on healthcare organizations and IRS, FBI and Hurricane Harvey themed phishing attacks. Defray Ransomware A new ransomware variant is being used in highly targeted attacks on healthcare organizations in the United States and United Kingdom. Defray ransomware is being distributed in small email campaigns using carefully crafted messages specifically developed to maximize the probability of a response from healthcare providers. The messages claim to have been sent from the Director of Information Management and Technology at the targeted organization and include the hospital’s logos. The documents claim to be patient reports detailing important information for patients, relatives and carers. The messages are being sent to specific individuals in organizations and via distribution lists. The campaigns involve Microsoft Word documents with embedded OLE packager shell objects. Clicking the embedded executable to view the content of the document will see Defray ransomware downloaded. There is...

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Security Scorecard Gives Government and Healthcare Poor Marks for Security Posture
Aug25

Security Scorecard Gives Government and Healthcare Poor Marks for Security Posture

Body: Security Scorecard has released the findings of its 2017 U.S. State and Federal Government Cybersecurity study. The study assesses the cybersecurity posture of 17 industries, ranking them based on their security scores in ten categories. This year, the U.S. Government performed poorly again for cybersecurity, registering the third lowest overall score out of any sector. Only the telecommunications and education sectors performed worse. The pharmaceutical industry didn’t fare much better and was ranked fourth from bottom. The healthcare industry was in 13th place, 6th from bottom. The list was topped by the food industry, followed by entertainment in second and retail in third place. There is some news for the U.S. government. Last year, the government was rooted to the bottom of the list. Improvements have been made, although the U.S. government is still struggling to improving its security posture and still has serious network infrastructure weaknesses and vulnerabilities. In theory, smaller government organizations should fare better as they have a smaller attack surface to...

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Security Weaknesses Discovered in New Mexico and North Carolina Medicaid Programs
Aug24

Security Weaknesses Discovered in New Mexico and North Carolina Medicaid Programs

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has conducted reviews of the Medicaid programs run by North Carolina and New Mexico and has identified information security weaknesses that could potentially be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to systems and the sensitive data of Medicaid recipients. If the vulnerabilities were exploited, it would have placed the states’ Human Services Departments (HSD) at risk and compromised the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of eligibility systems. Similar reviews have been conducted to assess the security controls in place in other states. Vulnerabilities were also detected in the systems used in Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia, suggesting many states are struggling to implement appropriate policies, procedures and technology to comply with federal regulations on information security. As with healthcare organizations, state Medicaid programs face budgetary constraints and a lack of resources. It can be a major challenge to ensure appropriate resources are directed to...

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NIST Updates Digital Identity Guidelines and Tweaks Password Advice
Aug22

NIST Updates Digital Identity Guidelines and Tweaks Password Advice

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated its Digital Identity Guidelines (NIST Special Publication 800-63B), which includes revisions to its advice on the creation and storage of passwords. Digital authentication helps to ensure only authorized individuals can gain access to resources and sensitive data. NIST says, “authentication provides reasonable risk-based assurances that the subject accessing the service today is the same as the one who accessed the service previously.” The Digital Identity Guidelines include a number of recommendations that can be adopted to improve the digital authentication of subjects to systems over a network. The guidelines are not specific to the healthcare industry, although the recommendations can be adopted by healthcare organizations to improve password security. To improve the authentication process and make it harder for hackers to defeat the authentication process, NIST recommends the use of multi-factor authentication. For example, the use of a password along with a cryptographic authenticator. NIST suggests...

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Phillips Ships DoseWise Portal with Serious Vulnerabilities
Aug22

Phillips Ships DoseWise Portal with Serious Vulnerabilities

The Phillips web-based radiation monitoring app – DoseWise Portal (DWP) – has been shipped with serious vulnerabilities that could be easily exploited by hackers to gain access to patients’ protected health information. ISC-CERT has warned healthcare providers the vulnerabilities could be remotely exploited by hackers with a low level of skill to gain access to medical data. Two vulnerabilities have been identified. The first (CVE-2017-9656) is the use of hard-coded credentials in a back-end database with high privileges that could jeopardize the confidentiality, integrity and availability of stored data and the database itself. In order for an attacker to exploit the vulnerability, elevated privileges would be required to gain access to the system files of the back-office database. Even so, ICS-CERT says an attacker with a low level of skill could exploit the vulnerability and has given it a CVSS v3 rating of 9.1 out of 10. The second vulnerability (CVE-2017-9654) involves cleartext storage of sensitive information in back-end system files. The vulnerability has been given a CVSS...

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Healthcare Hacking Incidents Overtook Insider Breaches in July
Aug18

Healthcare Hacking Incidents Overtook Insider Breaches in July

Throughout 2017, the leading cause of healthcare data breaches has been insiders; however, in July hacking incidents dominated the breach reports. Almost half of the breaches (17 incidents) reported in July for which the cause of the breach is known were attributed to hacking, which includes ransomware and malware attacks. Ransomware was involved in 10 of the 17 incidents. The Protenus Breach Barometer report for July shows there were 36 reported breaches – The third lowest monthly total in 2017 and a major reduction from the previous month when 52 data breaches were reported – the worst month of the year to date by some distance. In July, 575,142 individuals are known to have been impacted by healthcare data breaches, although figures have only been released for 29 of the incidents. The worst breach reported in July – a ransomware attack on Women’s Health Care Group of PA – impacted 300,000 individuals. While hacking incidents are usually lower than insider breaches, they typically result in the theft or exposure of the most healthcare records. July was no exception....

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Ransomware Attack Suffered by Cove Family and Sports Medicine
Aug17

Ransomware Attack Suffered by Cove Family and Sports Medicine

A ransomware attack on Cove Family and Sports Medicine and Krichev Family Medicine, P.C., in Huntsville, Alabama resulted in the medical records and personal information of 4,300 patients being encrypted. Ransomware was installed on April 14, 2017. Cove Medicine had backed up its data and was able to reinstall its operating system and recover encrypted files from backups, without having to resort to paying the ransom. However, while the majority of PHI could be recovered, the backup devices were connected to its system at the time of the attack and some data were encrypted. Consequently, some information could not be recovered. Lost data was restricted to internal notes taken during visits dating back two years. Cove Medicine believes all other data have been recovered and the ability to provide medical services to patients has not been affected. Some ransomware attacks have involved data theft although, in this case, no evidence of data theft has been uncovered and there was no indication systems were accessed prior to the deployment of ransomware. The purpose of the attack is...

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Security Incidents Experienced by More Than a Third of Organizations in the IoT Medical Device Sphere
Aug17

Security Incidents Experienced by More Than a Third of Organizations in the IoT Medical Device Sphere

A recent Deloitte survey conducted on 370 professionals with involvement in the IoT medical device ecosystem revealed more than a third (36%) of organizations have experienced a security incident related to those devices in the past year. Respondents were medical device or component manufacturers, healthcare IT organizations, medical device users or regulators. When asked about the biggest challenges with IoT medical devices, 30% said identifying and mitigating risks of fielded and legacy connected devices was the biggest cybersecurity challenge. Other major challenges were incorporating vulnerability management into the design process (20%), monitoring for and responding to cybersecurity incidents (20%), and the lack of collaboration on threat management throughout the medical device supply chain (18%). 8% of respondents rated meeting regulatory requirements as the biggest challenge. Identifying and mitigating risks is only part of the problem. There will be times when cyberattacks succeed and malicious actors gain access to the devices. Healthcare organizations and device...

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August Sees OCR Breach Reports Surpass 2,000 Incidents
Aug16

August Sees OCR Breach Reports Surpass 2,000 Incidents

Following the introduction of the HITECH Act in 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has been publishing summaries of healthcare data breaches on its Wall of Shame.  August saw an unwanted milestone reached. There have now been more than 2,000 healthcare data breaches (impacting more than 500 individuals) reported to OCR since 2009. As of today, there have been 2,022 healthcare data breaches reported. Those breaches have resulted in the theft/exposure of 174,993,734 individuals’ protected health information. Healthcare organizations are getting better at discovering and reporting breaches, but the figures clearly show a major hike in security incidents. In the past three years, the total has jumped from around 1,000 breaches to more than 2,000. The recent KPMG 2017 Cyber Healthcare & Life Sciences Survey showed that 47% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach in the past two years, up from 37% in 2015 when the survey was last conducted. An ITRC/CyberScout study showed there has been a 29% increase in data breaches so far...

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Want to Prevent Data Breaches? Time to Go Back to Basics
Aug15

Want to Prevent Data Breaches? Time to Go Back to Basics

Intrusion detection systems, next generation firewalls, insider threat management solutions and data encryption will all help healthcare organizations minimize risk, prevent security breaches, and detect attacks promptly when they do occur. However, it is important not to forget the security basics. The Office for Civil Rights Breach portal is littered with examples of HIPAA data breaches that have been caused by the simplest of errors and security mistakes. Strong security must start with the basics, as has recently been explained by the FTC in a series of blog posts. The blog posts are intended to help businesses improve data security, prevent data breaches and avoid regulatory fines. While the blog posts are not specifically aimed at healthcare organizations, the information covered is relevant to organizations of all sizes in all industry sectors. The blog posts are particularly relevant for small to medium sized healthcare organizations that are finding data security something of a challenge. The blog posts are an ideal starting point to ensure all the security basics are...

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HIMSS Research Shows Healthcare Organizations Have Enhanced Their Cybersecurity Programs
Aug11

HIMSS Research Shows Healthcare Organizations Have Enhanced Their Cybersecurity Programs

HIMSS has published the findings of its 2017 Cybersecurity Survey. The survey was conducted on 126 cybersecurity professionals from the healthcare industry between April and May 2017. Most of the respondents were executive and non-executive managers who were primarily responsible or had some responsibility for information security in their organization. The report shows healthcare organizations in the United States are increasingly making cybersecurity a priority and have been enhancing their cybersecurity programs over the past 12 months. More healthcare organizations have increased their cybersecurity staff and adopted holistic cybersecurity practices and perspectives in key areas. The survey revealed 75% of respondents are now conducting regular penetration tests to identify potential vulnerabilities and determine how resilient they are to cyberattacks. In response to the considerable threat from within, 75% of respondents have implemented insider threat management programs and 85% are now conducting risk assessments at least once every 12 months. While these results are...

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$5.5 Million Data Breach Settlement Highlights the Importance of Prompt Patching
Aug10

$5.5 Million Data Breach Settlement Highlights the Importance of Prompt Patching

The importance of applying patches promptly to address critical security vulnerabilities has been highlighted by a recent $5.5 million data breach settlement. Yesterday, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement has been reached with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its subsidiary, Allied Property & Casualty Insurance Company, to resolve a multi-state data breach investigation involving New York and 32 other states. Nationwide will pay a total of $5.5 million, $103,736.78 of which will go to New York State. The settlement will cover the costs of the investigation and litigation, with the remaining funds used for consumer protection law enforcement and other purposes. The investigation was launched following a 2012 breach of the sensitive data of 1.27 million individuals, some of whom were customers, although many had only obtained quotes from Nationwide and its subsidiary and did not go on to take out insurance policies. In 2012, hackers infiltrated Nationwide’s systems and stole the personal information of consumers along with highly...

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HITRUST and Trend Micro Join Forces to Improve Organizational Cyber Threat Management
Aug08

HITRUST and Trend Micro Join Forces to Improve Organizational Cyber Threat Management

The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) has announced a new partnership with Trend Micro. The aim of the partnership is to speed the delivery of cyber threat research and education and improve organizational threat management. The partnership has seen the creation of the Cyber Threat Management and Response Center which will help to expand cyber threat information sharing and improve the service to healthcare organizations at all levels of cybersecurity maturity, helping them to deal with the increasing range of cyber threats and frequency of attacks. HITRUST already shares cyber threat intelligence with organizations that have signed up with its Cyber Threat Xchange (CTX) – the most widely adopted threat information sharing organization for the healthcare industry. HITRUST collects, analyses and distributes cyber threat information through CTX, including indicators of threats and compromise and has been working hard over the past 18 months to expand the collection of cyber threat information through its Enhanced IOC Collection Program. HITRUST now leads the industry in the...

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Medical Device Cybersecurity Act Takes Aim at Medical Device Security
Aug08

Medical Device Cybersecurity Act Takes Aim at Medical Device Security

A new bill has been introduced in Congress that aims to ensure the confidential medical information of patients on medical devices is protected and security is improved to make the devices more resilient to hacks. The bill – The Medical Device Cybersecurity Act of 2017 – was introduced on August 1, 2017 by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and is supported by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS). Recent ransomware and malware attacks and hacks have demonstrated how vulnerable some medical devices are. Ransomware incidents have resulted in medical devices being taken out of action, causing major disruptions at hospitals and delaying the treatment of patients. There is no sign of these incidents slowing or stopping. In all likelihood, they will increase. While healthcare organizations are working hard to improve their defenses against cyberattacks, medical device manufacturers are not doing enough to ensure their devices are secure and remain so for the lifespan of the...

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Warning Issued Over Vulnerabilities in Siemens PET/CT Scanners: Exploits Publicly Available
Aug07

Warning Issued Over Vulnerabilities in Siemens PET/CT Scanners: Exploits Publicly Available

Warnings have been issued about four vulnerabilities in Siemens PET/CT scanner systems. Siemens is currently developing patches to address the vulnerabilities.  Exploits for the vulnerabilities are already publicly available. The flaws affect multiple Siemens medical imaging systems including Siemens CT, PET, SPECT systems and medical imaging workflow systems (SPECT Workplaces/Symbia.net) that are based on Windows 7. The vulnerabilities allow remote code execution, potentially giving attackers access to the scanners and networks to which the systems are connected. One of the main risks is malware and ransomware infections, which in the case of the latter can prevent the devices from being used. It is also possible that a malicious actor could interfere with the systems causing patients harm. The Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) has also issued an alert, warning healthcare organizations to ensure the devices are run on a “dedicated, network segment and protected IT environment” until the patches are applied....

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Protenus Provides Insight into 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Trends
Aug03

Protenus Provides Insight into 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Trends

Protenus, in conjunction with Databreaches.net, has produced its Breach Barometer mid-year review. The report covers all healthcare data breaches reported over the past 6 months and provides valuable insights into 2017 data breach trends. The Breach Barometer is a comprehensive review of healthcare data breaches, covering not only the data breaches reported through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights’ breach reporting tool, but also media reports of incidents and public findings. Prior to inclusion in the report, all breaches are independently confirmed by databreaches.net. The Breach Barometer reports delve into the main causes of data breaches reported by healthcare providers, health plans and their business associates. In a webinar on Wednesday, Protenus Co-Founder and president Robert Lord and Dissent of databreaches.net discussed the findings of the mid-year review. Lord explained that between January and June 2017 there have been 233 reported data breaches. Those breaches have impacted 3,159,236 patients. The largest reported breach in the...

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Beazley Insights: 133% Increase in Healthcare Ransomware Demands
Aug02

Beazley Insights: 133% Increase in Healthcare Ransomware Demands

Beazley has released its half-yearly Insights report detailing the causes of data breaches experienced by its clients between January and June 2017. Across the four industries covered by the report, hacks and malware – including ransomware- caused the highest percentage of breaches – 32% of the 1,330 incidents that the firm helped mitigate in the first half of 2017. In the professional services industry, hacks/malware incidents accounted for 44% of the 1H total, in higher education it was 43% and the financial services was on 37%. Only healthcare bucked the trend with hacks/malware accounting for 18% of the total – the second biggest cause of incidents affecting the industry. The report shows that the first six months of the year saw a 50% increase in ransomware attacks across all industries, with the healthcare sector experiencing the highest increase in ransomware demands, jumping 133% in those six months. While malware/ransomware attacks may top the list of breach causes, they are closely followed by accidental breaches caused by employees or third-party suppliers, which...

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How Often Should Healthcare Employees Receive Security Awareness Training?
Aug01

How Often Should Healthcare Employees Receive Security Awareness Training?

Security awareness training is a requirement of HIPAA, but how often should healthcare employees receive security awareness training? Recent Phishing and Ransomware Attacks Highlight Need for Better Security Awareness Training Phishing is one of the biggest security threats for healthcare organizations. Cybercriminals are sending phishing emails in the millions in an attempt to get end users to reveal sensitive information such as login credentials or to install malware and ransomware. While attacks are often ransom, healthcare employees are also being targeted with spear phishing emails. In December last year, anti-phishing solution provider PhishMe released the results of a study showing 91% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email. Spear phishing campaigns rose 55% last year, ransomware attacks increased by 400% and business email compromise (BEC) losses were up by 1,300%. In recent weeks, there have been several phishing attacks reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. Those attacks have resulted in email accounts being compromised....

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47% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced A HIPAA Data Breach in the Past 2 Years
Jul31

47% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced A HIPAA Data Breach in the Past 2 Years

The KPMG 2017 Cyber Healthcare & Life Sciences Survey shows there has been a 10 percentage point increase in reported HIPAA data breaches in the past two years. The survey was conducted on 100 C-suite information security executives including CIOs, CSOs, CISOs and CTOs from healthcare providers and health plans generating more than $500 million in annual revenue. 47% of healthcare organizations have reported a HIPAA data breach in the past two years, whereas in 2015, when the survey was last conducted, 37% of healthcare organizations said they had experienced a security-related HIPAA breach in the past two years. Preparedness for data breaches has improved over the past two years. When asked whether they were ready to deal with a HIPAA data breach, only 16% of organizations said they were completely ready in 2015. This year, 35% of healthcare providers and health plans said they were completely ready to deal with a breach if one occurred. Ransomware has become a major threat since the survey was last conducted. 32% of all respondents said they had experienced a security breach...

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HITRUST Launches Community Extension Program to Promote Collaboration on Risk Management
Jul27

HITRUST Launches Community Extension Program to Promote Collaboration on Risk Management

HITRUST has launched a new community extension program that will see town hall events taking place in 50 major cities across the United States over the course of the next 12 months. The aim of the community extension program is to improve education and collaboration on risk management and encourage greater community collaboration. With the volume and variety of cyber threats having increased significantly in recent years, healthcare organizations have been forced to respond by improving their cybersecurity programs, including adopting cybersecurity frameworks and taking part in HITRUST programs. Healthcare organizations have been able to improve their resilience against cyberthreats, although the process has not been easy. HITRUST has learned that the process can be made much easier with improved education and collaboration between healthcare organizations. The community extension program is an ideal way to streamline adoption of the HITRUST CSF and other HITRUST programs, while promoting greater collaboration between healthcare organizations and encouraging greater community...

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Survey Shows Only a Quarter of Hospitals Have Implemented Secure Text Messaging Platforms
Jul25

Survey Shows Only a Quarter of Hospitals Have Implemented Secure Text Messaging Platforms

The use of secure text messaging platforms in healthcare has grown over the past few years, although a recent survey published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine suggests adoption of HIPAA-compliant messaging systems remains relatively low, with only a quarter of hospitals using a secure platform for sending messages to clinicians. The survey was conducted on 620 hospital-based clinicians identified from the Society of Hospital Medicine database. Secure text messaging platforms comply with HIPAA Rules and feature end-to-end encryption to prevent messages from being intercepted. Access controls are also incorporated to ensure only the intended recipient can view messages. Since messages cannot be sent outside the system, the platforms prevent accidental disclosures of PHI. Multi-media messages can also be sent, including test results and images. Secure text messaging platforms are a natural replacement for outdated pagers, allowing much more meaningful communication, although the survey suggests only 26.6% of hospitals have introduced the systems. Even when secure messaging systems...

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Is Google Drive HIPAA Compliant?
Jul21

Is Google Drive HIPAA Compliant?

Google Drive is a useful tool for sharing documents, but can those documents contain PHI? Is Google Drive HIPAA compliant? Is Google Drive HIPAA Compliant? The answer to the question, “Is Google Drive HIPAA compliant?” is yes and no. HIPAA compliance is less about technology and more about how technology is used. Even a software solution or cloud service that is billed as being HIPAA-compliant can easily be used in a manner that violates HIPAA Rules. G Suite – formerly Google Apps, of which Google Drive is a part – does support HIPAA compliance. The service does not violate HIPAA Rules provided HIPAA Rules are followed by users. G Suite incorporates all of the necessary controls to make it a HIPAA-compliant service and can therefore be used by HIPAA-covered entities to share PHI (in accordance with HIPAA Rules), provided the account is configured correctly and standard security practices are applied. The use of any software or cloud platform in conjunction with protected health information requires the vendor of the service to sign a HIPAA-compliant business...

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U.S. Data Breaches Hit Record High
Jul20

U.S. Data Breaches Hit Record High

Hacking still the biggest cause of data breaches and the breach count has risen once again in 2017, according to a new report released by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout. In its half yearly report, ITRC says 791 data breaches have already been reported in the year to June 30, 2017 marking a 29% increase year on year. At the current rate, the annual total is likely to reach 1,500 reported data breaches. If that total is reached it would represent a 37% increase from last year’s record-breaking total of 1,093 breaches. Following the passing of the HITECH Act in 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been publishing healthcare data breach summaries on its website. Healthcare organizations are required by HIPAA/HITECH to detail the extent of those breaches and how many records have been exposed or stolen. The healthcare industry leads the way when it comes to transparency over data breaches, with many businesses failing to submit details of the extent of their breaches. ITRC says it is becoming much more common to...

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Are You Blocking Ex-Employees’ PHI Access Promptly?
Jul19

Are You Blocking Ex-Employees’ PHI Access Promptly?

A recent study commissioned by OneLogin has revealed many organizations are not doing enough to prevent data breaches by ex-employees. Access to computer systems and applications is a requirement while employed, but many organizations are failing to block access to systems promptly when employees leave the company, even though ex-employees pose a significant data security risk. Blocking access to networks and email accounts when an employee is terminated or otherwise leaves the company is one of the most basic security measures, yet all too often the process is delayed. 600 IT employees who had some responsibility for security in their organization were interviewed for the study and approximately half of respondents said they do not immediately terminate ex-employees’ network access rights. 58% said it takes longer than a day to delete ex-employees’ login credentials. A quarter of respondents said it can take up to a week to block access, while more than one in five respondents said it can take up to a month to deprovision ex-employees. That gives them plenty of time to gain access...

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Funding for ONC Office of the Chief Privacy Officer to be Withdrawn in 2018
Jul18

Funding for ONC Office of the Chief Privacy Officer to be Withdrawn in 2018

The cuts to the budget of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) mean the agency must make some big changes, one of which will be the withdrawal of funding for the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer. ONC National Coordinator Don Rucker, M.D., has confirmed that the office will be closed out in fiscal year 2018. Deven McGraw, the Deputy Director for Health Information Privacy, has been serving as Acting Chief Privacy Officer until a permanent replacement for Lucia Savage is found, following her departure in January. It is now looking highly unlikely that a permanent replacement will be sought. One of the key roles of the Chief Privacy Officer is to ensure that privacy and security standards are addressed and health data is appropriately protected. The Chief Privacy Officer also advises the National Coordinator for Health IT on privacy and security policies covering electronic health information. However, Rucker does not believe it is necessary for the ONC to have an office dedicated to privacy and security as other agencies in the HHS could...

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Indiana Senate Passes New Law on Abandoned Medical Records
Jul13

Indiana Senate Passes New Law on Abandoned Medical Records

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers (and other covered entities) to implement reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of patients’ protected health information. HIPAA applies to electronic protected health information (ePHI) and physical records. Safeguards must be implemented to protect all forms of PHI at rest and in transit and when PHI is no longer required, covered entities must ensure it is disposed of securely. For electronic protected health information that means data must be permanently deleted so it cannot be reconstructed and recovered. To satisfy HIPAA requirements, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recommends clearing, purging or destroying electronic media used to store ePHI. Clearing involves the use of software to overwrite data, purging involves degaussing or exposing media to strong magnetic fields to destroy data. Destruction of electronic media could involve pulverization, melting, disintegration, shredding or...

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Study Reveals 56% of Healthcare Organizations Plan to Invest in Data Breach Protection Solutions
Jul12

Study Reveals 56% of Healthcare Organizations Plan to Invest in Data Breach Protection Solutions

The Netwrix Corporation, a provider of a visibility platform for data security and risk mitigation in hybrid environments, has published the results of a recent study on healthcare IT risks. Netwrix asked healthcare IT professionals about the biggest security risks faced by their organizations, how security budgets are being allocated and the main areas where future security budgets will be directed. Netwrix said, “We aimed to look deeper into IT security practices, successful experiences and plans of healthcare organizations, as well as the most typical pain points.” The survey shows the biggest data security concern of healthcare IT professionals is employees. 56% of respondents said employees were the biggest data security threat. Only 38% believe the biggest threat comes from hackers. The results are unsurprising since the majority of data security incidents in 2016 were caused as a result of the actions of employees. The two biggest causes of data security incidents last year were malware and human error, with malware often installed as a result of the actions of employees....

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Office of Inspector General Releases Results of VA FISMA Audit
Jul06

Office of Inspector General Releases Results of VA FISMA Audit

The Department of Veteran Affairs’ Office of Inspector General has conducted its annual security review of the VA, the largest healthcare provider in the United States. The aim of the security review is to assess the VA’s information security program in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA). The report reveals there are many ongoing security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, although this year’s report only adds three new recommendations. In total, OIG made 33 recommendations about how the VA can make improvements to addresses security weaknesses. Those 33 recommendations are spread across 8 areas: The security management program, identity management and access controls, configuration management controls, system development and change management controls, contingency planning, incident response/planning, continuous monitoring and contractor systems oversight. The three new recommendations in this year’s report are: Weaknesses have been identified in the agencywide information and risk management program. OIG recommends processes are...

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Healthcare IoT Security Market Predicted to Grow at CAGR of 22% over Next 5 Years
Jul05

Healthcare IoT Security Market Predicted to Grow at CAGR of 22% over Next 5 Years

Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as wearable sensors, implants, medical devices and home monitoring systems have the potential to greatly improve patient services and quality of care. The IoT could revolutionize the healthcare industry and adoption of the technology already high. IoT devices can be controlled remotely and are highly automated. Implementing the technology can result in improvements to efficiency, accuracy and there are considerable economic benefits. However, IoT devices introduce considerable risks. IoT devices are now being introduced, even though security is a major concern and many of the devices are not covered by existing security solutions. A recent healthcare-specific Thales Data Threat Report suggested that 60% of healthcare organisations are deploying new technologies before appropriate security is implemented. That said, investment in security technologies is increasing and healthcare organizations are working on improving security for IoT devices. There is currently strong demand for new security solutions and that is unlikely to change. Currently...

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Princeton Community Hospital Replaces Network After NotPetya Attack
Jul03

Princeton Community Hospital Replaces Network After NotPetya Attack

Recovery from the WannaCry ransomware attacks was a long and complicated process for many healthcare organizations. Recovery from the recent NotPetya attacks has also been problematic. In contrast to WannaCry, NotPetya is not actually ransomware. While it bears a number of similarities to a strain of ransomware called Petya, the virus is actually a wiper. The attacks initially appeared to involve ransomware, but the aim of the attacks was to wipe out computers and destroy data. A ransom demand was presented on screen claiming payment of a ransom would allow an organization to obtain the keys to unlock data, but access to files cannot be restored as the decryption keys do not exist. Attacks in the United States were limited, with five known healthcare victims. Princeton Community Hospital in West Virginia is one of the organizations struggling to recover. Princeton Community Hospital has been attempting to bring its systems back online since the attack last Tuesday. The hospital reports that attacked devices cannot now be used on the hospital’s network. The hospital is having to...

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U.S. Healthcare Providers Affected by Global Ransomware Attack
Jun29

U.S. Healthcare Providers Affected by Global Ransomware Attack

NotPetya ransomware attacks have spread to the U.S. Decryption may not be possible even if the ransom is paid. Details of how to prevent attacks are detailed below. NotPetya Ransomware Attacks Spread to the United States Tuesday’s global ransomware attack continues to cause problems for many organizations in Europe, with the attacks now having spread to North America. The spread of the ransomware has been slower in the United States than in Europe, although many organizations have been affected including at least three healthcare systems. Pennsylvania’s Heritage Valley Health System has confirmed that its computer systems have been infected with the ransomware. The ransomware has affected the entire health system including both of its hospitals and its satellite and community facilities. While medical services continue to be provided, computer systems were shut down and some non-urgent medical procedures were postponed. 14 of the health system’s community facilities were closed on Wednesday as a result of the attack and lab and diagnostic services were also affected The health...

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FDA Chief Announces New Plan for Post-Market Regulation of Digital Health Products
Jun22

FDA Chief Announces New Plan for Post-Market Regulation of Digital Health Products

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., has announced the FDA will be launching a new, risk-based regulatory framework in the fall for overseeing connected medical technology, including health apps and medical devices. The FDA wants to encourage and promote innovation that will lead to the development of new and beneficial medical technologies; however, it is essential that these technologies can benefit patients without placing their health or privacy at risk. Gottlieb said the FDA has now developed a new Digital Health Innovation Plan that will foster “innovation at the intersection of medicine and digital health technology.” The plan includes a novel post-market approach that will allow the regulation of digital medical devices and health-related apps. In a recent blog post, Gottlieb pointed out that close to 165,000 health-related apps have now been released for Smartphones and Apple devices, with forecasts estimating the apps will be downloaded 1.7 billion times by the end of this year. These apps have the potential to improve the health of...

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May’s Healthcare Data Breach Report Shows Some Incidents Took 3 Years to Discover
Jun20

May’s Healthcare Data Breach Report Shows Some Incidents Took 3 Years to Discover

The May 2017 healthcare Breach Barometer Report from Protenus shows there was an increase in reported data breaches last month. May was the second worst month of the year to date for healthcare data breaches with 37 reported incidents, approaching the 39 data breaches reported in March. In April, there were 34 incidents reported. So far, each month of 2017 has seen more than 30 data breaches reported – That’s one reported breach per day, as was the case in 2016. In May, there were 255,108 exposed healthcare records representing a 10% increase in victims from the previous month; however, it is not yet known how many records were exposed in 8 of the breaches reported in May. The number of individuals affected could rise significantly. The largest incident reported in May was the theft of data by TheDarkOverlord, a hacking group/hacker known for stealing data and demanding a ransom in exchange for not publishing the data. The latest incident saw the data dumped online when the organization refused to pay the ransom. While April saw a majority of healthcare data breaches caused by...

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Study: 1 in 5 Enterprise Users Have Set Weak Passwords
Jun15

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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Ponemon Study Reveals Impact of Data Breaches on Organizations’ Reputation
Jun14

Ponemon Study Reveals Impact of Data Breaches on Organizations’ Reputation

Organizations that experience data breaches can expect many negative repercussions such as loss of reputation, loss of customers and fall of share value. The impact of a data breach on a company’s reputation and share value has recently been studied by the Ponemon Institute. The Centrify-sponsored survey was conducted on IT operations and information security professionals, senior level marketers, communications professionals and consumers. 31% of the 446 IT practitioners said they had experienced a data breach of more than 1,000 sensitive records in the past two years, while 62% of the 549 consumers surveyed said they had been notified by companies or government agencies that their data had been exposed as a result of a data breach in the past 24 months. Data breaches are to be expected; however, the study suggests that the C-Suite and boards of directors do not fully appreciate the negative impact data breaches can have on companies’ reputations. The effect can be considerable. The Ponemon Institute tracked the share value of 113 publicly traded companies for 30 days prior to a...

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Microsoft Patches Two Critical, Actively Exploited Vulnerabilities
Jun14

Microsoft Patches Two Critical, Actively Exploited Vulnerabilities

Microsoft released a slew of updates this Patch Tuesday, including patches for two critical vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited in the wild. In total, 95 vulnerabilities were addressed yesterday, eighteen of which have been rated critical and 76 as important. The two actively exploited vulnerabilities are of most concern, in fact one is so serious that Microsoft took the decision to issue a patch for Windows XP, even though extended support for the outdated operating system ended in April 2014. As with the emergency patch issued last month shortly after the WannaCry ransomware attacks, the vulnerability was considered so severe it warranted a patch. Adrienne Hall, general manager of Microsoft’s Cyber Defense Operations Center, explained the decision to issue a patch for Windows XP saying, “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyberattacks at this time, we made the decision to take this action because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt.” The flaw – CVE-2017-8543 – exists in...

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Data Breach Risk From Out of Date Operating Systems and Web Browsers Quantified
Jun09

Data Breach Risk From Out of Date Operating Systems and Web Browsers Quantified

The recent WannaCry ransomware attacks have highlighted the risks from failing to apply patches and update software promptly. BitSight has now published the results of a study that sought to quantify the risk from tardy updates and delayed software upgrades. For the study, BitSight analyzed the correlation between data breaches and the continued to use old operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP and old versions of web browsers. Operating systems and browsers used by approximately 35,000 companies from 20 industries were assessed as part of the study. BitSight checked Apple OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems and Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox web browsers. 2,000 of the companies studied (6%) had out of date operating systems on more than half of their computers. BitSight said 8,500 companies were discovered to be using out of date web browsers. BitSight used its risk platform to study computer compromises and identified operating system and browser versions at those companies. BitSight was able to determine that organizations...

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WannaCry Ransomware Continues to Cause Problems for U.S. Hospitals
Jun06

WannaCry Ransomware Continues to Cause Problems for U.S. Hospitals

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a cyber notice to alert healthcare organizations of the continuing problems caused by the WannaCry ransomware attacks on May 12, 2017. Following the attacks, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement saying the U.S. had suffered ‘limited attacks’ with only a small number of companies affected. However, the problems caused by those attacks have been considerable. The HHS says two large, multi-state hospital systems are still facing significant challenges to operations as a result of the May 12 attacks. The Windows SMB vulnerability (MS17-010) exploited by the threat actors was addressed by Microsoft in a March 14, 2017 update, with an emergency patch released for unsupported Windows versions shortly after the attacks took place. The patches will prevent the MS17-010 vulnerability from being exploited and thus prevent WannaCry from being downloaded. The encryption routine used by the WannaCry malware was deactivated quickly following the discovery of a kill switch. While the encryption...

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Final Healthcare Cybersecurity Task Force Report Details 6 Imperatives to Improve Security
Jun05

Final Healthcare Cybersecurity Task Force Report Details 6 Imperatives to Improve Security

The Health Care Industry Cybersecurity (HCIC) Task Force was formed by Congress, as required by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. The purpose of the HCIC Task Force is to address the cybersecurity challenges faced by the healthcare industry and help the healthcare industry improve cybersecurity defenses and prevent security breaches. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2016 required the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force to issue a report detailing improvements that can be made to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare industry. The final version of the report was released on Friday June 2. The HCIC Task Force explains in the report that the high number of hacking incidents, ransomware attacks and data breaches reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights in recent years clearly show the healthcare industry is struggling to secure networks and data. The HCIC Task Force says many healthcare organizations believe cybersecurity vulnerability is low. Recent breaches and ransomware attacks have shown that assumption is false. While...

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Recent Employee Snooping Incidents Highlight Need for Access Controls and Alerts
Jun02

Recent Employee Snooping Incidents Highlight Need for Access Controls and Alerts

Ransomware, malware and unaddressed software vulnerabilities threaten the confidentiality, integrity and availability of PHI, although healthcare organizations should take steps to deal with the threat from within. This year has seen numerous cases of employees snooping and accessing medical records without authorization. The HIPAA Security Rule 45 CFR §164.312(b) requires covered entities to “Implement hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine activity in information systems that contain or use electronic protected health information,” while 45 CFR §164.308(a)(1)(ii)(D) requires covered entities to “Implement procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports.” Logs create an audit trail that can be followed in the event of a data breach or privacy incident. Those logs can be checked to discover which records have been accessed without authorization. If those logs are monitored continuously, privacy breaches can be identified quickly and action taken to...

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Seton Healthcare Family Hospitals Targeted by Cybercriminals
Jun02

Seton Healthcare Family Hospitals Targeted by Cybercriminals

Ascension Health, which runs the Seton Healthcare Family hospital network in Austin, TX, announced earlier this week that a computer virus had been discovered on its computer network. The hospital network was alerted to a potential cyberattack on Sunday when ‘suspicious activity’ was detected on the network. In response to the suspected cyberattack, Seton Healthcare shut down around 3,600 devices as a precautionary measure while the incident was investigated. The suspicious activity was attributed to a virus, although no details have been released on the nature of the malware. IT teams worked quickly to remove the virus and secure its network. The computer systems used by Dell Seton Medical Center and Dell Children’s Medical Center were quickly restored, although Seton Medical Center Williamson and Seton Medical Center Hays continued to be impacted by the incident until Wednesday, May 31. The Seton Smithville Regional Clinic and Seton Shoal Creek facility were unaffected. The fast response by Seton Healthcare reduced the impact of the cyberattack. Staff had been drilled to expect...

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OCR Reminds Covered Entities of Security Incident Definition and Notification Requirements
Jun01

OCR Reminds Covered Entities of Security Incident Definition and Notification Requirements

The ransomware attacks and healthcare IT security incidents last month have prompted the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to issue a reminder to covered entities about HIPAA Rules on security breaches. In its May 2017 Cyber Newsletter, OCR explains what constitutes a HIPAA security incident, preparing for such an incident and how to respond when perimeters are breached. HIPAA requires all covered entities to implement technical controls to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). However, even when covered entities have sophisticated, layered cybersecurity defenses and are fully compliant with HIPAA Security Rule requirements, cyber-incidents may still occur. Cybersecurity defenses are unlikely to be 100% effective, 100% of the time. Prior to the publication of OCR guidance on ransomware attacks last year, there was some confusion about what constituted a security incident and reportable HIPAA breach. Many healthcare organizations had experienced ransomware attacks, yet failed to...

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Study Uncovers More Than 8,000 Security Flaws in Pacemakers from Four Major Manufacturers
May31

Study Uncovers More Than 8,000 Security Flaws in Pacemakers from Four Major Manufacturers

Over the past 12 months, security vulnerabilities in implantable medical devices have attracted considerable attention due to the potential threat to patient safety. Last year, MedSec conducted an analysis of pacemaker systems which revealed security vulnerabilities in the Merlin@home transmitter and the associated implantable cardiac devices manufactured by St. Jude Medical. Those vulnerabilities could potentially be exploited to cause device batteries to drain prematurely and the devices to malfunction. A recent study of the pacemaker ecosystem has uncovered a plethora of security flaws in devices made by other major manufacturers. Those flaws could potentially be exploited to gain access to sensitive data and cause devices to malfunction. Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts, PhD., of security research firm WhiteScope has recently published a white paper detailing the findings of the study. The pair conducted an analysis of seven cardiac devices from four major device manufacturers. The researchers evaluated home monitoring devices, implantable cardiac devices and physician...

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Molina Healthcare Patient Portal Discovered to Have Exposed Patient Data
May31

Molina Healthcare Patient Portal Discovered to Have Exposed Patient Data

Earlier this month, security researcher Brian Krebs was alerted to a flaw in a patient portal used by True Health Group that allowed patients’ test results to be viewed by other patients. While patients were required to login to the patient portal before viewing their test results, a security flaw allowed then to also view other patients’ results. Now, the Medicaid and Affordable Care Act Insurer Molina Healthcare is investigating a similar flaw in its patient portal that has allowed the sensitive medical information of patients to be accessed by unauthorized individuals. In the case of Molina Healthcare, patients’ medical claims could be accessed without authentication. Brian Krebs contacted Molina Healthcare to alert the company to the flaw. An investigation was conducted and its patient portal was shut down while the issue was resolved. It is unclear for how long the flaw existed, whether medical claims had been viewed by unauthorized individuals, and if so, how many patients had their privacy violated. Potentially, the flaw resulted in the exposure of all customers’ medical...

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US-CERT: Patch Samba Now to Address Wormable Code Execution Bug
May30

US-CERT: Patch Samba Now to Address Wormable Code Execution Bug

A worldwide cyberattack in a similar vein to the WannaCry ransomware attacks on Friday 12, May could be repeated using a different Windows Server Message Block vulnerability. US-CERT has issued a security alert about the SMB flaw advising organizations to apply a patch as soon as possible to fix the vulnerability. The vulnerability, which is being tracked as CVE-2017-2764, affects Samba 3.5.0 and later versions. Samba provides Windows-style file and print services for Linux and Unix servers and is based on the Windows SMB file-sharing protocol. US-CERT says the flaw is a remote code execution vulnerability that could be exploited by “a malicious client to upload a shared library to a writable share, and then cause the server to load and execute it.” If the flaw is exploited, an attacker could run arbitrary code with root-level permissions. Ars Technica says the flaw can only be exploited on un-patched computers if port 445 is open to the Internet and if a machine permits permanent write privileges from a shared file with a known or guessable server path. A patch has been issued to...

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Medical Device Security Testing Only Performed by One in Twenty Hospitals
May26

Medical Device Security Testing Only Performed by One in Twenty Hospitals

The security of medical devices has attracted a lot of attention in recent months due to fears of device vulnerabilities being exploited by cybercriminals to cause harm to patients, gain access to healthcare networks and steal patient data. Cybercriminals have extensively targeted the healthcare industry due to the high value of patient data on the black market, combined with relatively poor cybersecurity defenses. While there have been no reported cyberattacks on medical devices with the specific aim of causing harm to patients, there are fears it is only a matter of time before such an attack occurs. Even if harming patients is not the goal of cybercriminals, ransomware attacks – which take essential computer systems out of action – can place patient safety at risk. Those attacks are already occurring. Some healthcare providers experienced medical device downtime as a result of the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks. Much attention has focused on device manufacturers for failing to incorporate appropriate security protections to prevent cyberattacks and not considering security...

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HIPAA Enforcement Update Provided by OCR’s Iliana Peters
May25

HIPAA Enforcement Update Provided by OCR’s Iliana Peters

Office for Civil Rights Senior Advisor for HIPAA Compliance and Enforcement, Iliana Peters, has given an update on OCR’s enforcement activities in a recent Health Care Compliance Association ‘Compliance Perspectives’ podcast. OCR investigates all data breaches involving the exposure of theft of more than 500 healthcare records. OCR also investigates complaints about potential HIPAA violations. Those investigations continue to reveal similar non-compliance issues. Peters said many issues come up time and time again. Peters confirmed that cases are chosen to move on to financial settlements when they involve particularly egregious HIPAA violations, but also when they relate to aspects of HIPAA Rules that are frequently violated. The settlements send a message to healthcare organizations about specific aspects of HIPAA Rules that must be addressed. Peters said one of the most commonly encountered problems is the failure to conduct a comprehensive, organization-wide risk assessment and ensure any vulnerabilities identified are addressed through a HIPAA-compliant risk management...

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Security Gaps Found in Virginia Medicaid Claims Processing Systems
May24

Security Gaps Found in Virginia Medicaid Claims Processing Systems

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General released a report of an audit of Virginia Medicaid’s claims processing systems. The audit uncovered several vulnerabilities that left the data of Medicaid beneficiaries exposed. OIG investigators determined that Virginia had not secured its Medicaid data to an acceptable standard in line with Federal requirements. The report does not detail the specific vulnerabilities OIG discovered, as that would potentially allow those flaws to be exploited, although full details of the findings of the audit have been submitted to the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) – the entity that administers and supervises the state Medicaid program. OIG has also provided several recommendations for improving the security of its information systems. The audit involved a review of information system general controls, including conducting staff interviews, reviewing policies and procedures and conducting a vulnerability scan of network devices, servers, databases and websites. Even though a security program had...

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HIPAA and Ransomware: Healthcare Organizations Reminded of HIPAA Rules Relating to Ransomware
May19

HIPAA and Ransomware: Healthcare Organizations Reminded of HIPAA Rules Relating to Ransomware

Following the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, the Department of Health and Human Services has been issuing cybersecurity alerts and warnings to healthcare organizations on the threat of attack and steps that can be taken to reduce risk. The email alerts were sent soon after the news of the attacks on the UK’s NHS first started to emerge on Friday May 12, and continued over the course of the week. The alerts provided timely and pertinent information for U.S. healthcare organizations allowing them to take rapid action to counter the threat. While the Office for Civil Rights has previously sent monthly emails to healthcare organizations warning of new threats in its cybersecurity newsletters, the recent alerts were sent much more rapidly and frequently, with four email alerts and conference calls made with industry stakeholders alerting them to the imminent threat. Whether this was a one off in response to a specific and imminent major threat or the HHS plans to issue more timely alerts remains to be seen. However, the rapid communication of the ransomware threat almost certainly...

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Rite Aid Announces Breach of Its Online Store
May19

Rite Aid Announces Breach of Its Online Store

Pharmacy chain Rite Aid has discovered unauthorized individuals gained access to the e-commerce platform of its online store and stole sensitive information of its customers over a period of 10 weeks. The attackers gained access to, and stole, personal information and credit/debit card details. An investigation into the breach revealed that access to the platform was first gained on January 30, 2017 and continued until April 11, 2017 when the intrusion was detected and unauthorized access was blocked. During the time that unauthorized individuals had access to its e-commerce platform, they obtained customers names, addresses and payment card information, including card numbers, expiry dates and CVV numbers. The incident impacts all customers who used the online store between the above dates and manually entered their payment card details. A leading cybersecurity firm was called in to help determine how the breach occurred, which individuals were impacted, and to mitigate future risk. Rite Aid is also working closely with payment card companies and assisting in their investigations...

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Medical Device Cybersecurity Gaps Discussed at FDA Workshop
May19

Medical Device Cybersecurity Gaps Discussed at FDA Workshop

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hosting a two-day workshop to identify current cybersecurity gaps that could be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to medical devices. Best practices and cybersecurity tools that can be adopted to improve defenses against cyberattacks are under discussion. This is the third time the FDA has held such a workshop on medical device security and it comes at an appropriate time. The recent WannaCry ransomware attacks resulted in Siemens, Bayer and other manufacturers’ devices having data encrypted. Cyberattacks on medical devices have potential to cause considerable harm to patients. Cybercriminals could also target medical devices to obtain sensitive information on patients or use the devices to launch attacks on healthcare networks. This week, the attacks only resulted in data being encrypted. Bayer reported that both of the healthcare organizations that were affected were able to recover data and restore the functionality of their medical devices within 24 hours. The medical devices were not specifically targeted and...

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WannaCry Ransomware Encrypted Hospital Medical Devices
May17

WannaCry Ransomware Encrypted Hospital Medical Devices

The WannaCry ransomware attacks on NHS hospitals in the UK have been widely publicized, but the extent to which U.S. healthcare organizations were affected is unclear. However, news has emerged that WannaCry ransomware has been installed on hospital systems and succeeded in encrypted medical device data. The ransomware targeted older Windows versions and more recent operating systems that had not been updated with the MS17-010 patch that addressed the exploited vulnerability in Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1). The attacks claimed more than 200,000 victims around the globe. So far, two healthcare organizations in the United States have confirmed they experienced a WannaCry ransomware attack that affected Bayer MedRad devices. The devices are power injector systems used to monitor contrast agents administered to improve the quality of imaging scans, such as MRIs. Bayer told Forbes, “If a hospital’s network is compromised, this may affect Bayer’s Windows-based devices connected to that network.” In both cases that were reported to Bayer, the issue was resolved...

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WannaCrypt Ransomware Attacks Stopped, But Only Briefly
May15

WannaCrypt Ransomware Attacks Stopped, But Only Briefly

The global WannaCrypt ransomware attacks that hit NHS Trusts in the UK hard on Friday have spread to the United States, affecting some U.S. organizations including FedEx. Figures this morning indicate there were more than 200,000 successful attacks spread across 150 countries over the weekend. Fortunately, the variant of the ransomware used in the weekend attacks has been neutralized. On Saturday afternoon, a blogger and security researcher in the UK identified a kill switch and was able to prevent the ransomware from claiming more victims. While investigating the worm element of the ransomware campaign, the researcher ‘Malware Tech’ found a reference to a domain in the code. That domain had not been registered, so Malware Tech purchased and registered the domain. Doing so stopped the ransomware from encrypting files. The ransomware performs a domain check prior to encrypting files. If the ransomware is able to connect with the domain in the code, the ransomware exists and does not encrypt any files. If the connection fails, the ransomware continues and starts encrypting files. The...

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Massive Ransomware Attack Hits NHS: Global Warning Issued as Attacks Spread
May13

Massive Ransomware Attack Hits NHS: Global Warning Issued as Attacks Spread

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has experienced its worst ever ransomware attack. The infections spread rapidly to multiple NHS trusts, forcing computer system shutdowns. Affected hospitals cancelled operations with the disruption to patient services still continuing. The attack occurred on Friday and affected 61 NHS hospital trusts, causing chaos for patients. The NHS has been working around the clock to bring its computer systems back online and to recover encrypted data. The massive ransomware attack involved Wanna Decryptor 2.0 ransomware or WannaCry/WanaCryptor as it is also known. There is no known decryptor. The attackers were threatening to delete data if the ransom was not paid within 7 days, with the ransom amount set to double in three days if payment was not made. The ransom demand was reportedly $300 (£230) per infected machine. NHS Trusts saw the ransomware infection rapidly spread to all computers connected to their networks. While the NHS was one of the early victims, the attack has spread globally with the Spanish telecoms company Telefonica also hit, along...

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PHI of Thousands of Patients of Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center Exposed Online
May12

PHI of Thousands of Patients of Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center Exposed Online

Highly sensitive medical records of thousands of patients of New York’s Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center have been exposed online. Those records were reportedly accessible for three years as a result of a misconfigured backup server. The exposed records were uncovered by researchers at the Kromtech Security Research Center after conducting a “regular security audit of exposed rsync protocols on Shodan,” a search engine that can be used to find networked devices. Rsync backup servers are used for transferring files between computer systems and for file syncing. The records were not encrypted nor protected with a password and could have been downloaded by any individual who knew where to look. It is currently unclear exactly how many patient records were exposed, with initial reports indicating tens of thousands of patients may have been affected. NBC’s Mary Emily O’Hara recently reported that the breach has impacted at least 7,000 individuals. The misconfiguration allowed the researchers to view highly sensitive information including names, addresses, medical diagnoses, health...

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Guidance on Securing Wireless Infusion Pumps Issued by NIST
May11

Guidance on Securing Wireless Infusion Pumps Issued by NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in collaboration with the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), has released new guidance for healthcare delivery organizations on securing wireless infusion pumps to prevent unauthorized access. Infusion pumps, and many other medical devices, used to interact only with the patient and healthcare provider; however, advances in technology have improved functionality and now the devices can interact with a much wider range of healthcare systems and networks.  The additional functionality of the devices has allowed vulnerabilities to be introduced that could be easily exploited to cause patients to come to harm. Wireless infusion pumps are of particular concern. Vulnerabilities could be exploited by malicious actors allowing drug doses to be altered, the functioning of the infusion pumps to be changed or patients’ protected health information to be accessed.  Typically, the devices have poor cybersecurity protections in place to prevent unauthorized access. The risks introduced by the devices have been widely...

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Patient-Physician Texting to Be Covered at AMA Annual Meeting
May10

Patient-Physician Texting to Be Covered at AMA Annual Meeting

Text messages are a quick and easy method of communication, although for healthcare professionals the use of SMS messages carries considerable privacy risks. While text messages can be used to communicate quickly with members of a care team, the inclusion of any protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII) violates HIPAA Rules. SMS texts are unencrypted, potentially allowing unauthorized individuals to access the messages and view the contents. SMS messages may also be stored on the servers of service providers. Those messages may remain on unsecured servers indefinitely. Copies of SMS texts can remain on the sender’s and recipients phone. In the event that either the sender or recipient’s phone is lost or stolen, PHI/PII in messages may be exposed. With SMS messages, there are no HIPAA-compliant controls to verify the identity of the recipient or for the recipient to verify the identity of the sender. The lack of safeguards in place to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of PHI and limited authentication controls means the sending of any...

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180,000 Patient Records Dumped Online by The Dark Overlord
May09

180,000 Patient Records Dumped Online by The Dark Overlord

It is a nightmare scenario far worse than a ransomware attack. A hacker infiltrates your network, steals patient data and then threatens to publish those data if you do not pay a ransom. That is the modus operandi of TheDarkOverlord, who conducted numerous attacks on healthcare organizations over the past few months. Sizable ransom demands were issued – which TDO referred to as ‘modest’ – with threats issued to sell or publish the data if the victims refused to pay or ignored the requests. Many healthcare organizations chose not to pay up. TDO has now made good on his/her promise and has published the data of more than 180,000 patients online, several months after the attacks occurred. Aesthetic Dentistry of New York City, OC Gastrocare of Anaheim, CA, and Tampa Bay Surgery Center in Tampa, FL have all had highly sensitive patient data published online last week . The data of 3,496 patients of Aesthetic Dentistry, 34,100 patients of OC Gastrocare, and 134,000 patients of Tampa Bay Surgery Center can now be freely downloaded. A link to the website where the data were dumped was sent...

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NCCIC Warns of Highly Sophisticated Campaign Delivering Multiple Malware Variants
May05

NCCIC Warns of Highly Sophisticated Campaign Delivering Multiple Malware Variants

Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) has issued an alert about an emerging sophisticated campaign affecting multiple industry sectors. The attacks have been occurring for at least a year, with threat actors using stolen administrative credentials and certificates to install multiple malware variants on critical systems. A successful attack gives the threat actors full access to systems and data, while the methods used allow the attackers to avoid detection by conventional security solutions. While many organizations have been attacked, one of the main targets has been IT service providers. Gaining access to their systems has allowed the actors to conduct attacks on their clients and gain access to their environments. The method of attack allows the actors to bypass conventional monitoring and detection tools and, in many cases, results in the attackers gaining full access to networks and stored data. NCCIC is still investigating the campaign so full information is not yet available, although an advance warning has been issued to...

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Majority of Organizations Failing to Protect Against Mobile Device Security Breaches
May05

Majority of Organizations Failing to Protect Against Mobile Device Security Breaches

A recent report published by Dimensional Research has highlighted the growing threat of mobile device security breaches and how little organizations are doing to mitigate risk. Cybercriminals may view employees as one of the weakest links in the security chain, but mobile devices are similarly viewed as an easy way of gaining access to data and corporate networks. According to the report, the threat of mobile cyberattacks in growing. Two out of ten companies have already experienced a mobile device cyberattack, although in many cases, organizations are not even aware that a cyberattack on a mobile device has occurred. The survey, which was conducted on 410 security professionals, found that two thirds of respondents were doubtful they would be able to prevent a cyberattack on mobile devices and 51% believed the risk of data theft/loss via mobile devices was equal to or greater than the risk of data theft/loss from PCs and laptops. Yet, a third of respondents said they did not adequately protect mobile devices. 94% of respondents said cyberattacks on mobile devices will become more...

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Rise in Business Email Compromise Scams Prompts IC3 Warning
May05

Rise in Business Email Compromise Scams Prompts IC3 Warning

There has been a massive increase in business email compromise scams over the past three years. In the past two years alone, the number of companies that have reported falling for business email comprise scams has increased by 2,370% according to new figures released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In the past three years, cybercriminals have used business email compromise scams to fraudulently obtain more than $5 billion. U.S. organizations lost more than $1.5 billion to BEC scams between October 2013 and December 2016. The rise in BEC attacks has prompted IC3 to issue a new warning to businesses, urging them to implement a range of defenses to mitigate risk. What are Business Email Compromise Scams and How Do They Work? A business email compromise scam – also known as an email account compromise – involves an attacker gaining access to an email account of an executive and sending an email request to a second employee via the compromised email account. The request can be a bank transfer or a request to email data. Since the email comes from within an organization,...

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Bitglass Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Security Report
May04

Bitglass Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Security Report

Bitglass has recently published its 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report, the third annual report on healthcare data security issued by the data protection firm. For the report, Bitglass conducted an analysis of healthcare data breach reports submitted to the Department of Health and Human’ Services Office for Civil Rights. The report confirms 2016 was a particularly bad year for healthcare industry data breaches. Last year saw record numbers of healthcare data breaches reported, although the number of healthcare records exposed in 2016 was lower than in 2015. In 2016, 328 healthcare data breaches were reported, up from 268 incidents in 2015. Last year’s healthcare data breaches impacted around 16.6 million Americans. The good news is that while incidents are up, breaches are exposing fewer healthcare records. If the colossal data breach at Anthem Inc., which exposed 78.8 million healthcare records, is considered an anomaly and is excluded from last year’s figures, the number of individuals impacted by healthcare data breaches has fallen for two years in a row. That trend looks set...

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HIMSS Privacy and Security Forum Offers Insight into Healthcare Cyber Threat Landscape
May03

HIMSS Privacy and Security Forum Offers Insight into Healthcare Cyber Threat Landscape

Next week, the HIMSS Privacy and Security Forum will be taking place in San Francisco. The two-day conference provides an opportunity for CISOs, CIOs and other healthcare leaders to obtain valuable information from security experts on the latest cybersecurity threats, along with practical advice on how to mitigate risk. More than 30 speakers will be attending the event and providing information on a broad range of healthcare cybersecurity topics, including securing IoT devices, preventing phishing and ransomware attacks, creating compliant security relationships and effective strategic communication and risk management. The conference will include keynote speeches from George Decesare, Senior VP and Chief Technology Risk Officer at Kaiser Permanente, Jane Harper, Director of Privacy & Security Risk Management at the Henry Ford Health System, CERT’s Matt Trevors, and M.K. Palmore, FBI San Francisco’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the SF Cyber Branch. George Decesare leads Kaiser Permanente’s cybersecurity, technology risk and compliance programs and identity and access...

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OCR Director Stresses Importance of Keeping Health Data Secure
Apr28

OCR Director Stresses Importance of Keeping Health Data Secure

The new director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, Roger Severino, has hinted that last year’s increase in settlements for non-compliance with HIPAA Rules was not a blip. OCR started the year with two settlements in January and a further two in February. While there was a break in March, April has seen three settlements announced. Financial penalties will continue to be issued when covered entities are discovered to have committed serious violations of HIPAA Rules. Speaking at the Health Datapalooza yesterday, Severino said he viewed himself as the ‘top cop’ of health IT and confirmed he is taking his new role seriously and that he “came into this job with an enforcement mindset.” Further settlements with covered entities found to have ignored HIPAA Rules are to be expected. Severino highlighted the most recent OCR settlement – the $2.5 million penalty for CardioNet – as an example of just how important it is for healthcare organizations of all types to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to safeguard patient data and ensure ePHI remains...

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Healthcare is The Only Industry Where Insiders Pose the Biggest Threat
Apr27

Healthcare is The Only Industry Where Insiders Pose the Biggest Threat

Verizon has published its 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report proving an insight into the world of cybersecurity, data breaches, and the current threat landscape. This is the tenth installment of the report, which this year includes data collected 65 organizations, 42,068 separate cybersecurity incidents and 1,935 data breaches experienced by organizations in 84 countries. Majority of Attackers are Opportunistic Hunters Looking for Vulnerabilities While large organizations are big targets and face a higher than average risk of experiencing a data breach, the Verizon report shows that all organizations are at risk of cyberattacks. 61% of data breaches occurred at organizations with less than 1,000 employees. Targeted attacks on organizations do occur, but the majority of cybercriminals are opportunistic. Hackers gain access to systems and data as a result of unplugged vulnerabilities, errors made by employees and poor choices of cybersecurity solutions that fail to protect against the latest threats. One of the most important messages from the report is organizations need to...

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Unencrypted Portable Devices are a HIPAA Breach Waiting to Happen
Apr25

Unencrypted Portable Devices are a HIPAA Breach Waiting to Happen

This week, OCR announced a new settlement with a covered entity to resolve HIPAA violations discovered during the investigation of an impermissible disclosure of ePHI. The incident that sparked the investigation was the theft of an unencrypted laptop computer from the vehicle of a CardioNet employee. This week has also seen two data breaches reported that have similarly involved the theft of portable devices. Earlier this week, Lifespan announced that a MacBook had been left in an employee’s vehicle from where it was stolen. The device was not encrypted and neither protected with a password. ePHI was accessible via the employee’s email account. More than 20,000 patients’ ePHI was potentially compromised. The second incident involved a flash drive rather than a laptop. Western Health Screening (WHS), a Billings, MT-based provider of on-site blood screening services, announced that patients’ names, phone numbers, addresses and some Social Security numbers have been exposed. The data on the drive related to individuals who had undergone blood screening tests between 2008 and 2012. A...

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Webroot AV Update Failure Causes Havoc: Windows System Files and EXE Files Quarantined
Apr24

Webroot AV Update Failure Causes Havoc: Windows System Files and EXE Files Quarantined

A Webroot AV update failure has caused havoc for thousands of customers. An April 24 update saw swathes of critical files miscategorized as malicious. While occasional false positives can be expected on occasion, in this case the error was severe. The Webroot AV update failure resulted in hundreds of Windows system files being miscategorized, resulting in serious stability issues. Many users’ servers and PCs were crippled after the automatic update occurred. The problem did not only affect Windows files. Scores of signed executables and third-party apps were blocked and prevented from running. The error affected all Windows versions and saw critical system files categorized as W32.Trojan.Gen. Those files were moved to Webroot’s quarantine folder after the April 24 update. Once the files were moved, users’ computers started to experience severe problems with many displaying errors. In some cases, the moving of system files to the quarantine folder caused computers to crash. In other cases, apps were prevented from running causing major disruption to businesses. Webroot AV also...

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Wireless Health Services Provider Settles HIPAA Violations with OCR for $2.5 Million
Apr24

Wireless Health Services Provider Settles HIPAA Violations with OCR for $2.5 Million

2016 was a record year for HIPAA settlements, but 2017 is looking like it will see last year’s record smashed. There have already been six HIPAA settlements announced so far this year, and hot on the heels of the $31,000 settlement announced last week comes another major HIPAA fine. A $2.5 million settlement has been agreed with CardioNet to resolve potential HIPAA violations. CardioNet is a Pennsylvania-based provider of remote mobile monitoring and rapid response services to patients at risk for cardiac arrhythmias. Settlement have previously been agreed with healthcare providers, health plans, and business associates of covered entities, but this is the first-time OCR has settled potential HIPAA violations with a wireless health services provider. While OCR has not previously fined a wireless health services provider for violating HIPAA Rules, the same cannot be said of the violations discovered. Numerous settlements have previously been agreed with covered entities after OCR discovered risk analysis and risk management failures. In this case, the settlement relates to a data...

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68% of Healthcare Employees Would Share Regulated Data
Apr21

68% of Healthcare Employees Would Share Regulated Data

The Dell End User Security Survey has revealed that sensitive information, including data covered by HIPAA Rules, would be shared by employees without authorization under certain circumstances. The Dell End User Security Survey sought to uncover how widespread the unauthorized sharing of confidential information has become. The results show that even in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, unauthorized data sharing is occurring. The survey was conducted on 2,608 individuals whose job duties involve handling confidential information. Across all industries, an alarming 72% of employees said they would willingly share sensitive information. 68% of healthcare employees who took part in the survey also confirmed that they would share PHI without authorization under certain circumstances. Dell explains that in most cases, unauthorized sharing of confidential data is not malicious. It occurs when employees are trying to be more efficient and work as effectively as possible. Unfortunately, however, in an effort to get more work completed in less time, those employees are taking...

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Poor Security Awareness Greatest Threat to Healthcare Data Security
Apr20

Poor Security Awareness Greatest Threat to Healthcare Data Security

A recent survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics for the 2017 Level 3 Healthcare Security Study has shown that the biggest concern regarding healthcare data security is a lack of employee security awareness. The Level 3 Communications, Inc., sponsored survey was conducted on 125 healthcare IT executives and IT professionals, including directors, IT managers, IT security officers and other IT staff. The aim of the study was to provide insight into the main high level security concerns within the healthcare industry. The majority of respondents – 85% – said they had education programs that taught employees to be more security aware, although that was not enough to ease concerns. A lack of employee security awareness was the top-rated concern, with more than 78% of respondents saying employee security awareness was one of the main concerns regarding exposure to threats. Employees are considered the weakest link in the security chain and with good reason. As last month’s Healthcare Breach Barometer report from Protenus shows, insiders are the biggest cause of healthcare data...

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OIG Issues Warning About HHS Agency Phone Scams
Apr19

OIG Issues Warning About HHS Agency Phone Scams

This year has seen numerous email scams conducted to gain access to the tax information of employees; however, recently, criminals have started picking up the phone to conduct their scams. Phone scams have spiked in recent weeks, with criminals impersonating Department of Health and Human Services’ employees, including the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The rise in phone scams has prompted OIG to issue a warning. Scammers have been pretending to be from the OIG claiming individuals are eligible to receive a government grant. While this would likely arouse suspicion, in this case the caller ID displays the number 1-800-447-8477 (1-800-HHS-TIPS). The number is the OIG hotline number for reporting potential incidences of fraud. The scammers tell individuals they are eligible to receive government grant money as a result of paying their taxes on time. However, in order to qualify for the grant, it is first necessary to confirm an individual’s identity. The attackers ask the individual to confirm their name and Social Security number or bank account number and other personal...

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$400,000 HIPAA Penalty Agreed with Denver FQHC for Security Management Process Failures
Apr13

$400,000 HIPAA Penalty Agreed with Denver FQHC for Security Management Process Failures

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has taken action against a Denver, CO-based federally-qualified health center (FQHC) for security management process failures that contributed to the organization experiencing a data breach in 2011. Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN) has agreed to pay OCR $400,000 and adopt a robust corrective action plan to resolve all HIPAA compliance issues identified during the OCR investigation. The incident that triggered the OCR investigation was a phishing attack that occurred on December 5, 2011. A hacker sent phishing emails to (MCPN) personnel, the responses to which enabled that individual to gain access to employees’ email accounts. Those accounts contained the electronic protected health information of 3,200 patients. OCR investigates all breaches of more than 500 patient records to determine whether healthcare organizations have experienced a breach as a direct result of violations of HIPAA Rules. OCR notes that MCPN took the necessary action following the breach to prevent further phishing attacks from...

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Healthcare Organizations Targeted with New Ransomware Campaign
Apr11

Healthcare Organizations Targeted with New Ransomware Campaign

Two hospitals have been attacked and had their files encrypted by Philadelphia ransomware. The latest campaign appears to be targeting hospitals in the United States. Philadelphia ransomware is a form of Stampedo ransomware that was first identified last fall. The new ransomware variant is not particularly sophisticated and a free decryptor does exist (Available from Emisoft); however, a successful attack is likely to prove costly to resolve and has potential to cause considerable disruption. An attack may even warrant HIPAA breach notifications to be sent to patients if ePHI is encrypted. The ransomware variant has been made available under an affiliate model and amateur attacks are being conducted. Brian Krebs recently found an online video promoting the ransomware variant highlighting its features and its potential for customization. The video claims that Philadelphia ransomware is the most advanced and customizable ransomware variant available. Any would-be attacker can rent the ransomware by paying a one-off fee of $400 to the authors. After the fee is paid, the ransomware can...

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918,000 Patients’ Sensitive Information Exposed Online
Apr10

918,000 Patients’ Sensitive Information Exposed Online

The data of 918,000 patients who provided their sensitive information to HealthNow Networks, a Boca Raton, FL-based telemarketing organization that used to provide medical supplies to seniors, has been exposed online for many months. The data were discovered by an individual with the Twitter handle Flash Gordon after he conducted a search for unprotected data on the search engine Shodan. The data had been stored in an unprotected root folder on an Amazon Web Service installation owned by a software developer who had previously worked on a database for HealthNow Networks. The project was abandoned long ago although the data provided to the developer were not secured and could be accessed online. The database contained a range of highly sensitive data including individuals’ names, addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health insurance information and medical conditions. The data had been collected by the telemarketing firm and individuals had been offered discounted medical equipment in exchange for providing the firm with their data....

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2017 Shaping Up to Be Another Record-Breaking Year for Healthcare Data Breaches
Apr07

2017 Shaping Up to Be Another Record-Breaking Year for Healthcare Data Breaches

2016 was a particularly bad year for healthcare data breaches. More data breaches were reported than in any other year since the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights started publishing healthcare data breach summaries in 2009. In 2016, 329 breaches of more than 500 records were reported to the Office for Civil Rights and 16,655,952 healthcare records were exposed or stolen. 2017 looks set to be another record breaking year for healthcare data breaches. Figures for the first quarter of 2017 show data breaches have increased, with rises in theft incidents, hacks and unauthorized disclosures. By the end of Q1, 2016, 64 breaches of more than 500 records had been reported to OCR and 3,529,759 had been exposed or stolen. Between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2017, OCR received 79 data breach reports from HIPAA covered entities and business associates. Those breaches have resulted in the theft or exposure of 1,713,591 healthcare records. While fewer individuals have been impacted by healthcare data breaches than in the equivalent period last year, the number of...

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AHA: Law Enforcement Needs Resources to Help Prevent Healthcare Cyberattacks
Apr07

AHA: Law Enforcement Needs Resources to Help Prevent Healthcare Cyberattacks

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has urged congress to provide law enforcement agencies with appropriate resources to help with the prevention of healthcare industry cyberattacks and assist with investigations into attacks. The AHA provided a statement for an AHA House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on public-private partnerships for healthcare cybersecurity. In the statement the AHA praising the efforts made by hospitals and health systems to improve data security and prevent cyberattacks. The AHA explained that the vast majority of hospitals and health systems take the current cybersecurity challenges very seriously and have responded by investing heavily in cybersecurity protections to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to networks and sensitive data. The AHA said those efforts include the use of encryption to prevent the theft of PHI, making and testing data backups, conducting annual threat assessments and identifying potential vulnerabilities with extensive penetration testing. Hospitals and health systems are also...

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Healthcare Organizations Warned of Risk of Man-In-The-Middle Attacks
Apr06

Healthcare Organizations Warned of Risk of Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

In its April cybersecurity newsletter, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights advised covered entities and their business associates to use the Secure Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTPS) to ensure protected health information is not left unsecured. While HTTPS has been adopted by many covered entities to protect communications from man-in-the-middle attacks, OCR has relayed a recent warning from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) about vulnerabilities that may be introduced by the use of products that inspect HTTPS traffic. The use of HTTPS inspection products increases security as it allows healthcare providers to detect malware and unsafe connections. Unsafe connections could potentially result in communications being intercepted, data being accessed or manipulated, or malicious code being run. However, OCR warns that certain HTTPS inspection products fail to correctly verify web servers’ certificates or do not pass on error messages and warnings to clients. In order for HTTPS inspection to occur, network traffic must be...

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Congress Advised to Offer Incentives to Improve Healthcare Threat Intelligence Sharing
Apr06

Congress Advised to Offer Incentives to Improve Healthcare Threat Intelligence Sharing

With the healthcare industry under a sustained attack and the cyber threat landscape constantly evolving, law enforcement, the government, and private industry need to collaborate to counter the threat of cyberattacks. Cybercrime cannot be effectively tackled by organizations acting in isolation. The sharing of threat information is essential in the fight against cybercrime. Dissemination of this information makes it easier for law enforcement and government agencies to combat cybercrime. Accessing that information also allows healthcare entities to to take timely action to address vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Government and law enforcement agencies are educating healthcare organizations on the importance of sharing threat intelligence, although currently too few entities are sharing threat information. At a Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee hearing this week, cybersecurity experts made suggestions on how congress can improve threat information sharing and improve healthcare cybersecurity. At the hearing, Denise Anderson, president of the National Health...

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Large Hospitals and Teaching-Focused Hospitals Face Greater Risk of Data Breaches
Apr06

Large Hospitals and Teaching-Focused Hospitals Face Greater Risk of Data Breaches

A study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine examined recent healthcare data breach trends to determine which types of hospitals are the most susceptible to data breaches. The researchers analyzed breach reports submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights between October 21, 2009 and December 31, 2016. During that time, 216 hospitals reported 257 breaches of more than 500 patient records. 33 hospitals experienced more than one data breach during that time frame. Four hospitals – Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, Mount Sinai Medical Center and St. Vincent Hospital and Healthcare Inc – experienced three data breaches. Two hospitals – Montefiore Medical Center and University of Rochester Medical Center & Affiliates – experienced four data breaches. The researchers determined the size of the acute care hospitals by linking the facilities to their Medicare cost reports submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the 2014 fiscal year. 141 acute care hospitals were linked to CMS...

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Quarter of Healthcare Organizations Do Not Encrypt Data Stored in the Cloud
Apr04

Quarter of Healthcare Organizations Do Not Encrypt Data Stored in the Cloud

A recent survey by HyTrust has revealed that a quarter of healthcare organizations do not use encryption to protect data at rest in the cloud, even though the lack of encryption potentially places sensitive data – including the protected health information of patients – at risk of being exposed. Amazon Web Service (AWS) one of the most popular choices with the healthcare industry, although many healthcare organizations are using multiple cloud service providers. 38% of respondents said they had a multi-cloud environment and 63% of respondents said they were planning to use multiple cloud service providers in the future. 63% of healthcare organizations said they were using the public cloud to store data. When asked about their main concerns, data security came top of the list – with 82% of surveyed healthcare organizations rating security as their number one concern. Despite the concerns about data security, encryption is not always employed. As Eric Chiu, co-founder and president of HyTrust explained, “For these care delivery organizations, choosing a flexible cloud security...

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Dr. Donald Rucker Named New National Coordinator for Health IT
Apr03

Dr. Donald Rucker Named New National Coordinator for Health IT

Dr. Donald Rucker has been named as the new National Coordinator of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology. Nether the Department of Health and Human Services nor the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology has officially announced the new appointment, although Dr. Donald Rucker’s name now appears in the HHS directory as National Coordinator. Donald Rucker will replace acting National Coordinator, Jon White, M.D., who took over the position following the resignation of Dr. Vindell Washington in January 2016. White is expected to return to his former position as deputy national coordinator. Prior to joining the ONC, Donald Rucker was an adjunct professor at the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. Prior to that appointment, Rucker was Chief Medical Officer at Premise Health for a year and CMO at Siemens Healthcare USA for 13 years. While at Siemens Healthcare USA, Rucker led the team that designed the computerized physician...

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FBI Warns Healthcare Industry About Anonymous FTP Server Cyberattacks
Mar29

FBI Warns Healthcare Industry About Anonymous FTP Server Cyberattacks

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning to healthcare organizations using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers. Medical and dental organizations have been advised to ensure FTP servers are configured to require users to be properly authenticated before access to stored data can be gained. Many FTP servers are configured to allow anonymous access using a common username such as ‘FTP’ or ‘anonymous’. In some cases, a generic password is required, although security researchers have discovered that in many cases, FTP servers can be accessed without a password. The FBI warning cites research conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015 that revealed more than 1 million FTP servers allowed anonymous access to stored data The FBI warns that hackers are targeting these anonymous FTP servers to gain access to the protected health information of patients. PHI carries a high value on the black market as it can be used for identity theft and fraud. Healthcare organizations could also be blackmailed if PHI is stolen. Last year, the hacker operating under the name...

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What Can Small Healthcare Providers Do To Prevent Ransomware Attacks?
Mar23

What Can Small Healthcare Providers Do To Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware attacks on healthcare providers are occurring with alarming frequency. Figures from the FBI suggest as many as 4,000 ransomware attacks are occurring every day. Healthcare organizations are targeted because they hold large volumes of data and access to those data is required to provide medical services to patients. Without access to patients’ health information, healthcare services can be severely disrupted. Such reliance on data makes healthcare providers attractive targets as they are more likely than other companies to give in to ransom demands to obtain keys to unlock their data. All businesses, and healthcare organizations especially, should implement a number of defenses to prevent ransomware attacks. Policies and procedures should also be developed to ensure that in the event of an attack, business operations are not severely disrupted and data can be recovered quickly. There is no one technology solution that can be deployed to prevent ransomware attacks from occurring, although there are a number of actions that can be taken to improve resilience against...

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