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.

Russian Sandworm Group Targeting Exim Mail Servers, Warns NSA
Jun01

Russian Sandworm Group Targeting Exim Mail Servers, Warns NSA

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

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

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

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

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H-ISAC Publishes Framework for Managing Identity in Healthcare
May26

H-ISAC Publishes Framework for Managing Identity in Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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Web Application Attacks Double as Threat Actors Target Cloud Data
May21

Web Application Attacks Double as Threat Actors Target Cloud Data

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

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April 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
May20

April 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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CISA and FBI Publish List of Top 10 Exploited Vulnerabilities
May14

CISA and FBI Publish List of Top 10 Exploited Vulnerabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HHS Has Been Slow to Address High Priority GAO Recommendations
May05

HHS Has Been Slow to Address High Priority GAO Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Apr24

March 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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AHA and AMA Release Joint Cybersecurity Guidance for Telecommuting Physicians
Apr17

AHA and AMA Release Joint Cybersecurity Guidance for Telecommuting Physicians

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

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February 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Mar24

February 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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HIPAA Compliance and COVID-19 Coronavirus
Mar16

HIPAA Compliance and COVID-19 Coronavirus

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

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HSCC Publishes Best Practices for Cyber Threat Information Sharing
Mar16

HSCC Publishes Best Practices for Cyber Threat Information Sharing

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

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Maximum Severity SMBv3 Flaw Identified: Patch Released
Mar11

Maximum Severity SMBv3 Flaw Identified: Patch Released

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb21

January 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

Alarming Number of Medical Devices Vulnerable to Exploits Such as BlueKeep

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

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

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

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

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2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb13

2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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Average Ransomware Payment Increased Sharply in Q4, 2019
Feb03

Average Ransomware Payment Increased Sharply in Q4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maze Ransomware Gang Publishes Research Data of Medical Diagnostic Laboratories
Jan23

Maze Ransomware Gang Publishes Research Data of Medical Diagnostic Laboratories

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

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

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

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

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DHS Warns of Continuing Cyberattacks Exploiting Pulse Secure VPN Vulnerability
Jan14

DHS Warns of Continuing Cyberattacks Exploiting Pulse Secure VPN Vulnerability

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

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Support for Windows 7 Finally Comes to an End
Jan14

Support for Windows 7 Finally Comes to an End

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

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

DHS Warns of Critical Citrix Vulnerability Being Exploited in the Wild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hospital Employee Pleads Guilty to Five-Year Account Hacking Spree
Jan06

Hospital Employee Pleads Guilty to Five-Year Account Hacking Spree

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that a former employee of a New York City hospital has pleaded guilty to using malicious software to obtain the credentials of coworkers, which he subsequently misused to steal sensitive information. Richard Liriano, 33, of the Bronx, New York, was IT worker at the unnamed NYC hospital. As an IT worker, Liriano had administrative-level access to computer systems. He misused those access rights to steal information, which he copied onto his own computer for personal use. He used a keylogger to obtain the credentials of dozens of co-workers at the hospital between 2013 and 2018. Those credentials allowed Liriano to login to coworkers’ computers and online accounts and obtain sensitive information such as tax documents, personal photographs, videos, and other private documents and files. Other malicious software was also used to spy on his coworkers. Liriano stole credentials to coworkers’ personal webmail accounts, social media accounts, and other online accounts. Liriano also gained access to hospital computers containing sensitive...

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HIPAA Enforcement in 2019
Jan02

HIPAA Enforcement in 2019

It has been another year of heavy enforcement of HIPAA compliance. HIPAA enforcement in 2019 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Right (OCR) has resulted in 10 financial penalties. $12,274,000 has been paid to OCR in 2019 to resolve HIPAA violation cases. 2019 saw two civil monetary penalties issued and settlements were reached with 8 entities, one fewer than 2018. In 2019, the average financial penalty was $1,227,400. Particularly egregious violations will attract financial penalties, but some of the HIPAA settlements in 2019 provide insights into OCRs preferred method of dealing with noncompliance. Even when HIPAA violations are discovered, OCR prefers to settle cases through voluntary compliance and by providing technical assistance. When technical assistance is provided and covered entities fail to act on OCR’s advice, financial penalties are likely to be issued. This was made clear in two of the most recent HIPAA enforcement actions. OCR launched compliance investigations into two covered entities after being notified about data breaches. OCR...

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FBI Issues Warning Following Spate of LockerGoga and MegaCortex Ransomware Attacks
Dec31

FBI Issues Warning Following Spate of LockerGoga and MegaCortex Ransomware Attacks

The FBI has issued a TLP:Amber alert in response to a spate of cyberattacks involving the ransomware variants LockerGoga and MegaCortex. The threat actors using these ransomware variants have been targeting large enterprises and organizations and typically deploy the ransomware several months after a network has been compromised. LockerGoga was first detected in January 2019 and MegaCortex ransomware first appeared in May 2019. Both ransomware variants exhibit similar IoCs and have similar C2 infrastructure and are both used in highly targeted attacks on large corporate networks. LockerGoga was used in the ransomware attacks on the U.S. chemical companies Hexion and Momentive, the aluminum and energy company Norsk Hydro, and the engineering consulting firm, Altran Technologies. MegaCortex ransomware was used in the attacks on the accounting software firm Wolters Kluwer and the cloud hosting firm iNSYNQ, to name but a few. The threat actors are careful, methodical, and attempt to cause maximum damage to increase the probability that their victim’s will pay. The ransom demands are...

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November 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Dec20

November 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In November 2019, 33 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). That represents a 36.5% decrease in reported breaches from October – The worst ever month for healthcare data breaches since OCR started listing breaches on its website in October 2009. The fall in breaches is certainly good news, but data breaches are still occurring at a rate of more than one a day. 600,877 healthcare records were exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen in November. That represents a 9.2% decrease in breached healthcare records from October, but the average breach size increased by 30.1% to 18,208 records in November.   Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in November 2019 Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached PHI Ivy Rehab Network, Inc. and its affiliated companies Healthcare Provider 125000 Hacking/IT Incident Email Solara Medical Supplies, LLC Healthcare Provider 114007 Hacking/IT Incident Email Saint Francis Medical Center Healthcare...

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15 Million Customers Potentially Impacted by Ransomware Attack on Large Canadian Medical Testing Company
Dec18

15 Million Customers Potentially Impacted by Ransomware Attack on Large Canadian Medical Testing Company

A major data breach has been reported by one of Canada’s largest medical testing and diagnostics companies. Toronto-based LifeLabs said hackers have potentially gained access to the personal and health information of up to 15 million customers, most of whom are in British Columbia and Ontario. The number of people potentially affected makes this one of the largest healthcare ransomware attacks to date. The privacy commissioners in both provinces said the scale of the attack “extremely troubling.” After gaining access to its systems, the attackers deployed ransomware and encrypted an extensive amount of customer data. The cyberattack is still under investigation, so it is unclear what, if any, data has been stolen. It has been confirmed that the attackers gained access to parts of the system that contained the test results of around 85,000 Ontarians. The test results were from 2016 and earlier. No evidence has been found to suggest more recent test results, or medical test results from customers in other areas, have been compromised. Some of those test results include highly...

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Starts Correcting 200,000 Critical and Severe Vulnerabilities
Dec17

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Starts Correcting 200,000 Critical and Severe Vulnerabilities

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, the largest health insurer in the state, is now taking steps to fix around 200,000 unaddressed vulnerabilities on its servers that, in some cases, are more than a decade old. In August 2018, Tom Yardic, a cybersecurity engineer at BCBS Minnesota discovered patches were not being applied on its servers, even though the vulnerabilities were rated critical or severe. The engineer met with executives at BCBS Minnesota to raise the alarm, yet no action appeared to be taken. Around a month later, Yardic alerted the BCBS Minnesota board of trustees as a last resort to get action taken to address the flaws, according to a recent report in the Star Tribune. According to the newspaper report, evidence was obtained that revealed vulnerabilities had not been addressed for many years. There were around 200,000 critical or severe vulnerabilities that had not been addressed on approximately 2,000 servers. Around 44% of the vulnerabilities were more than 3 years old and approximately 12% of the flaws dated back 10 or more years. Approximately 3.9 million...

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Rep. Jayapal Seeks Answers from Google and Alphabet on Ascension Partnership
Dec16

Rep. Jayapal Seeks Answers from Google and Alphabet on Ascension Partnership

Pressure is continuing to be applied on Google and its parent company Alphabet to disclose information about how the protected health information (PHI) of patients of Ascension will be used, and the measures put in place to ensure PHI is secured and protected against unauthorized access. The partnership between Google and Ascension was announced on November 11, 2019 following the publication of a story in the Wall Street Journal. A whistleblower at Google had shared information with the WSJ and expressed concern that millions of healthcare records had been shared with Google without first obtaining consent from patients. It was also alleged that Google employees could freely download PHI. In its announcement, Google stated that the collaboration – named Project Nightingale – involved migrating Ascension’s infrastructure to the cloud and that it was helping Ascension implement G Suite tools to improve productivity and efficiency. Patient data was also being provided to Google to help develop AI and machine learning technologies to improve patient safety and clinical quality....

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SpamTitan Top Rated AntiSpam Solution on Business Software Review Sites
Dec16

SpamTitan Top Rated AntiSpam Solution on Business Software Review Sites

The 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report showed phishing to be the primary method used by cybercriminals to infect healthcare networks with malware and steal financial information. Email was the attack vector in 96% of healthcare data breaches according to the report. All it takes is for one employee to respond to a phishing email for a data breach to occur, so it is essential for a powerful email security solution to be deployed that will catch phishing emails, malware, ransomware, and other email-based threats. Email security solutions can vary considerably from company to company. Some may be excellent at blocking email threats but can be difficult to use, others may fall short at detecting zero-day threats, and some fail to block many spam and phishing emails. All of the companies offering email security solutions claim that their products provide excellent protection, so selecting the best solution for your organization can be a challenge. Making the wrong decision can be a costly mistake. When choosing an email security solution, third party review sites are a...

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MSPs and Healthcare Organizations Targeted with New Zeppelin Ransomware Variant
Dec12

MSPs and Healthcare Organizations Targeted with New Zeppelin Ransomware Variant

A new ransomware variant is being used in targeted attacks on managed service providers, technology, and healthcare firms, according to security researchers at Blackberry Cylance. Attacks are being conducted on carefully selected, high profile targets using a new variant of VegaLocker/Buran ransomware named Zeppelin. VegaLocker has been around since early 2019 and all variants from this family have been used to attack companies in Russian speaking countries. The campaigns were broad and used malvertising to direct users to websites hosting the ransomware. The latest variant is being used in a distinctly different campaign that is much more targeted. Attacks have only been detected on companies in Europe, the United States, and Canada so far. If the ransomware is downloaded onto a device in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belorussia, or Kazakhstan, the ransomware exits and does not encrypt files. Ransomware variants from the VegaLocker family have all been offered as ransomware-as-a-service and there are indications that the same is true of Zeppelin ransomware, although the...

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Microsoft Issues Advice on Defending Against Spear Phishing Attacks
Dec06

Microsoft Issues Advice on Defending Against Spear Phishing Attacks

Cybercriminals conduct phishing attacks by sending millions of messages randomly in the hope of getting a few responses, but more targeted attacks can be far more profitable. There has been an increase in these targeted attacks, which are often referred to as spear phishing. Spear phishing attacks have doubled in the past year according to figures from Microsoft. Between September 2018 and September 2019, spear phishing attacks increased from 0.31% of email volume to 0.62%. The volume may seem low, but these campaigns are laser-focused on specific employees and they are often very affective. The emails are difficult even for security conscious employees to recognize and many executives, and even IT and cybersecurity staff, fall for these campaigns. The emails are tailored to a specific individual or small group of individuals in a company, they are often addressed to that individual by name, appear to come from a trusted individual, and often lack the signs of a phishing emails present in more general phishing campaigns. These attacks are more profitable as some credentials are...

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HIPAA Compliance Can Help Covered Entities Prevent, Mitigate, and Recover from Ransomware Attacks
Dec05

HIPAA Compliance Can Help Covered Entities Prevent, Mitigate, and Recover from Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks are often conducted indiscriminately, with the file-encrypting software commonly distributed in mass spam email campaigns. However, since 2017, ransomware attacks have become far more targeted. It is now common for cybercriminals to select targets to attack where there is a higher than average probability of a ransom being paid. Healthcare providers are a prime target for cybercriminals. They have large quantities of sensitive data, low tolerance for system downtime, and high data availability requirements. They also have the resources to pay ransom demands and many are covered by cybersecurity insurance policies. Insurance companies often choose to pay the ransom as it is usually far lower than the cost of downtime while systems are rebuilt, and data is restored from backups. With attacks increasing in frequency and severity, healthcare organizations need to ensure that their networks are well defended and they have policies and procedures in place to ensure a quick response in the event of an attack. Ransomware attacks are increasing in sophistication and new...

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Healthcare Threat Detections Up 45% in Q3 and 60% Higher Than 2018
Dec04

Healthcare Threat Detections Up 45% in Q3 and 60% Higher Than 2018

Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations have increased in frequency and severity in the past year, according to recently published research from Malwarebytes. In its latest report – Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques: The 2019 State of Healthcare – Malwarebytes offers insights into the main threats that have plagued the healthcare industry over the past year and explains how hackers are penetrating the defenses of healthcare organizations to gain access to sensitive healthcare data. Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations can have severe consequences. As we have seen on several occasions this year, attacks can cause severe disruption to day to day operations at hospitals often resulting in delays in healthcare provision. In at least two cases, cyberattacks have resulted in healthcare organizations permanently closing their doors and a recent study has shown that cyberattacks contribute to an increase in heart attack mortality rates. Even though the attacks can cause considerable harm to patients, attacks are increasing in frequency and severity. Malwarebytes data shows the...

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DHS Updates Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors List for First Time in 8 Years
Nov27

DHS Updates Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors List for First Time in 8 Years

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute (HSSEDI) has updated its list of the 25 most dangerous software vulnerabilities. This is the first time in the past 8 years that the list has been updated. The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors was first created in 2011. The list is an important tool for improving cybersecurity resiliency and is valuable to software developers, testers, customers, security researchers, and educators as it provides insights into the most prevalent and serious security threats in the software industry. The list was originally compiled by analysts using a subjective approach for assessing vulnerabilities. Security researchers were interviewed, and industry experts were surveyed to find out which vulnerabilities were believed to be the most serious. HSSEDI, which is run by MITRE, used a different approach for assessing vulnerabilities: One that is based on real-world vulnerabilities that have been reported by security researchers. “We shifted to a data-driven...

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October 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Nov25

October 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There was a 44.44% month-over-month increase in healthcare data breaches in October. 52 breaches were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights in October. 661,830 healthcare records were reported as exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen in those breaches. This month takes the total number of breached healthcare records in 2019 past the 38 million mark. That equates to 11.64% of the population of the United States. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in October 2019 Breached Entity Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers Healthcare Provider 152,000 Hacking/IT Incident Kalispell Regional Healthcare Healthcare Provider 140,209 Hacking/IT Incident The Methodist Hospitals, Inc. Healthcare Provider 68,039 Hacking/IT Incident Children’s Minnesota Healthcare Provider 37,942 Unauthorized Access/Disclosure Tots & Teens Pediatrics Healthcare Provider 31,787 Hacking/IT Incident University of Alabama at Birmingham Healthcare Provider 19,557 Hacking/IT Incident Prisma Health – Midlands Healthcare Provider 19,060...

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IT Firm Ransomware Attack Prevents Nursing Homes and Acute Care Facilities from Accessing Medical Records
Nov25

IT Firm Ransomware Attack Prevents Nursing Homes and Acute Care Facilities from Accessing Medical Records

Virtual Care Provider Inc. (VCP), a Wisconsin-based provider of internet and email services, data storage, cybersecurity, and other IT services, has experienced a ransomware attack that has resulted in the encryption of medical records and other data the firm hosts for its clients. Its clients include 110 nursing home operators and acute care facilities throughout the United States. Those entities have been prevented from accessing critical patient data, including medical records. The company provides support for 80,000 computers, in around 2,400 facilities in 45 states. The attack involved Ryuk ransomware, a ransomware strain that has been used to attack many healthcare organizations and managed IT service providers in the United States in recent months. The ransomware is typically deployed as a secondary payload following an initial Trojan download. The attacks often involve extensive encryption and cause major disruption and huge ransom demands are often issued. This attack is no different. A ransom demand of $14 million has reportedly been issued, which the company has said it...

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GAO and VA OIG Identify Privacy and Security Failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs
Nov22

GAO and VA OIG Identify Privacy and Security Failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Two government watchdog agencies have recently published reports of reviews of privacy and security safeguards at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) review revealed several security failures, while the VA Office of Inspector General review (VA OIG) confirmed that privacy policy changes have exposed sensitive information. GAO assessed the security controls at the VA to determine whether they met the requirements of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. GAO determined that the VA had failed to meet all requirements of NIST Cybersecurity Framework and was deficient in five areas: Security management, access control, configuration management, contingency planning, and segregation of duties. The VA had reported that it had only met 6 of the 10 cybersecurity performance targets set by the Trump administration and had not yet met the targets for software asset management, hardware asset management, authorization management, and automated access management. The security failures identified by GAO...

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House Committee Leaders Request Answers from Google and Ascension on Project Nightingale Partnership
Nov20

House Committee Leaders Request Answers from Google and Ascension on Project Nightingale Partnership

Leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are seeking answers from Google and Ascension on Project Nightingale. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has also confirmed that an investigation has been launched to determine if HIPAA Rules have been followed. The collaboration between Google and Ascension was revealed to the public last week. The Wall Street Journal reported that Ascension was transferring millions of patient health records to Google as part of an initiative called Project Nightingale. A whistleblower at Google had contacted the WSJ to raise concerns about patient privacy. A variety of internal documents were shared with reporters on the extent of the partnership and the number of Google employees who had access to Ascension patients’ data. Under the partnership, the records of approximately 50 million patients will be provided to Google, 10 million of which have already been transferred. According to the WSJ report, 150 Google employees are involved with the project and have access to patient data. The whistleblower stated...

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Update Issued on Unsecured PACS as Exposed Medical Image Total Rises to 1.19 Billion
Nov18

Update Issued on Unsecured PACS as Exposed Medical Image Total Rises to 1.19 Billion

It has been 60 days since Greenbone Networks reported on the mass exposure of medical images on unsecured Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS). In an updated report, the German vulnerability analysis and management platform provider has revealed the problem is getting worse, not better. Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) servers are extensively used by healthcare providers for archiving medical images and sharing those images with physicians for review, yet many healthcare providers are not ensuring their PACS servers have appropriate security. Consequently, medical images (X-Ray, MRI, CT Scans), along with personally identifiable patient information, is being exposed over the Internet. Anyone who knows where to look and how to search for the files can find them, view them and, in many cases, download the images without any authentication required. The images are not accessible due to software vulnerabilities. Data access is possible because of the misconfiguration of infrastructure and PACS servers. Between July and September 2019, Greenbone Networks...

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Sen. Warner Demands Answers from HHS Over Apparent Lack of Response to Major PACS Data Breach
Nov12

Sen. Warner Demands Answers from HHS Over Apparent Lack of Response to Major PACS Data Breach

U.S. Senator, Mark. R. Warner (D-VA) has written to the Director of the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, Roger Severino, expressing concern over the HHS response to the mass exposure of medical images by U.S. healthcare organizations. Sen. Warner is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-founder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. This is the latest in a series of communications in which he has voiced concerns about cybersecurity failures that have compromised the personal and private information of Americans. In February, Sen. Warner demanded answers from HHS agencies, NIST, and healthcare associations about healthcare cybersecurity following the continued increase in healthcare data breaches. His recent letter to OCR was in response to a September 17, 2019 report about the exposure of millions of Americans’ medical images that were stored in unsecured picture archiving and communications systems (PACS). The report detailed the findings of an investigation by ProPublica, German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, and vulnerability and analysis firm,...

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HHS Increases Civil Monetary Penalties for HIPAA Violations in Line with Inflation
Nov11

HHS Increases Civil Monetary Penalties for HIPAA Violations in Line with Inflation

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has increased the civil monetary penalties for HIPAA violations in accordance with the Inflation Adjustment Act. The final rule took effect on Tuesday November 5, 2019. This rule increases the civil monetary penalties for HIPAA violations that occurred on or after February 18, 2009. Under the new penalty structure, the increases from 2018 to 2019 are detailed in the table below: Penalty Tier Level of Culpability Minimum Penalty per Violation (2018 » 2019) Maximum Penalty per Violation (2018 » 2019) New Maximum Annual Penalty (2018 » 2019)* 1 No Knowledge $114.29 » $117 $57,051 » $58,490 $1,711,533 » $1,754,698 2 Reasonable Cause $1,141 » $1,170 $57,051 » $58,490 $1,711,533 » $1,754,698 3 Willful Neglect – Corrective Action Taken $11,410 » $11,698 $57,051 » $58,490 $1,711,533 » $1,754,698 4 Willful Neglect – No Corrective Action Taken $57,051 » $58,490 $1,711,533 » $1,754,698 $1,711,533 » $1,754,698 Penalties for HIPAA violations that occurred prior to February 18, 2009 have increased to $159 per violation, with an annual cap of...

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Vulnerabilities Identified in Medtronic Valleylab Energy Platform and Electrosurgery Products
Nov08

Vulnerabilities Identified in Medtronic Valleylab Energy Platform and Electrosurgery Products

6 vulnerabilities have been identified in the Medtronic Valleylab energy platform and electrosurgery products, including one critical flaw that could allow an attacker to gain access to the Valleylab Energy platform and view/overwrite files and remotely execute arbitrary code. The vulnerabilities were identified by Medtronic which reported the flaws to the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency under its responsible vulnerability disclosure policy. Four vulnerabilities have been identified in the following Medtronic Valleylab products Valleylab Exchange Client, Version 3.4 and below Valleylab FT10 Energy Platform (VLFT10GEN) software Version 4.0.0 and below Valleylab FX8 Energy Platform (VLFX8GEN) software Version 1.1.0 and below The critical vulnerability is an improper input validation flaw in the rssh utility, which facilitates file uploads. Exploitation of the vulnerability would allow an attacker to gain administrative access to files, allowing those files to be viewed, altered, or deleted. The flaw could also allow remote execution of...

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Texas Health and Human Services Commission Pays $1.6 Million HIPAA Penalty
Nov08

Texas Health and Human Services Commission Pays $1.6 Million HIPAA Penalty

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has imposed a $1.6 million civil monetary penalty (CMP) on Texas Health and Human Services Commission (TX HHSC) for multiple violations of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules. TX HHSC is a state agency that operates supported living centers, regulates nursing and childcare facilities, provides mental health and substance abuse services, and administers hundreds of state programs for people in need of assistance, such as individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. OCR launched an investigation following receipt of a breach report from the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), a state agency that was reorganized into TX HHSC in September 2017. On June 11, 2015, DADS reported a security incident to OCR which stated that the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of 6,617 individuals had been exposed over the internet. The exposed information included names, addresses, diagnoses, treatment information, Medicaid numbers, and Social Security numbers....

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Healthcare Data Breaches Predicted to Cost Industry $4 Billion in 2019
Nov07

Healthcare Data Breaches Predicted to Cost Industry $4 Billion in 2019

A recent survey has highlighted the cost of healthcare industry data breaches, the extent to which the healthcare industry is under attack, and how often those attacks succeed. The survey was conducted by Black Book Market Research on 2,876 security professionals at 733 provider organizations between Q4, 2018 and Q3, 2019. Respondents were asked their views on cybersecurity to identify vulnerabilities and security gaps and determine why so many of these cyberattacks are succeeding. 96% of surveyed IT professionals believed that cybercriminals are outpacing medical enterprises, which is no surprise given that 93% of healthcare organizations reported having experienced a data breach since Q3, 2016. According to the report, 57% of organizations had experienced more than five data breaches during that time period. More than half of the data breaches reported by healthcare organizations were the result of hacks and other attacks by external threat actors. The healthcare industry is being attacked because providers and insurers hold huge quantities of sensitive and valuable information...

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Lack of Encryption Leads to $3 Million HIPAA Penalty for New York Medical Center
Nov06

Lack of Encryption Leads to $3 Million HIPAA Penalty for New York Medical Center

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has paid a $3 million HIPAA penalty for the failure to encrypt mobile devices and other HIPAA violations. URMC is one of the largest health systems in New York State with more than 26,000 employees at the Medical Center and various other components of the health system, including Strong Memorial Hospital and the School of Dentistry. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation following receipt of two breach reports from UMRC – The loss of an unencrypted flash drive and the theft of an unencrypted laptop computer in 2013 and 2017. This was not the first time OCR had investigated URMC. An investigation was launched in 2010 following a similar breach involving a lost flash drive. In that instance, OCR provided technical compliance assistance to URMC. The latest investigation uncovered multiple violations of HIPAA Rules, including areas of noncompliance that should have been addressed after receiving technical assistance from OCR in 2010. Under HIPAA, data encryption is not...

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Common Office 365 Mistakes Made by Healthcare Organizations
Nov01

Common Office 365 Mistakes Made by Healthcare Organizations

An Office 365 phishing campaign has been running over the past few weeks that uses voicemail messages as a lure to get users to disclose their Office 365 credentials. Further information on the campaign is detailed below along with some of the most common Office 365 mistakes that increase the risk of a costly data breach and HIPAA penalty. Office 365 Voicemail Phishing Scam The Office 365 voicemail phishing scam was detected by researchers at McAfee. The campaign has been running for several weeks and targets middle management and executives at high profile companies. A wide range of industries have been attacked, including healthcare, although the majority of attacks have been on companies in the service, IT services, and retail sectors. The emails appear to have been sent by Microsoft and alert users to a new voicemail message. The emails include the caller’s telephone number, the date of the call, the duration of the voicemail message, and a reference number. The emails appear to be automated messages and tell the recipient that immediate attention is required to access the...

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HHS Releases Updated HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Tool
Oct31

HHS Releases Updated HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Tool

The HHS has updated its HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Tool and has added several new user-requested features to improve usability. The HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Tool was developed by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in collaboration with the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights to help healthcare organizations with this important provision of the HIPAA Security Rule. The risk assessment is a foundational element of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability Act Security Rule. By conducting a risk assessment, healthcare organizations can identify areas where PHI may be at risk. Any risks can then be assessed, prioritized, and reduced to a reasonable and acceptable level. The failure to conduct a comprehensive, organization-wide risk assessment is the most commonly cited HIPAA violation in OCR enforcement actions. This is perfectly understandable. If a risk assessment does not cover all systems that store or touch ePHI, vulnerabilities are likely to be missed and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI will remain...

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Report Suggests Augmented Security Following a Data Breach Contributes to Increase in Patient Mortality Rate
Oct28

Report Suggests Augmented Security Following a Data Breach Contributes to Increase in Patient Mortality Rate

Healthcare data breaches lead to a reduction in the quality of care provided to patients, according to a study recently published in Health Services Research. Researchers analyzed data from Medicare Compare which details quality measures at hospitals. Data from 2012-2016 was analyzed and compared with data from the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights on data breaches of more than 500 records over the same period. The researchers analyzed data on 3,025 Medicare-certified hospitals, 311 of which had experienced a data breach. According to the study, the time it took from a patient arriving at the hospital to an electrocardiogram being performed increased by up to 2.7 minutes at hospitals that had experienced a data breach. A ransomware attack that prevents clinicians from accessing patient data will limit their ability to provide essential medical services to patients, so a delay in conducting tests and obtaining the results is to be expected. However, the delays were found to continue for months and years after an cyberattack was experienced. The study showed that 3-4 years after a breach...

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Slew of HIPAA Violations Leads to $2.15 Million Civil Monetary Penalty for Jackson Health System
Oct23

Slew of HIPAA Violations Leads to $2.15 Million Civil Monetary Penalty for Jackson Health System

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has imposed a $2.15 million civil monetary penalty against the Miami, FL-based nonprofit academic medical system, Jackson Health System (JHS), for a slew of violations of HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule. In July 2015, OCR became aware of several media reports in which the PHI of a patient was impermissibly disclosed. The individual was a well-known NFL football player. Photographs of an operating room display board and schedule had also been shared on social media by a reporter. OCR launched an investigation in October 2015 and opened a compliance review in relation to the impermissible disclosure. JHS investigated and submitted a report confirming a photograph was taken in which two patients PHI was visible, including the PHI of a well-known person in the community. The internal investigation revealed an employee had been accessing patient information without authorization since 2011. During that time, the employee had accessed the records of 24,188 patients without any legitimate...

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76% of SMBs Have Experienced a Data Breach in the Past Year
Oct23

76% of SMBs Have Experienced a Data Breach in the Past Year

A recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of Keeper Security has revealed 76% of small and medium sized businesses in the United States have experienced a data breach in the past 12 months. The survey was conducted on 2,391 IT and IT security professionals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Western Europe for Keeper Security’s 2109 Global State of Cybersecurity report. The survey revealed SMBs in the United States are more extensively targeted than in other countries. Globally, 66% of SMBs have experienced a data breach in the past year. The frequency of attacks has also increased. Since 2016, the number of cyberattacks on SMBs has risen by 20%. 69% of respondents said cyberattacks have become much more targeted. The main methods used by cybercriminals to attack SMBs are phishing and social engineering, which were behind 57% of SMB cyberattacks in the past 12 months. 30% of attacks involved other forms of credential theft, and 33% of breaches were due to compromised or stolen devices. 70% of surveyed SMBs said they had experienced incidents in past 12...

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Sensitive Data of Millions of Patients Discovered to Be Freely Accessible Over the Internet
Oct22

Sensitive Data of Millions of Patients Discovered to Be Freely Accessible Over the Internet

The sensitive health information of millions of patients has been exposed over the internet as a result of the failure of nine companies to secure their medical databases. The exposed patient data was discovered by security researchers at WizeCase. The research team, led by Avishai Efrat, used publicly available tools to search for exposed data that could be accessed without the need for any usernames or passwords. The firm then offers to help those organizations fix their data leaks and better secure their data. In all cases, the researchers attempted to contact the healthcare organizations concerned to advise them about the misconfigured databases to allow steps to be taken to secure the data and prevent unauthorized access, but in several cases no response was received. The researchers contacted databreaches.net and received assistance in contacting the companies concerned. When no response was received, the researchers contacted local authorities and hosting companies for assistance. Several attempts were made to get the data secured over the space of a month before the...

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September 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct21

September 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

September saw 36 healthcare data breaches of more than 500 records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which represents a 26.53% decrease in breaches from the previous month. 1,957,168 healthcare records were compromised in those breaches, an increase of 168.11% from August. The large number of breached records is largely down to four reported incidents, each of which involved hundreds of thousands of healthcare records. Three of those incidents have been confirmed as ransomware attacks. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in September 2019 The largest breach of the month was due to a ransomware attack on Jacksonville, FL-based North Florida OB-GYN, part of Women’s Care of Florida. 528,188 healthcare records were potentially compromised as a result of the attack. Sarrell Dental also experienced a ransomware attack in which the records of 391,472 patients of its Alabama clinics were encrypted. 320,000 records of patients of Premier Family Medical in Utah were also potentially compromised in a ransomware attack. The University of Puerto Rico...

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Microsoft and NCCoE Start Working on Guidelines for Implementing an Effective Enterprise Patch Management Strategy
Oct18

Microsoft and NCCoE Start Working on Guidelines for Implementing an Effective Enterprise Patch Management Strategy

A new project has been launched by Microsoft and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) to develop guidance on developing and implementing an effective patch management strategy. Following the (Not)Petya wiper attacks in 2017, Microsoft embarked on a voyage of discovery into why companies had failed to exercise basic cybersecurity hygiene and had not patched their systems, even though patches had been released months previously and could have protected against the attacks. Over the past 12 months, feedback has been sought from the Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Center for Internet Security on the risk of exploitation and patch management strategies. Microsoft has also sat down with customers to find out more about the challenges they face applying patches and to discover exactly why patching is often delayed and why in some cases patches are not applied. These meetings revealed many companies were unsure about what they should be doing in...

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Roger Severino Gives Update on OCR HIPAA Enforcement Priorities
Oct17

Roger Severino Gives Update on OCR HIPAA Enforcement Priorities

Roger Severino, Director of the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, has given an update on OCR’s HIPAA enforcement priorities at the OCR/NIST 11th Annual HIPAA Conference in Washington D.C. Severino confirmed that one of OCR’s top policy initiatives is still enforcing the rights of patients under the HIPAA Privacy Rule and ensuring they are given timely access to their health information at a reasonable cost. Under HIPAA, patients have the right to view and check their medical records and obtain a copy of their health data, yet there are still healthcare organizations that are making this difficult. OCR has already agreed to settle one case this year with a HIPAA-covered entity that failed to provide a patient with a copy of her health information. OCR had to intervene before those records were provided to the patient. The entity in question, Bayfront Health St Petersburg, paid a financial penalty of $85,000 to resolve the HIPAA violation. More financial penalties will be issued to covered entities that fail to comply with this important provision of HIPAA. Severino confirmed that...

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MITA Publishes New Medical Device Security Standard
Oct14

MITA Publishes New Medical Device Security Standard

The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) has released a new medical device security standard which provides healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) with important information about risk management and medical device security controls to harden the devices against unauthorized access and cyberattacks. The new voluntary standard – Manufacturer Disclosure Statement for Medical Device Security (MDS2) (NEMA/MITA HN 1-2019) – was developed in conjunction with a diverse range of industry stakeholders and aligns with the 2018 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Medical Device Cybersecurity Playbook, issued in October 2018. The guidance explains that cybersecurity of medical devices is a shared responsibility. HDOs must collaborate with medical device manufacturers to ensure best practices are adopted. Device manufacturers, HDOs, government entities, and cybersecurity researchers need to work together to ensure threats to medical devices are managed and reduced to reasonable and appropriate levels. The new standard is intended to help streamline communications between...

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HHS Proposes New Stark Law Safe Harbor Covering Cybersecurity Donations
Oct11

HHS Proposes New Stark Law Safe Harbor Covering Cybersecurity Donations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed changes to physician self-referral and federal anti-kickback regulations which will see the creation of a new safe harbor covering hospital donations of cybersecurity software and associated services to physicians. The proposed law change is detailed in two new rules issued by the HHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) which aim to modernize and clarify regulations that interpret the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and Physician Self-Referral law known as Stark Law. The proposed rules are part of the HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care which promotes value-based care by eliminating federal regulatory barriers that are impeding efforts to improve the coordination of care between providers. “The digitization of the healthcare delivery system and related rules designed to increase interoperability and data sharing in the delivery of healthcare create numerous targets for cyberattacks,” explained OIG. “The healthcare industry and the...

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Pulse Connect, GlobalProtect, Fortigate VPN Vulnerabilities Being Actively Exploited by APT Actors
Oct09

Pulse Connect, GlobalProtect, Fortigate VPN Vulnerabilities Being Actively Exploited by APT Actors

Vulnerabilities in popular VPN products from Pulse Secure, FortiGuard, and Palo Alto are being actively exploited by advanced persistent threat (APT) actors to gain access to VPNs and internal networks. The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and other cybersecurity agencies issued security advisories about multiple vulnerabilities in VPN products over the summer of 2019; however, many organizations have been slow to take action. Weaponized exploits for the vulnerabilities have now been developed and are being used by APT actors and exploit code is freely available online on GitHub and the Metasploit framework. On October 1, 2019, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning about the vulnerabilities following several attacks on government agencies, the military, businesses, and the education and healthcare sectors. The National Security Agency (NSA) also issued a security advisory about the vulnerabilities along with mitigations on October 7. The vulnerabilities are present in outdated versions of the Pulse Secure VPN (CVE-2019-11508 and...

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URGENT/11 Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in Medical Devices Prompt FDA Warning
Oct02

URGENT/11 Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in Medical Devices Prompt FDA Warning

Security researchers at Armis have identified 11 vulnerabilities in the Interpeak IPnet TCP/IP Stack, a third-party software component used in hospital networks and certain medical devices. The vulnerabilities were reported to the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) prompting an ICS Medical Advisory and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Safety Communication warning patients, healthcare providers, facility staff and manufacturers about the flaws. The FDA alert – named URGENT/11 – explains that the vulnerabilities could be remotely exploited by a threat actor allowing full control to be taken of a vulnerable medical device. An attacker could change the functions of the device, access sensitive information, cause logical flaws or denial of service attack that could stop the device from working. While there have been no reports of the flaws being exploited in the wild, the FDA warns that the software required to exploit the flaws is publicly available. Interpeak IPnet TCP/IP Stack supports network communications between computers, and while it is no longer...

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Senator Demands Answers Over Exposure of Medical Images in Unsecured PACS
Sep27

Senator Demands Answers Over Exposure of Medical Images in Unsecured PACS

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) has written to TridentUSA Health Services demanding answers about a breach of sensitive medical images at one of its affiliates, MobileXUSA. Sen. Warner is the co-founder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, which was set up as bipartisan educational resource to help the Senate engage more effectively on cybersecurity policy issues. As part of the SCC’s efforts to improve cybersecurity in healthcare, in June Sen. Warner asked NIST to develop a secure file sharing framework and wrote to healthcare stakeholder groups in February requesting they share best practices and the methods they used to reduce cybersecurity risk and improve healthcare data security. The latest letter was sent a few days after ProPublica published a report of an investigation into unsecured Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS). PACS are used by hospitals and other healthcare organizations for viewing, storing, processing, and transmitting medical images such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-Rays. The report revealed more than 303 medical images of approximately 5 million...

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Businesses Slow to Modify and Block Access Rights When Employees Change Roles or Leave the Company
Sep26

Businesses Slow to Modify and Block Access Rights When Employees Change Roles or Leave the Company

A recent survey of IT professionals, conducted by IT firm Ivanti has revealed access rights to digital resources are not always terminated promptly when employees change roles or leave the company. The latter is especially concerning as there is a high risk of data theft and sabotage of company systems by former employees. There have been many reported cases of former employees taking sensitive data to new employers and conducting malicious acts in cases of termination. The survey was conducted online in the summer of 2019 on 400 individuals, 70% of whom were IT professionals. Questions were asked about setting up permissions for new employees, modifying access rights when roles change, and terminating access rights to company resources when employees are terminated, contracts end, or employees find alternative employment. The respondents came from a broad range of industries including healthcare. 27% of respondents said they were required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 25% were required to comply with the EU’s General Data...

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Study Reveals Types of Protected Health Information Most Commonly Exposed in Healthcare Data Breaches
Sep24

Study Reveals Types of Protected Health Information Most Commonly Exposed in Healthcare Data Breaches

Researchers from Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University have conducted a study of healthcare data breaches over the past 10 years to examine what types of information are most commonly exposed in healthcare data breaches. The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday September 23, 2019, confirms that the health information of approximately 169 million Americans was exposed, compromised, or impermissibly disclosed in 1,461 data breaches at 1,388 entities between October 2009 and July 2019. Those breaches each impacted 500 or more individuals and were reportable incidents under HIPAA and the HITECH Act. The researchers explain that information about the types of information exposed in data breaches is not widely available to the public, since it is not a requirement to share the types of data that have been compromised in the breaches. It is therefore difficult for researchers to classify the amount and types of healthcare information exposed and gain an accurate picture of the consequences of the breaches. “When the media reports...

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August 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Sep23

August 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In August, healthcare data breaches continued to be reported at a rate of more than 1.5 per day, which is around twice the monthly average in 2018 (29.5 breaches per month). This is the second successive month when breaches have been reported at such an elevated level. While the number of breaches has not changed much since last month (49 compared to 50), there has been a substantial reduction in the number of exposed records.   August saw 729,975 healthcare records breached compared to 25,375,729 records in July, 3,452,442 records in June, and 1,988,376 records in May. The exceptionally high breach total for July was mostly due to the massive data breach at American Medical Collection Agency (See below for an update on the AMCA breach total). Causes of August 2019 Healthcare Data Breaches Hacking and other IT incidents dominated the breach reports in August. 32 breaches were attributed to hacking/IT incidents, which is almost double the number of breaches from all other causes. Hacking/IT incidents breached 602,663 healthcare records – 82.56% of all records breached in...

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400 Million Medical Images Are Freely Accessible Online Via Unsecured PACS
Sep18

400 Million Medical Images Are Freely Accessible Online Via Unsecured PACS

A recent investigation by ProPublica, the German public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, and vulnerability and analysis firm, Greenbone Networks has revealed millions of medical images contained in image storage systems are freely accessible online and require no authentication to view or download the images. Those images, which include X-rays, MRI, and CT scans, are stored in picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) connected to the Internet. Greenbone Networks audited 2,300 Internet-connected PACS between July and September 2019 and set up a RadiAnt DICOM Viewer to access the images stored on open PACS servers. Those servers were found to contain approximately 733 million medical images of which 399.5 million could be viewed and downloaded. The researchers found 590 servers required no authentication whatsoever to view medical images. PACS use the digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) standard to view, process, store, and transmit the images. In most cases, a DICOM viewer would be required to access the images, but in some cases, all that is required...

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Mobile Device Security Guidance for Corporate-Owned Personally Enabled Devices Issued by NCCoE
Sep18

Mobile Device Security Guidance for Corporate-Owned Personally Enabled Devices Issued by NCCoE

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) has issued new draft NIST mobile device security guidance to help organizations mitigate the risks introduced by corporate-owned personally enabled (COPE) devices. Mobile devices allow employees to access resources essential for their work duties, no matter where those individuals are located. As such, the devices allow organizations to improve efficiency and productivity, but the devices bring unique threats to an organization. The devices typically have an always-on Internet connection and the devices often lack the robust security controls that are applied to devices such as desktop computers. Malicious or risky apps can be downloaded to mobile devices by users without the knowledge or authorization of the IT department. App downloads could introduce malware and app permissions could allow unauthorized access to sensitive data. Organizations therefore need to have total visibility into all mobile devices used by employees for work activities and they must ensure that mobile device security risks are effectively mitigated....

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NCCoE Issues Draft Guidelines for Securing the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) Ecosystem
Sep17

NCCoE Issues Draft Guidelines for Securing the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) Ecosystem

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) has issued draft NIST guidelines for securing the picture archiving and communications system (PACS) ecosystem. The guidelines – NIST Cybersecurity Practice Guide, SP 1800-24 – have been written for health healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) to help them secure their PACS and reduce the probability of a data breach and data loss, protect patient privacy, and ensure the integrity of medical images while minimizing disruption to hospital systems. PACS is used by virtually all HDOs for storing, viewing, and sharing digital medical images. The systems make it easy for healthcare professionals to access and share medical images to speed up diagnosis. The system can often be accessed via desktops, laptops, and mobile devices and a PACS may also link to electronic health records, other hospital systems, regulatory registries, and government, academic, and commercial archives. With many users and devices and interactions with multiple systems, HDOs can face challenges securing their PACS ecosystem, especially without...

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Vulnerabilities Identified in WLAN Firmware Used by Philips IntelliVue Portable Patient Monitors
Sep17

Vulnerabilities Identified in WLAN Firmware Used by Philips IntelliVue Portable Patient Monitors

Two vulnerabilities have been identified in Philips IntelliVue WLAN firmware which affect certain IntelliVue MP monitors. The flaws could be exploited by hackers to install malicious firmware which could impact data flow and lead to an inoperable condition alert at the device and Central Station. Philips was alerted to the flaws by security researcher Shawn Loveric of Finite State, Inc. and proactively issued a security advisory to allow users of the affected products to take steps to mitigate risk. The flaws require a high level of skill to exploit in addition to access to a vulnerable device’s local area network. Current mitigating controls will also limit the potential for an attack. As such, Philips does not believe either vulnerability would impact clinical. Philips does not believe the flaws are being actively exploited. The first flaw, tracked as CVE-2019-13530, concerns the use of a hard-coded password which could allow an attacker to remotely login via FTP and upload malicious firmware. The second flaw, tracked as CVE-2019-13534, allows the download of code or an...

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Consumer Technology Association Publishes Privacy Guidelines for Handling Health and Wellness Data
Sep17

Consumer Technology Association Publishes Privacy Guidelines for Handling Health and Wellness Data

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has released data privacy guidelines to help companies better protect health and wellness data. The guidelines have been developed to help CTA members address tangible privacy risks and securely collect, use, and share health and wellness data from health/wellness apps, wearable devices, and other digital tools. The guidelines – Guiding Principles for the Privacy of Personal Health and Wellness Information – were developed by the CTA to help members address privacy gaps, discover consumer preferences, and earn consumer trust. “[The] privacy guidelines, developed with consensus among industry stakeholders, will help give both individuals and companies the confidence to invest in innovative technologies which will improve health,” explained CTA president and CEO, Gary Shapiro. “The CTA Privacy Principles demonstrate that health tech companies understand they must be trusted stewards of patient data.” Consumers now have access to a plethora of apps, devices, and digital tools that let them keep track of their health metrics,...

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Multi-Factor Authentication Blocks 99.9% of Automated Cyberattacks
Sep13

Multi-Factor Authentication Blocks 99.9% of Automated Cyberattacks

The healthcare industry experiences more than its fair share of phishing attacks. Each week, several phishing attacks are reported by healthcare organizations that have resulted in the exposure or theft of protected health information. In the majority of cases, those attacks could be prevented by following basic cybersecurity best practices. Cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated, but the majority of attacks are not. They involve the use of default and commonly used passwords in brute force attacks or basic phishing emails. Brute force attacks can be thwarted by creating and enforcing strong password policies. It should not be possible for users to use dictionary words as passwords or commonly used weak passwords such as 12345678. Accounts are also commonly breached due to password re-use. Figures from Microsoft suggest 73% of users duplicate passwords on work and personal accounts. If a personal account is breached, the password can be used to access the user’s work account. Many phishing emails succeed in bypassing anti-spam defenses. A recent report from Avanan suggests as...

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HSCC Publishes Guidance on Healthcare Information Sharing Organizations
Sep12

HSCC Publishes Guidance on Healthcare Information Sharing Organizations

The Healthcare and Public Health Sector Coordinating Council (HSCC) has published guidance on cybersecurity information sharing organizations in the healthcare sector. HSCC is a public-private partnership of more than 200 companies and organizations, including health IT companies, medical device manufacturers, laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, health plans, payers and government agencies. Its role is to provide collaborative solutions to help mitigate cybersecurity threats affecting the healthcare industry. The Health Industry Cybersecurity Matrix of Information Sharing Organizations (HIC-MISO) is the fourth cybersecurity resource published by HSCC as mandated by the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force, which requires HSCC to help improve information sharing of industry threats, risks, and mitigations. Other resources previously published by HSCC cover healthcare industry cybersecurity best practices, developing a medical device joint security plan, and the development of a health industry cybersecurity workforce. “Many health organizations are beginning to...

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Insurance Companies are Fueling the Ransomware Epidemic by Paying Ransoms
Sep11

Insurance Companies are Fueling the Ransomware Epidemic by Paying Ransoms

A recent ProPublica investigation has highlighted a growing problem that is fueling the current ransomware epidemic. Insurance companies are opting to pay ransom demands as it is the most cost-effective way of settling claims, even though paying ransoms encourages further attacks. A ransom demand may be high, but it is far cheaper to pay the ransom than cover the cost of rebuilding systems from scratch and restoring data from backups. Paying the ransom demand is a win-win for the insurer and breached entity. The insurer saves money and since most insurance policies only require payment of a small deductible, the breached entity does too. They are also likely to regain access to their files and systems far more quickly, which saves time and money by reducing downtime. The hackers responsible for the attack are also happy, as their demand is met. This has been clearly demonstrated in recent attacks where the breached entity has refused to pay up. The ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta saw the attackers issued a demand of $51,000 for the keys to decrypt files. The city refused...

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Vulnerability Identified in Becton Dickinson Pyxis Drug Dispensing Cabinets
Sep09

Vulnerability Identified in Becton Dickinson Pyxis Drug Dispensing Cabinets

Becton Dickinson (BD) has discovered a vulnerability in its Pyxis drug dispensing cabinets which could allow an unauthorized individual to use expired credentials to access patient data and medications. The vulnerability was discovered by BD, which self-reported the flaw to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). ICS-CERT has recently issued an advisory about the flaw. The vulnerability affects Pyxis ES versions 1.3.4 to 1.6.1 and Pyxis Enterprise Server with Windows Server versions 4.4 through 4.12. The vulnerability – tracked as CVE-2019-13517 – is a session fixation flaw in which existing access privileges are not properly coordinated with the expiration of access when a vulnerable device is joined to an Active Directory (AD) domain. This means the credentials of a previously authenticated user could be used to gain access to a vulnerable device under certain configurations. This would allow an attacker to obtain the same level of privileges as the user whose credentials are being used, which could give access to patient...

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Study Confirms Why Prompt Data Breach Notifications Are So Important
Sep05

Study Confirms Why Prompt Data Breach Notifications Are So Important

When healthcare organizations experience a data breach it is understandable that breach victims will be upset and angry. Information is provided to healthcare organizations in the understanding that safeguards have been implemented to keep that information private and confidential. When patients and health plan members learn that their sensitive, private information has been exposed or stolen, many choose to take their business elsewhere. According to a new study* by the credit reporting agency Experian, if the breach response is properly managed and the breached entity is transparent and issues notifications promptly, customer churn rate can be kept to an absolute minimum. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Breach Notification Rule requires notifications to be issued to breach victims ‘without unreasonable delay’ and no later than 60 days from the discovery of the breach. However, a majority of patients expect to be notified much more quickly. The study showed 73% of patients/plan members expect to be notified about a breach within 24 hours of the...

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82% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced a Cyberattack on Their IoT Devices
Sep03

82% of Healthcare Organizations Have Experienced a Cyberattack on Their IoT Devices

82% of healthcare providers that have implemented Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices have experienced a cyberattack on at least one of those devices over the course of the past 12 months, according to the Global Connected Industries Cybersecurity Survey from Swedish software company Irdeto. For the report, Irdeto surveyed 700 security leaders from healthcare organizations and firms in the transportation, manufacturing, and IT industries in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Japan. Attacks on IoT devices were common across all those industry sectors, but healthcare organizations experienced the most cyberattacks out of all industries under study. The biggest threat from these IoT cyberattacks is theft of patient data. The attacks also have potential to compromise end user safety, result in the loss of intellectual property, operational downtime and damage to the organization’s reputation. The failure to effectively secure the devices could also potentially result in a regulatory fine. When asked about the consequences of a cyberattack on IoT devices, the biggest...

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OCR Offers Advice on Managing Malicious Insider Threats
Aug30

OCR Offers Advice on Managing Malicious Insider Threats

Healthcare organizations can implement robust defenses to prevent hackers from gaining access to sensitive data, but not all threats come from outside the organization. It is also important to implement policies, procedures, and technical solutions to detect and prevent attacks from within. Healthcare employees require access to protected health information (PHI) to perform their work duties. While those individuals may be deemed trustworthy, providing access to PHI exposes the organization to risk. Workers can go rogue and access patient information without authorization and could easily abuse their access rights and steal patient data for financial gain. There will always be the occasional bad apple, but the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report suggests the problem is far more prevalent. According to the report, 59% of all security incidents and data breaches analyzed for the report were caused by insiders. Many of those breaches were due to mistakes made by healthcare employees, but a significant percentage were caused by malicious insiders who stole patient...

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Ransomware Attack Impacts More Than 400 U.S. Dental Practices
Aug30

Ransomware Attack Impacts More Than 400 U.S. Dental Practices

A ransomware attack on a medical record backup service has prevented hundreds of dental practices in the United States from accessing their patients’ records. The attack occurred on August 26, 2019 and affected the DDS Safe backup solution developed by Wisconsin-based software company, Digital Dental Record (DDS). The DDS system was accessed via an attack on its cloud management provider, West Allis, WI-based PerCSoft. Ironically, the DDS website states DDS Safe helps to protect dental practices against ransomware attacks. The attack did not affect all dental practices using the DDS Safe solution. Initial reports suggest between 400 and 500 of the 900 dental practices using the solution have been affected by the REvil/Sodinokibi ransomware attack. PerCSoft, assisted by a third-party software company, has obtained a decryptor and is in the process of recovering the encrypted files. According to a statement from DDS, recovery of files is estimated to take between 30 minutes to 4 hours per client. Some dental practices have reported file loss as a result of the attack and others have...

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OMB Audit Confirms HHS Information Security Program is “Not Effective”
Aug27

OMB Audit Confirms HHS Information Security Program is “Not Effective”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has submitted its annual report to Congress on the state of cybersecurity in federal agencies, as required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). For the report, OMB assessed 4 of the 12 operating divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assess compliance with FISMA and determined the HHS security program was ‘not effective.’ The agency had not achieved a Managed and Measurable level of maturity for the Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover functional areas. The HHS was determined to be managing risk in the ‘Detect’ functional area but was at risk in the other four functional areas. The HHS has been working on improving its security posture and progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go. OMB found major weaknesses in multiple areas, including identity and access management, risk management, contingency planning, and incident response. OMB notes that since the HHS is operating in a federated environment, there are many challenges in achieving a ‘Managed and...

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July 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Aug26

July 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

May 2019 was the worst ever month for healthcare data breaches with 46 reported breaches of more than 500 records. More breaches were reported in May than any other month since the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights started publishing breach summaries on its website in 2009. That record of 44 breaches was broken in July. July saw 50 healthcare data breaches of more than 500 records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which is 13 more breaches than the monthly average for 2019 and 20.5 more breaches than the monthly average for 2018. July 2019 was the second worst month in terms of the number of healthcare records exposed. 25,375,729 records are known to have been exposed in July. There are still 5 months left of 2019, yet more healthcare records have been breached this year than in all of 2016, 2017, and 2018 combined. More than 35 million individuals are known to have had their healthcare records compromised, exposed, or impermissibly disclosed this year. Causes of July 2019 Healthcare Data Breaches   The main reason for the increase in...

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Why Are Hackers Targeting the Healthcare Industry?
Aug22

Why Are Hackers Targeting the Healthcare Industry?

The healthcare industry is under attack. More data breaches are being reported than ever before, but what is the motivation behind these attacks? Why are hackers targeting the healthcare industry? A new report from FireEye provides some answers. For the report, FireEye researchers studied recent healthcare cyberattacks and identified the tactics being used, the actions of the hackers post-compromise, and what the ultimate goals of the attacks were. The researchers were able to classify attacks into two groups: Those concerned with theft of data and disruptive/destructive threats. Many attacks are focused on obtaining patient data although research data can also be extremely valuable. Cyberattacks concerned with obtaining research information have a low, but noteworthy impact risk to healthcare organizations. These attacks are most commonly associated with nation-state threat actors. Cybercriminal gangs and nation-state sponsored hacking groups are investing time and resources into targeting specific healthcare organizations that store treasure troves of data. That could be a...

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Study Raises Awareness of Threat of Lateral Phishing Attacks
Aug21

Study Raises Awareness of Threat of Lateral Phishing Attacks

A recent study by the University of San Diego, University of California Berkeley, and Barracuda Networks has shed light on a growing threat to healthcare organizations – Lateral phishing. In a standard phishing attack, an email is sent containing an embedded hyperlink to a malicious website where login credentials are harvested. The emails contain a lure to attract a click. That lure is often tailored to the organization being attacked. These phishing emails are relatively easy to identify and block because they are sent from outside the organization. Lateral phishing is the second stage in the attack. When an email account is compromised, it is then used to send phishing emails to other employees within the organization. Phishing emails are also sent to companies and individuals with a relationship with the owner of the compromised account. This tactic is very effective. Employees are trained to be suspicious of emails from unknown senders. When an email is received from a person in the organization that usually corresponds with the employee via email, there is a much higher...

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32% of Healthcare Employees Have Received No Cybersecurity Training
Aug21

32% of Healthcare Employees Have Received No Cybersecurity Training

There have been at least 200 breaches of more than 500 records reported since January and 2019 looks set to be another record-breaking year for healthcare data breaches. The continued increase in data breaches prompted Kaspersky Lab to conduct a survey to find out more about the state of cybersecurity in healthcare. Kaspersky Lab has now published the second part of its report from the survey of 1,758 healthcare professionals in the United States and Canada. The study provides valuable insights into why so many cyberattacks are succeeding. Almost a third of surveyed healthcare employees (32%) said they have never received cybersecurity training in the workplace. Security awareness training for employees is essential. Without training, employees are likely to be unaware of some of the cyber threats that they will encounter on a daily basis. Employees must be trained how to identify phishing emails and told of the correct response when a threat is discovered. The failure to provide training is a violation of HIPAA. Even when training is provided, it is often insufficient. 11% of...

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NIST Releases New Guidance on Securing IoT Devices
Aug07

NIST Releases New Guidance on Securing IoT Devices

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a new guide for manufacturers of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to help them incorporate appropriate cybersecurity controls to ensure the devices are protected against threats when users connect them to the Internet. The guide is the second in a series of publications on the security of IoT devices. The first document outlined the risks posed by IoT devices. The latest guide – Core Cybersecurity Feature Baseline for Securable IoT Devices: A Starting Point for IoT Device Manufacturers – is intended to help manufacturers incorporate core cybersecurity features into their IoT devices to reduce the prevalence and severity of IoT device compromises.   The draft document defines a core baseline of cybersecurity features which should be incorporated into all IoT devices, along with additional features that should be considered to provide a level of protection over and above the baseline that is appropriate for most customers. The manufacturers of IoT devices have a responsibility to ensure that their devices...

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GAO Discovers Widespread Cybersecurity Risk Management Failures at Federal Agencies
Aug07

GAO Discovers Widespread Cybersecurity Risk Management Failures at Federal Agencies

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a study of 23 federal agencies and found widespread cybersecurity risk management failures. Federal agencies are targeted by cybercriminals, so it is essential for safeguards to be implemented to protect against those threats. Federal law requires government agencies to adopt a risk-based approach to cybersecurity to identify, prioritize, and manage cybersecurity risks. The GAO was asked to conduct its review to determine whether federal agencies had established the key elements of a cybersecurity risk management program, what challenges were faced when developing those programs, and what steps had been taken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to address their responsibilities with respect to addressing cybersecurity challenges faced by federal agencies. The study revealed all but one (22) federal agency had appointed a cybersecurity risk executive, but other important elements of the risk management program had not been incorporated at many of the agencies assessed for the...

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VA OIG Report Highlights Risk of Medical Device Workarounds
Aug06

VA OIG Report Highlights Risk of Medical Device Workarounds

A recent inspection of a California VA medical center by the Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA OIG) has revealed security vulnerabilities related to medical device workarounds and multiple areas of non-adherence with Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and VA policies. Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California was inspected by the VA OIG after VHA and VA privacy and security policy violations were identified during an unrelated investigation. The auditors identified inappropriate staff workarounds for transferring and integrating information from patient medical devices into the medical center’s EHR system. The auditors also found two potential breaches of patient information while performing the inspection. The medical center did not have an interface between VHA medical devices and its EHR system, which forced staff to use inappropriate workarounds. Biomedical engineering and IT assistance had not fully resolved software interface issues between VHA medical devices and the EHR, and facility staff were using unapproved communication modes...

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First Half of 2019 Sees 31.6 Million Healthcare Records Breached
Aug02

First Half of 2019 Sees 31.6 Million Healthcare Records Breached

It has been a particularly bad six months for the healthcare industry. Data breaches have been reported in record numbers and the number of healthcare records exposed on a daily basis is extremely concerning. The trend of more than one healthcare data breach a day has continued throughout 2019, even reaching a rate of 2 per day in May. According to the 2019 Mid-Year Data Breach Barometer Report from Protenus and Databreaches.net, 31,611,235 healthcare records were breached between January 2019 and June 2019. To put that figure into perspective, it is double the number of records exposed in healthcare data breaches in the entirety of 2018 (14,217,811 records). One breach stands out from the 285 incidents reported in the first half of the year: The data breach at American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA). A batch of stolen credentials on a dark net marketplace was traced back to AMCA, which discovered its payment web page had been compromised for months. It is not yet known exactly how many healthcare records were exposed in the incident, but 18 clients are known to have been...

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DHS Issues Best Practices to Safeguard Against Ransomware Attacks
Aug01

DHS Issues Best Practices to Safeguard Against Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware appeared to have gone out of fashion in 2018, but that is certainly not the case in 2019. Q1, 2019 saw a 195% increase in ransomware attacks and a further 184% increase in Q2. Judging by the number of ransomware attacks reported in the past few weeks, the Q3 figures are likely to be even worse. States, cities, and local governments have been extensively targeted as has the healthcare industry. Many victims have been forced to pay sizable ransoms to regain access to critical data. Others have been forced to permanently close their doors. In response to the growing number of attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), National Governors Association (NGA), and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) have issued a joint statement in which recommendations are given to help improve resilience to ransomware attacks. The statement was issued primarily to state, local, territorial and tribal governments, although the...

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Critical VxWorks Vulnerabilities Impact 2 Billion Devices
Jul31

Critical VxWorks Vulnerabilities Impact 2 Billion Devices

Security researchers at Armin have identified 11 vulnerabilities in the VxWorks real-time operating system that is used in around 2 billion IoT devices, medical devices, and control systems. Six of the vulnerabilities have been rated critical and can be exploited remotely with no user interaction required. A successful exploit would allow a hacker to take full control of an affected device. The vulnerabilities are collectively known as “Urgent/11” VxWorks was first created more than 30 years ago and was developed to serve as an ultra-reliable operating system capable of processing data quickly. Today, VxWorks is the most popular real-time operating system in use and can be found in patient monitors, MRI machines, elevator control systems, industrial controllers, data acquisition systems, modems, routers, firewalls, VOIP phones, and printers. Armin researchers alerted Wind River about the flaws and patches have now been issued to address the vulnerabilities. Wind River said all currently supported versions of VxWorks are affected by at least one of the vulnerabilities. The...

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New York Governor Signs SHIELD Act into Law
Jul30

New York Governor Signs SHIELD Act into Law

The Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security (SHIELD) Act has been signed into state law by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The Act improves privacy protections for state residents and strengthens New York’s data breach notification laws to ensure they maintain pace with current technology. The SHIELD Act – S5575B/A5635B – was signed into law on July 25, 2019 and takes effect in 240 days. The Act makes several changes to existing state privacy and data breach notification laws: The definition of covered entities has been broadened to include any person or entity that holds the private information of a New York State resident, irrespective of whether that person or entity does business in New York State. All businesses must “develop, implement and maintain reasonable safeguards” to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal information. Those measures should reflect the size of the business. The SHIELD Act includes a list of factors considered to be ‘reasonable security protections’. A written information security program must be developed...

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Kentucky Community Health Center Pays $70,000 Ransom to Recover PHI
Jul29

Kentucky Community Health Center Pays $70,000 Ransom to Recover PHI

On June 7, 2019, Louisville, KY-based Park DuValle Community Health Center suffered a ransomware attack. Hackers succeeded in gaining access to its network and installed ransomware which rendered its medical record system and appointment scheduling platform inaccessible. The not-for-profit health center provides medical services to the uninsured and low-income patients in the western Louisville area. For seven weeks, employees at the health center have been recording patient information on pen and paper and have had to rely on patients’ accounts of past treatments and medications. With its systems out of action, no patient data could be viewed, and appointments could not be scheduled. The clinic had to operate on a walk-in basis. The medical record system contained the records of around 20,000 current and former patients who had previously received treatment at one of its medical centers in Louisville, Russell, Newburg, or Taylorsville. This is not the first ransomware attack suffered by the health center this year.  A prior attack occurred on April 2, 2019, which similarly took...

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HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Computing Platforms
Jul28

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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$301 Million Lost to BEC Attacks Each Month
Jul25

$301 Million Lost to BEC Attacks Each Month

Figures released by the Treasury Department show a steady rise in business email compromise (BEC) attacks over the past two years. More than twice the number of successful BEC attacks were reported in 2018 than 2016 and losses to these scams are skyrocketing. Business email compromise – BEC – is the name given to a type of an email impersonation attack. It typically involves the impersonation of the CEO or another figure of authority in the organization. Those individuals are usually targeted with spear phishing emails and are directed to phishing websites or tricked into downloading malware that steals their email credentials. The compromised email account is then used to send specially crafted messages to individuals in the organization who have the authority to make wire transfer payments, reroute payments, or change payroll information. BEC scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and cybercriminal gangs are investing heavily in their operations due to the huge potential returns. The Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network report revealed an average of...

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2019 Cost of A Data Breach Study Reveals Increase in U.S. Healthcare Data Breach Costs
Jul24

2019 Cost of A Data Breach Study Reveals Increase in U.S. Healthcare Data Breach Costs

The Ponemon Institute/IBM Security has published its 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report – A comprehensive analysis of data breaches reported in 2018. The report shows data breach costs have continue to rise and the costliest breaches are experienced by healthcare organizations, as has been the case for the past 9 years. Average Data Breach Costs $3.92 Million Over the past five years, the average cost of a data breach has increased by 12%. The global average cost of a data breach has increased to $3.92 million. The average breach size is 25,575 records and the cost per breached record is now $150; up from $148 last year. Globally, the healthcare industry has the highest breach costs with an average mitigation cost of $6.45 million. Healthcare data breaches typically cost 65% more than data breaches experienced in other industry sectors. Data breach costs are the highest in the United States, where the average cost of a data breach is $8.19 million – or $242 per record. The average cost of a healthcare data breach in the United States is $15 million. Healthcare Data Breaches Cost...

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June 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jul24

June 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

For the past two months, healthcare data breaches have been reported at a rate of 1.5 per day – Well above the typical rate of one per day. In June, data breaches returned to more normal levels with 30 breaches of more than 500 healthcare records reported in June – 31.8% fewer than May 2019.   While the number of reported data breaches fell,  June saw a 73.6% increase in the number of health records exposed in data breaches. 3,452,442 healthcare records were exposed in the 30 healthcare data breaches reported in June. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in June 2019 The increase in exposed records is due to a major breach at the dental health plan provider Dominion Dental Services (Dominion National Insurance Company). Dominion discovered an unauthorized individual had access to its systems and patient data for 9 years. During that time, the protected health information of 2,964,778 individuals may have been stolen. That makes it the largest healthcare data breach to be reported to the Office for Civil Rights so far in 2019 – At least for a month until entities affected by...

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Is IBM Cloud HIPAA Compliant?
Jul23

Is IBM Cloud HIPAA Compliant?

Is IBM Cloud HIPAA compliant? Is the cloud platform suitable for healthcare organizations in the United States to host infrastructure, develop health applications and store files? In this post we assess whether the IBM Cloud supports HIPAA compliance and the platform’s suitability for use by healthcare organizations. IBM offers a cloud platform to help organizations develop their mobile and web services, build native cloud apps, and host their infrastructure along with a wide range of cloud-based services for the capture, analysis, and processing of data. The platform has already been adopted by many healthcare providers, payers, and health plans, and applications and portals have been developed to provide patients with better access to their health information. IBM Cloud Security IBM is a leader in the field of network and data security, and its expertise has meant its cloud platform is highly secure. Security is built into the core of all of the firm’s software and services to ensure that sensitive data remains confidential and cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals. Its...

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AMCA Victim Count Swells to Almost 25 Million Records
Jul23

AMCA Victim Count Swells to Almost 25 Million Records

The number of healthcare providers confirmed to have been affected by the data breach at American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) has grown considerably over the past few days. The victim count is now nearing 25 million and 18 healthcare providers are now known to have been affected. The AMCA breach was discovered by its parent company, Retrieval Masters Credit Bureau (RMCB), on March 21, 2019. An investigation was launched to determine the extent of the attack, which revealed the hacker had access to the AMCA payment web page for around 8 months. During that time, the hacker had access to vast quantities of sensitive patient information, including financial information and Social Security numbers. AMCA notified all entities that had been affected by the breach in May 2019; however, only limited information was released. Most of the covered entities affected by the breach were not given sufficient information to allow the affected patients to be identified. Quest Diagnostics was the first to announce that it has been impacted by the breach, closely followed by LabCorp and...

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HHS Declares Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties in Louisiana
Jul17

HHS Declares Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties in Louisiana

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a limited waiver of HIPAA sanctions and penalties in Louisiana due to the devastation likely to be caused by Tropical Storm Barry as it made landfall on July 13 as a hurricane. The HHS announced the public health emergency in Louisiana on Friday July 12, 2019. The waiver only applies to healthcare organizations in the emergency area and only for the length of time stated in the declaration. The waiver only applies to specific provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and only for a maximum period of 72 hours after the hospital has implemented its emergency protocol. Once the time period for the waiver ends, healthcare providers will be required once again to comply with all aspects of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, even for patients still under their at the time the declaration ends, even if the 72-hour time window has not expired. While a waiver has been issued, the Privacy Rule does not prohibit the sharing of protected health information during disasters to assist patients and make sure they get the care they...

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Webinar: Ransomware, Malware, Phishing, and HIPAA Compliance
Jul10

Webinar: Ransomware, Malware, Phishing, and HIPAA Compliance

Compliancy Group is offering healthcare professionals an opportunity to take part in a webinar covering the main threats facing the healthcare industry. Threats such as ransomware, malware, and phishing will be discussed by compliance experts in relation to HIPAA and the privacy and security of patient data. Cybersecurity has become more important than ever in healthcare. The industry is seen as a weak target by hackers, large volumes of data are stored, and patient information carries a high value on the black market. April 2019 saw the highest number of healthcare data breaches in a single month and more healthcare data breaches were reported in 2018 than in any other year to date. The increased frequency of attacks on organizations of all sizes highlights just how important cybersecurity has become. Cyberattacks are not only negatively affecting businesses in the healthcare sector, but also place the privacy of patient’s health information at risk. While it was once sufficient to implement standard security tools, the sophisticated nature of attacks today mean new solutions are...

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Critical Vulnerability Identified in Burrow-Wheeler Aligner Genomics Mapping Software
Jul08

Critical Vulnerability Identified in Burrow-Wheeler Aligner Genomics Mapping Software

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have discovered a vulnerability in open source software used by genomic researchers. If exploited, an attacker could gain access to and alter sensitive genetic information. DNA screening is a two-step process. First, a patient’s DNA is sequenced and their genome is mapped. Then, the patient’s genetic information is compared with a standardized human genome. Any differences between the two are assessed to determine whether genetic differences are due to diseases. A software tool is used to make the comparison. Sandia researchers discovered a stack-based buffer overflow vulnerability – CVE-2019-10269 – in the Burrow-Wheeler Aligner (BWA) program used by many researchers to perform DNA-based medical diagnostics. The vulnerability is present at the point where BWA imports the standardized human genome from government servers. Patient information is transmitted via an insecure channel and could be intercepted in a man-in-the-middle attack. An attacker could intercept the standardized human genome, combine it with malware, and then...

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U.S. Cyber Command Warns of Active Exploitation of 2017 Outlook Vulnerability
Jul05

U.S. Cyber Command Warns of Active Exploitation of 2017 Outlook Vulnerability

A two-year-old vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook is being exploited by hackers in targeted attacks on U.S. government networks. U.S. Cyber Command has issued a warning about vulnerability CVE-2017-1174, which is being actively exploited to install remote access Trojans and other forms of malware.  U.S. Cyber Command strongly recommends patching the vulnerability immediately to prevent exploitation. The flaw is a sandbox escape vulnerability which can be exploited if the attacker has the user’s outlook credentials, which could be obtained via a phishing attack or other means. The attacker could then change the user’s home page to a page with embedded code that downloads and executes malware when Outlook is opened. U.S. Cyber Command made no mention of the threat actors believed to be behind the attacks, although security researchers at Palo Alto Networks, FireEye, Chronicale, and others have linked the attacks to the Iran-backed cyberespionage group APT33. APT33 has been exploiting this vulnerability for at least a year, but instead of using phishing, the group conducts brute force...

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DHS Warns of Increasing Risk of Wiper Malware Attacks by Iranian Threat Actors
Jun25

DHS Warns of Increasing Risk of Wiper Malware Attacks by Iranian Threat Actors

The Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a warning following a rise in cyberattacks by ‘Iranian regime actors.’ The warning from Christopher C. Krebs came as tensions are building between the United States and Iran. Iran has been accused of planting magnetic mines to damage commercial shipping vessels and a U.S. surveillance drone was shot as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran claims the drone was flying in its territory. The U.S. responded with a planned air strike, although it was called off by President Trump due to the likely loss of life. However, a strike did take place in cyberspace. The U.S. Cyber Command has reportedly launched an attack on an Iranian spying group, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that is believed to have been involved in the mine laying operation. According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the cyberattacks disabled the command and control system that was used to launch missiles and rockets. Iranian threat actors have also been highly active. There have been...

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Vulnerabilities in Servers Behind Majority of Healthcare Data Breaches
Jun24

Vulnerabilities in Servers Behind Majority of Healthcare Data Breaches

Cybercriminals are managing to find and exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to healthcare networks and patient data with increasing regularity. The past two months have been the worst and second worst ever months for healthcare data breaches in terms of the number of breaches reported. Phishing attacks on healthcare organizations have increased and email is now the most common location of breached protected health information. However, a recent analysis of the data breaches reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the past 12 months has revealed servers to be the biggest risk. Servers were found to be involved in more than half of all healthcare data breaches. Clearwater Cyberintelligence Institute (CCI) analyzed the 90 healthcare data breaches reported to OCR in the past 12 months. Those breaches resulted in the exposure, impermissible disclosure, or theft of the records of more than 9 million individuals. The CCI analysis revealed 54% of all reported breaches of 500 or more healthcare records were in some way related to servers....

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May 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jun20

May 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In April, more healthcare data breaches were reported than in any other month to date. The high level of data breaches has continued in May, with 44 data breaches reported. Those breaches resulted in the exposure of almost 2 million individuals’ protected health information. On average, 2018 saw 29.5 healthcare data breaches reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights each month – a rate of more than one a day. From January 2019 to May 2019, an average of 37.2 breaches have been reported each month. Up until May 31, 2019, 186 healthcare data breaches had been reported to OCR, which is more than half (52%) the number of breaches reported last year. It remains to be seen whether the increase in data breaches is just a temporary blip or whether 40+ healthcare data breaches a month will become the new norm. May saw a 186% increase in the number of exposed records compared to April. Across the 44 breaches, 1,988,376 healthcare records were exposed or compromised in May. So far this year, more than 6 million healthcare records have been exposed, which is more than half of the number of...

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Coffey Health System Agrees to $250,000 Settlement to Resolve Alleged Violations of False Claims and HITECH Acts
Jun06

Coffey Health System Agrees to $250,000 Settlement to Resolve Alleged Violations of False Claims and HITECH Acts

Coffey Health System has agreed to a $250,000 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims and HITECH Acts. The Kansas-based health system attested to having met HITECH Act risk analysis requirements during the 2012 and 2013 reporting period in claims to Medicare and Medicaid under the EHR Incentive Program. One of the main aims of the HITECH Act was to encourage healthcare organizations to adopt electronic health records. Under the then named Meaningful Use Program, healthcare organizations were required to demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs in order to receive incentive payments. In addition to demonstrating meaningful use of EHRs, healthcare organizations were also required to meet certain requirements related to EHR technology and address the privacy and security risks associated with EHRs. In 2016, Coffey Health System’s former CIO, Bashar Awad, and its former compliance officer, Cynthia McKerrigan, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Kansas against their former employer alleging violations of the False Claims Act. Both...

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40% of Healthcare Delivery Organizations Attacked with WannaCry Ransomware in the Past 6 Months
May31

40% of Healthcare Delivery Organizations Attacked with WannaCry Ransomware in the Past 6 Months

Healthcare organizations have been slow to correct the flaw in Remote Desktop Services that was patched by Microsoft on May 14, 2019, but a new report from cybersecurity firm Armis has revealed many healthcare organizations have still not patched the Windows Server Message Block (SMB) flaw that was exploited in the WannaCry ransomware and NotPetya wiper attacks in May and June 2017. The WannaCry attacks served as a clear reminder of the importance of prompt patching. Microsoft released patches for the vulnerability on March 2017. On May 12, 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attacks started. In the space of just a few days, more than 200,000 devices were infected in 150 countries. The hackers behind the attack used the NSA exploits EternalBlue and DoublePulsar to spread the malware across entire networks. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK was hit particularly badly due to the extensive use of legacy systems and the failure to apply patches promptly. Around one third of NHS Trusts in the UK were affected, 19,000 appointments had to be cancelled at a cost of around £20 million,...

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Almost 1 Million Windows Devices Still Vulnerable to Microsoft BlueKeep RDS Flaw
May30

Almost 1 Million Windows Devices Still Vulnerable to Microsoft BlueKeep RDS Flaw

More than two weeks after Microsoft issued a patch for a critical, wormable flaw in Remote Desktop Services, nearly 1 million devices have yet to have the patch applied and remain vulnerable. Those devices have also not had the recommended mitigations implemented to reduce the potential for exploitation of the flaw. The vulnerability – CVE-2019-0708 – can be exploited remotely with no user interaction required and could allow a threat actor to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable device, view, change, or delete data, install programs, create admin accounts, and take full control of the device. It would also be possible to then move laterally and compromise other devices on the network. Microsoft has warned that the vulnerability could be exploited via RDP and could potentially be used in another WannaCry-style attack. Microsoft released patches for the vulnerability on May 14 and, due to the seriousness of the flaw, the decision was taken to also release patches for unsupported Windows versions. The flaw affects Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 2003, Windows Server 2008, and...

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Siemens Healthineers Products Vulnerable to Microsoft BlueKeep Wormable Flaw
May29

Siemens Healthineers Products Vulnerable to Microsoft BlueKeep Wormable Flaw

Six security advisories have been issued covering Siemens Healthineers products. The flaws have been assigned a CVSS v3 score of 9.8 and concern the recently announced Microsoft BlueKeep RDS flaw – CVE-2019-0708. CVE-2019-0708 is a remotely exploitable flaw that requires no user interaction to exploit. An attacker could exploit the flaw and gain full control of a vulnerable device by sending specially crafted requests to Remote Desktop Services on a vulnerable device via RDP. The flaw is wormable and can be exploited to spread malware to all vulnerable devices on a network in a similar fashion to the WannaCry attacks of 2017. The severity of the vulnerability prompted Microsoft to issue patches for all vulnerable operating systems, including unsupported Windows versions which are still used in many healthcare and industrial facilities. The flaw affects Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. If the patch cannot be applied, RDP should be disabled, port 3389 should be blocked at the firewall, and Network Level Authentication (NLA) should...

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Multi-State Action Results in $900,000 Financial Penalty for Medical Informatics Engineering
May28

Multi-State Action Results in $900,000 Financial Penalty for Medical Informatics Engineering

Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE) is required to pay a financial penalty of $900,000 to resolve a multi-state action over HIPAA violations related to a breach of 3.9 million records in 2015. The announcement comes just a few days after the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights settled its HIPAA violation case with MIE for $100,000. MIE licenses a web-based electronic health record application called WebChart and its subsidiary, NoMoreClipboard (NMC), provides patient portal and personal health record services to healthcare providers that allow patients to access and manage their health information. By providing those services, MIE and NMC are business associates and are required to comply with HIPAA Rules. Between May 7 and May 26 2015, hackers gained access to a server containing data related to its NMC service.  Names, addresses, usernames, passwords, and sensitive health information were potentially accessed and stolen. A lawsuit was filed in December 2018 alleging MIE and NMC had violated state laws and several HIPAA provisions. 16 state attorneys general were named as plaintiffs in...

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HHS Confirms When HIPAA Fines Can be Issued to Business Associates
May27

HHS Confirms When HIPAA Fines Can be Issued to Business Associates

Since the Department of Health and Human Services implemented the requirements of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 in the 2013 Omnibus Final Rule, business associates of HIPAA covered entities can be directly fined for violations of HIPAA Rules. On May 24, 2019, to clear up confusion about business associate liability for HIPAA violations, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights clarified exactly what HIPAA violations could result in a financial penalty for a business associate. Business associates of HIPAA Covered entities can only be held directly liable for the requirements and prohibitions of the HIPAA Rules detailed below. OCR does not have the authority to issue financial penalties to business associates for any aspect of HIPAA noncompliance not detailed on the list.   You can download the HHS Fact Sheet on direct liability of business associates on this link. Penalties for HIPAA Violations by Business Associates The HITECH Act called for an increase in financial penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA Rules. In 2009, the...

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Medical Informatics Engineering Settles HIPAA Breach Case for $100,000
May24

Medical Informatics Engineering Settles HIPAA Breach Case for $100,000

Medical Informatics Engineering, Inc (MIE) has settled its HIPAA violation case with the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights for $100,000. MIE, an Indiana-based provider of electronic medical record software and services, experienced a major data breach in 2015 at its NoMoreClipboard subsidiary. Hackers used a compromised username and password to gain access to a server that contained the protected health information (PHI) of 3.5 million individuals. The hackers had access to the server for 19 days between May 7 and May 26, 2015. 239 of its healthcare clients were impacted by the breach. OCR was notified about the breach on July 23, 2015 and launched an investigation to determine whether it was the result of non-compliance with HIPAA Rules. OCR discovered MIE had failed to conduct an accurate and through risk analysis to identify all potential risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI prior to the breach – A violation of the HIPAA Security Rule 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(l)(ii)(A). As a result of that failure, there was an impermissible disclosure of 3.5 million...

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AAN Suggests Third Party App Security Framework Must be Included in the CMS Interoperability Plan
May21

AAN Suggests Third Party App Security Framework Must be Included in the CMS Interoperability Plan

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has voiced concerns about the interoperability plans of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). In February, both ONC and CMS proposed new rules that aim to reduce information blocking and improve interoperability. The AAN supports ONC and CMS efforts to reduce information blocking and improve interoperability. Data blocking and interoperability problems force clinicians to spend more time on clerical work, which means less time is spent providing direct care to patients. The AAN believes many of the provisions in the new rules are necessary for empowering patients and providers by providing comprehensive access to patient data; however, in a recent letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the AAN has expressed concern about patient safety and security if the ONC and CMS interoperability plans are implemented. The AAN supports efforts to advance the use of standardized Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) based APIs to allow patients to easily gain...

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April 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
May20

April 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

April was the worst ever month for healthcare data breaches. More data breaches were reported than any other month since the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights started publishing healthcare data breach reports in October 2009. In April, 46 healthcare data breaches were reported, which is a 48% increase from March and 67% higher than the average number of monthly breaches over the past 6 years. While breach numbers are up, the number of compromised healthcare records is down. In April 2019, 694,710 healthcare records were breached – A 23.9% reduction from March.  While the breaches were smaller in March, the increase in breaches is of great concern, especially the rise in the number of healthcare phishing attacks. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in April 2019 Two 100,000+ record data breaches were reported in April. The largest breach of the month was reported by the business associate Doctors Management Services – A ransomware attack that exposed the records of 206,695 patients. The ransomware was deployed 7 months after the attacker had first gained...

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New Study Uncovers Serious Holes in Healthcare Cybersecurity
May16

New Study Uncovers Serious Holes in Healthcare Cybersecurity

The sorry state of healthcare cybersecurity has been highlighted by a recent Forescout study. The study revealed the healthcare industry is overly reliant on legacy software, vulnerable protocols are extensively used, and medical devices are not properly secured. 75 global healthcare deployments were analyzed for the study, which included more than 1.5 million devices operating on 10,000 virtual local area networks (VLANs). The majority of those devices were running on legacy systems. While just 1% of devices used unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP, 71% had operating systems that are rapidly approaching end-of-life such as Windows 7, Windows 2008, and Windows Mobile. In January 2020, all three of those operating systems will be at end-of-life and will no longer be supported by Microsoft. The analysis revealed 85% of Windows devices had SMB running. It was a flaw in SMB that was behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is also commonly used. 35% of devices did not have RDP disabled. The use of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was also...

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7 Month Delay Notifying HIV Study Participants About Exposure of their Confidential Information
May16

7 Month Delay Notifying HIV Study Participants About Exposure of their Confidential Information

The sensitive information of 24 women diagnosed with HIV has been made available to individuals unauthorized to access that information. Despite the breach being discovered more than 7 months ago, the affected women have still not been notified. The women were participating in an EmPower Women study at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). All 24 women had been diagnosed with HIV yet had not sought treatment. The HIV research study aimed to explore the reasons why those women had not sought treatment, specifically how substance abuse, domestic violence, trauma, and mental illness affected the decision to seek treatment and commit to treatment programs.  To help recruit patients for the study, UCSD partnered with the non-profit organization Christie’s Place, which provides support to women diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. The plan was to recruit 100 patients for the study and offer half of participants free support and counselling services and the other half were given the option of receiving standard services at Christie’s Place. The researchers would then monitor the outcomes...

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Microsoft Patches Critical Flaw That Could be Exploited in WannaCry-Style Malware Attacks
May15

Microsoft Patches Critical Flaw That Could be Exploited in WannaCry-Style Malware Attacks

On Tuesday May 14, 2019, Microsoft released a patch to fix a ‘wormable’ flaw in Windows, similar to the vulnerability that was exploited in the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May 2017. The flaw is a remote code execution vulnerability in Remote Desktop Services – formerly Terminal Services – that can be exploited via RDP. The flaw (CVE-2019-0708) can be exploited by sending specially crafted requests via RDP to a vulnerable system. No authentication is required and the flaw can be exploited without any user interaction. If exploited, malware could propagate from one compromised computer to all other vulnerable computers on a network. If ransomware exploited the vulnerability, healthcare organizations could experience widespread file encryption and major disruption to operations. Microsoft has not received any reports to suggest the flaw is being actively exploited at present, but it is almost certain that exploits will be developed for the vulnerability and that those exploits will be incorporated into malware. The vulnerability is not present in Windows 8 and Windows 10, only...

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DHS Issues Security Best Practices to Mitigate Risks Associated with Office 365 Migrations
May14

DHS Issues Security Best Practices to Mitigate Risks Associated with Office 365 Migrations

Body: The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a new analysis report highlighting some of the common risks and vulnerabilities associated with transitioning from on-premise mail services to cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365. The report details best practices to adopt to manage risks and prevent user and mailbox compromises. Many healthcare organizations have realized the benefits of transitioning to cloud-based email services yet lack the in-house expertise to manage their migrations. Many have used third-party service providers to migrate their email services to Office 365. CISA notes that use of third parties to manage Office 365 migrations has led to an increase in security incidents. Over the past 6 months, CISA has had several engagements with customers who have used third-party service providers to manage their migrations and discovered a range of different Office 365 configurations that lowered organization’s security posture and left them vulnerable to phishing and other cyberattacks. CISA notes that the majority of those...

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CMS and ONC Tell Senate HELP Committee Rapid Progress is Required to Advance Interoperability
May10

CMS and ONC Tell Senate HELP Committee Rapid Progress is Required to Advance Interoperability

The second Senate HELP Committee hearing on the proposed roles for implementing the electronic medical records provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act has taken place this week. The Committee heard from National Coordinator for Health IT, Donald Rucker, and Director and Center for Medicare And Medicaid Services Chief Medical Officer, Kate Goodrich, M.D. The hearings aim to find a way forward to ensure the efficient accessing and sharing of health information between care providers and patients. The prevention of information blocking is one of the main goals. By allowing health information to flow freely between providers and be shared with patients, the cost of healthcare can be significantly reduced. According to Dr. Brett James of the National Academies, as much as 50% of the costs of healthcare are unnecessary. Patients are having to repeat tests because their information cannot be shared between different healthcare providers and there is considerable duplication of administrative tasks as a result of information blocking. Earlier this year both the CMS and ONC proposed new...

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Key Findings of the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report
May08

Key Findings of the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

Today sees the release of the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. This is the 12th edition of report, which contains a comprehensive summary of data breaches reported by public and private entities around the globe. The extensive report provides in-depth insights and perspectives on the tactics and techniques used in cyberattacks and detailed information on the current threat landscape.  The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report is the most comprehensive report released by Verizon to date and includes information from 41,686 reported security incidents and 2,013 data breaches from 86 countries. The report was compiled using data from 73 sources. The report highlights several data breach and cyberattack trends. Some of the key findings of the report are detailed below: C-Suite executives are 12 time more likely to be targeted in social engineering attacks than other employees Cyber-espionage related data breaches increased from 13% of breaches in 2017 to 25% in 2018 Nation-state attacks increased from 12% of attacks in 2017 to 23% in 2018 Financially motivated...

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Touchstone Medical Imaging Fined $3 Million by OCR for Extensive HIPAA Failures
May06

Touchstone Medical Imaging Fined $3 Million by OCR for Extensive HIPAA Failures

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced a settlement has been reached with the Franklin, TN-based diagnostic medical imaging services company, Touchstone Medical Imaging. The settlement resolves multiple violations of HIPAA Rules discovered by OCR during the investigation of a 2014 data breach. Touchstone Medical Imaging has agreed to a settlement of $3,000,000 to resolve the violations and will adopt a corrective action plan (CAP) to address its HIPAA compliance issues. The high settlement amount reflects widespread and prolonged noncompliance with HIPAA Rules. OCR alleged 8 separate violations across 10 HIPAA provisions. The settlement resolves the HIPAA case with no admission of liability. On May 9, 2014, Touchstone Medical Imaging was informed by the FBI that one of its FTP servers was accessible over the Internet and allowed anonymous connections to a shared directory. The directory contained files that included the protected health information (PHI) of 307,839 individuals. As a result of the lack of access controls, files had...

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Ransomware Attacks Increased by 195% in Q1, 2019 but Trojans Remain the Biggest Threat
May03

Ransomware Attacks Increased by 195% in Q1, 2019 but Trojans Remain the Biggest Threat

Malwarebytes has released a new report detailing the current tactics and techniques being used by cybercriminals to gain access to business networks and sensitive data. Malwarebytes’ Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques Q1 2019 was compiled using data collected by its intelligence, and data science teams and telemetry from its consumer and business products between January 1 and March 31, 2019. The report reveals there has been a 235% increase in cyberattacks on corporate targets in the past 12 months. There has also been a marked decline in cryptomining and other threats on consumers, which fell by 40% in 2018. It is clear from the report that cybercriminals are concentrating their efforts on attacking businesses and SMBs are most at risk as they typically lack the resources to significantly improve their cybersecurity defenses. The report shows that Trojans are currently the biggest malware threat. Attacks involving Trojans are up 650% from the same time last year and attacks increased by 200% in Q1, 2019. The biggest threat is Emotet, which Malwarebytes describes as the “most...

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OIG Gives HHS Information Security Program Rating of “Not Effective”
May02

OIG Gives HHS Information Security Program Rating of “Not Effective”

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report of its annual review of the HHS to assess compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2014 (FISMA). An audit of the HHS information security program was conducted by Ernst & Young LLP in 2018 on behalf of OIG. The audit uncovered several security weaknesses in the HHS information security program, including some areas where security had deteriorated compared to the 2017 review. As a result of those weaknesses, the HHS information security program was determined to be “not effective”. OIG notes in its report that the HHS has made efforts to strengthen security across the entire agency, but overall, those efforts were insufficient to raise the level of maturity of its information security program to the ‘managed and measurable’ level in the five cybersecurity framework areas: Identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. In order to attain the managed and measurable level, it is critical for the HHS to implement a continuous diagnostics and mitigation...

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Feature of DICOM Image Format Could Be Abused to Fuse Malware with PHI
Apr26

Feature of DICOM Image Format Could Be Abused to Fuse Malware with PHI

The DICOM image format, which has been in use for around for 30 years, contains a design ‘flaw’ that could be exploited by hackers to embed malware in image files. Were that to happen, the malware would become permanently fused with protected health information. The DICOM file format was developed to allow medical images to be easily stored and shared. It eliminated the need for physical films and solved hardware compatibility issues. DICOM is now the standard format used for MRI and CT images and is supported by most medical imaging systems. The file format can be read by a range of devices that are used to view patient image files and diagnostic information. DICOM images contain a section at the start of the files called a Preamble. This section is used to facilitate access to the metadata within the images and ensure compatibility with image viewers which do not support the DICOM image format. By altering the Preamble section of the file, image viewers treat DICOM images as a file type that they support, such as a jpeg, allowing the file to be opened. This design feature is part...

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Critical Vulnerability Identified in Fujifilm Computed Radiography Cassette Readers
Apr24

Critical Vulnerability Identified in Fujifilm Computed Radiography Cassette Readers

Two vulnerabilities have been identified in Fujifilm computed radiography cassette readers. If exploited, an attacker could gain access to the operating system, execute arbitrary code, render the devices inoperable, alter functionality, and cause image loss. The vulnerabilities are present in the following Fujifilm computed radiography cassette readers: CR-IR 357 FCR Capsula X CR-IR 357 FCR Carbon X CR-IR 357 FCR XC-2 The most serious vulnerability – CVE-2019-10950 – is due to improper access controls on telnet services. A remote attacker with a relatively low level of skill could exploit the vulnerability to gain access to the operating system and remotely execute code and affect the functionality of the device. The vulnerability has been assigned a CVSS v3 base score of 9.8 out of 10. The second vulnerability – CVE-2019-10948 – is due to uncontrolled resource consumption. An overflow of TCP packets could be caused in a denial of service (DoS) attack. If exploited, a DoS attack could render the device in operable and would require a reboot to restore functionality. The...

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Healthcare Organizations Found Not to be In Conformance with NIST CSF and HIPAA Rules
Apr16

Healthcare Organizations Found Not to be In Conformance with NIST CSF and HIPAA Rules

A recent study conducted by the consultancy firm CynergisTek has revealed many healthcare organizations are not in conformance with NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) controls and the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. For the study, CynergisTek analyzed the results of assessments at almost 600 healthcare organizations against NIST CSF and the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. The NIST CSF is a voluntary framework, but the standards and best practices help organizations manage cyber risks. Healthcare organizations that are not in conformance with CSF controls face a higher risk of experiencing a cyberattack or data breach. On average, healthcare organizations were only in conformance with 47% of NIST CSF controls. Conformance has only increased by 2% in the past year. Assisted living organizations had the highest level of conformance with NIST CSF (95%), followed by payers (86%), and accountable care organizations (73%). Business associates of HIPAA covered entities only had an average conformance level of 48%. Physician groups had the lowest level of conformance (36%). Out of the...

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HHS Slow to Implement GAO Health IT and Cybersecurity Recommendations
Apr15

HHS Slow to Implement GAO Health IT and Cybersecurity Recommendations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been slow to implement cybersecurity recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office. In total, 392 recommendations have yet to be addressed, including 42 which GAO rated as high priority. Over the past four years, GAO has made hundreds of recommendations, but the HHS has only addressed 75% of them, 2% less than other government agencies. The poor implementation rate was outlined in a March 28, 2019 letter from the GAO to HHS secretary Alex Azar. GAO explained that healthcare is part of the nation’s critical infrastructure and relies heavily on computerized systems and electronic data to function. Those systems are regularly targeted by a diverse range of threat actors, so it is essential they are secured and protected from unauthorized access. GAO drew attention to four high priority recommendations covering health IT and cybersecurity that are still outstanding. “The four open priority recommendations within this area outline steps to ensure HHS can effectively monitor the effect of electronic health...

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March 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Apr15

March 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

In March 2019, healthcare data breaches continued to be reported at a rate of one a day. 31 healthcare data breaches were reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights by HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates. The March total is almost 14% higher than the average of the past 60 months.   The number of reported breaches fell by 3.12% month over month and there was a 56.79% decrease in the number of breached healthcare records. March saw the healthcare records of 912,992 individuals exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen as a result of healthcare data breaches. Causes of March 2019 Healthcare Data Breaches The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights groups together hacking and other IT incidents such as malware and ransomware attacks. This category dominated the breach reports in March with 19 incidents reported. Hacking/IT incidents accounted for 88.40% of all compromised records (807,128 records). There were 8 unauthorized access/disclosure incidents reported in March. 81,904 healthcare records were impermissibly accessed or disclosed. There were also four theft...

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Data Security Incident Response Analysis Published by BakerHostetler
Apr11

Data Security Incident Response Analysis Published by BakerHostetler

BakerHostetler has released its fifth annual Data Security Incident Response Report, which contains an analysis of the 750+ data breaches the company helped manage in 2018. BakerHostetler suggests there has been a collision of data security, privacy, and compliance, and companies have been forced to change the way they respond to security breaches. In addition to federal and state regulations covering data breaches and notifications, companies in the United States must also comply with global privacy laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  All of these different regulations make the breach response a complex process. The definitions of personal information and breach response and reporting requirements differ for GDPR, HIPAA, and across the 50 states. The failure to comply with any of the above-mentioned regulations can lead to severe financial penalties. It is therefore of major importance to be prepared for breaches and be able to respond as soon as a breach is discovered. This has led many companies to create committees to help manage data breaches,...

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OCR Issues Warning on Advanced Persistent Threats and Zero-Day Exploits
Apr04

OCR Issues Warning on Advanced Persistent Threats and Zero-Day Exploits

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has raised awareness of the risk of advanced persistent threats and zero-day exploits in its spring cybersecurity newsletter. Healthcare organizations are attractive targets for hackers due to quantity of sensitive data they store. Individual’s protected health information is highly valuable as it can be used for many different purposes, including identity theft, tax fraud, and gaining access to medical services. Sensitive information about medical conditions can also be used to blackmail individuals. Healthcare organizations also store research data, genetic data, and data from experimental treatments, all of which are of great value cybercriminals. The information can be used by foreign governments to drive innovation. There are many techniques that hackers use to break through defenses and silently gain access to networks, two of the most serious threats being advanced persistent threats and zero-day exploits. An advanced persistent threat (APT) is a term used to refer to repeated cyberattacks that attempt to exploit vulnerabilities to gain...

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Study Reveals Health Information the Least Likely Data Type to be Encrypted
Apr03

Study Reveals Health Information the Least Likely Data Type to be Encrypted

Health information is the least likely data type to be encrypted, according to the Global Encryption Trends Study conducted by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of cryptographic solution provider nCipher. The study was conducted on 5,856 people across several industry sectors in 14 countries, including the United States. The aim of the study was to investigate data encryption trends, the types of data most likely to be encrypted, how extensively encryption has been adopted to improve security, and the challenges faced by companies when encrypting data. The study shows the use of encryption has steadily increased over the past four years. 45% of surveyed organizations said they have an overall encryption plan or strategy that is applied across the whole organization. 42% said they have a limited encryption plan or strategy, with encryption only used on certain applications and data types. 13% of respondents said they do not use encryption at all on any type of data. The use of encryption varies considerably from country to country. Germany leads the world with the highest prevalence...

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