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

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

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

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

Endpoint Security Trends and the Rising Threat of Fileless Malware Attacks

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

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Patches Released to Address Critical Intel Firmware Vulnerabilities
Nov22

Patches Released to Address Critical Intel Firmware Vulnerabilities

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

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3 Year Jail Term for UK Man Linked to The Dark Overlord Hacking Group
Nov22

3 Year Jail Term for UK Man Linked to The Dark Overlord Hacking Group

A man linked to the hacking group TheDarkOverlord has been sentenced to serve three years in jail for fraud and blackmail offenses, although not for any cyberattacks or extortion attempts related to the The Dark Overlord gang. Nathan Wyatt, 36, from Wellingborough, England, known online as the Crafty Cockney, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of fraud by false representation, a further two counts of blackmail, and one count of possession of a false identity document with intent to deceive. Last week, at Southwark Crown Court, Wyatt was sentenced to serve three years in jail by Judge Martin Griffiths. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Griffiths suggested Wyatt was responsible for many more crimes other than those pursued via the courts. Some of those offenses are related to the TheDarkOverlord. In September last year, Wyatt was arrested for attempting to broker the sale of photographs of Pippa Middleton, which had been obtained from a hack of her iPhone. Pippa Middleton is the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge. The charges in relation to that incident were dropped and Wyatt maintains he...

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9,500 Patients Impacted by Medical College of Wisconsin Phishing Attack
Nov21

9,500 Patients Impacted by Medical College of Wisconsin Phishing Attack

A Medical College of Wisconsin phishing attack has resulted in the exposure of approximately 9,500 patients’ protected health information. The attackers managed to gain access to several employees’ email accounts, which contained a range of sensitive information of patients and some faculty staff. The types of information in the compromised email accounts included names, addresses, medical record numbers, dates of birth, health insurance details, medical diagnoses, treatment information, surgical information, and dates of service. A very limited number of individuals also had their Social Security numbers and bank account information exposed. The incident occurred over the space of a week in the summer between July 21 and July 28 when spear phishing emails were sent to specific individuals at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Responding to those emails resulted in the attackers gaining access to email login credentials. Medical College of Wisconsin brought in a computer forensics firm to conduct an investigation into the phishing attack, and while that investigation established...

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Suspected Phishing Attack on UPMC Susquehanna Exposes 1,200 Patients’ PHI
Nov20

Suspected Phishing Attack on UPMC Susquehanna Exposes 1,200 Patients’ PHI

UPMC Susquehanna, a network of hospitals and medical centers in Williamsport, Wellsboro, and Muncy in Pennsylvania, has announced that the protected health information of 1,200 patients has potentially been accessed by unauthorized individuals. Access to patient information is believed to have been gained after an employee responded to a phishing email. While details of the breach date have not been released, UPMC Susquehanna says it discovered the breach on September 21, when an employee reported suspicious activity on their computer. An investigation was launched, which revealed unauthorized individuals had gained access to that individual’s device. It is not known whether the attacker viewed, stole, or misused any patient information, but the possibility of data access and misuse could not be ruled out. The information potentially accessed includes names, contact information, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The individuals potentially impacted by the incident had previously received treatment at various UPMC Susquehanna hospitals including Muncy Valley Hospital,...

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Is Slack HIPAA Compliant?
Nov17

Is Slack HIPAA Compliant?

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

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October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches
Nov16

October 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches

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

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Cybersecurity in Healthcare Report Highlights Sorry State of Security
Nov15

Cybersecurity in Healthcare Report Highlights Sorry State of Security

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

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Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant?
Nov14

Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant?

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

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President Trump Nominates Alex Azar for HHS Secretary
Nov13

President Trump Nominates Alex Azar for HHS Secretary

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

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

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

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

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Healthcare Data Breach Analysis Questioned
Nov08

Healthcare Data Breach Analysis Questioned

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

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Is G Suite HIPAA Compliant?
Nov03

Is G Suite HIPAA Compliant?

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

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

New Study Reveals Lack of Phishing Awareness and Data Security Training

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

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

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

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

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HIMSS Draws Attention to Five Current Cybersecurity Threats
Nov02

HIMSS Draws Attention to Five Current Cybersecurity Threats

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

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Tips for Reducing Mobile Device Security Risks
Nov01

Tips for Reducing Mobile Device Security Risks

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

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HHS Privacy Chief Deven McGraw Departs OCR: Iliana Peters Now Acting Deputy
Oct31

HHS Privacy Chief Deven McGraw Departs OCR: Iliana Peters Now Acting Deputy

Deven McGraw, the Deputy Director for Health Information Privacy at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stepped down and left OCR. McGraw vacated the position on October 19, 2017. McGraw has served as Deputy Director for Health Information Privacy since July 2015, replacing Susan McAndrew. McGraw joined OCR from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP where she co-chaired the company’s privacy and data security practice. McGraw also served as Acting Chief Privacy Officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) since the departure of Lucia Savage earlier this year. In July, ONC National Coordinator Donald Rucker announced that following cuts to the ONC budget, the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer would be closed out, with the Chief Privacy Officer receiving only limited support. It therefore seems an opportune moment for Deven McGraw to move onto pastures new. OCR’s Iliana Peters has stepped in to replace McGraw in the interim and will serve as Acting Deputy Director until a suitable replacement for McGraw can be found....

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

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

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

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Is AWS HIPAA Compliant?
Oct27

Is AWS HIPAA Compliant?

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

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New Tool Helps Healthcare Organizations Find HIPAA Compliant Business Associates
Oct25

New Tool Helps Healthcare Organizations Find HIPAA Compliant Business Associates

Healthcare organizations are only permitted to use business associates that agree to comply with HIPAA Rules and sign a business associate agreement, but finding HIPAA compliant business associates can be a challenge. Searching for HIPAA compliant business associates is time consuming, although identifying vendors willing to follow HIPAA Rules is only part of the process. Business associate agreements must then be assessed, often incurring legal fees, and healthcare organizations must obtain assurances from new business associate that appropriate safeguards have been implemented to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of any PHI they provide. It is also challenging for vendors that wish to take advantage of the opportunities in the healthcare industry. They must be able to demonstrate they have implemented appropriate safeguards and need to provide reassurances that their products and services support HIPAA-compliance. A solution has now been developed that resolves the issues for both parties and streamlines the process of finding HIPAA compliant business...

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Bad Rabbit Ransomware Spread Via Fake Flash Player Updates
Oct25

Bad Rabbit Ransomware Spread Via Fake Flash Player Updates

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

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FirstHealth Attacked with New WannaCry Ransomware Variant
Oct24

FirstHealth Attacked with New WannaCry Ransomware Variant

FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a Pinehurst, SC-based not for profit health network, has been attacked with a new WannaCry ransomware variant. WannaCry ransomware was used in global attacks in May this year. More than 230,000 computers were infected within 24 hours of the global attacks commencing. The ransomware variant had wormlike properties and was capable of spreading rapidly and affecting all vulnerable networked devices. The campaign was blocked when a kill switch was identified and activated, preventing file encryption.  However, FirstHealth has identified the malware used in its attack and believes it is a new WarnnaCry ransomware variant. The FirstHealth ransomware attack occurred on October 17, 2017. The ransomware is believed to have been introduced via a non-clinical device, although investigations into the initial entry point are ongoing to determine exactly how the virus was introduced. FirstHealth reports that its information system team detected the attack immediately and implemented security protocols to prevent the spread of the malware to other networked devices....

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Employees Sue Lincare Over W2 Phishing Attack
Oct23

Employees Sue Lincare Over W2 Phishing Attack

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

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Beazley Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct23

Beazley Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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Is Microsoft Outlook HIPAA Compliant?
Oct20

Is Microsoft Outlook HIPAA Compliant?

The latest in our series of posts on HIPAA compliant software and email services for healthcare organizations explores whether Microsoft Outlook is HIPAA compliant. Is Microsoft Outlook HIPAA Compliant? Software or an email platform can never be fully HIPAA compliant, as compliance is not so much about the technology but how it is used. That said, software and email services can support HIPAA compliance. In order for an email service to support HIPAA compliance, it must include a range of security features to ensure that any information uploaded to and transmitted through the service can be done so securely, without risking the exposure or the interception of sensitive data. The platform provider must also be prepared to sign a business associate agreement with HIPAA-covered entities, and by doing so, agree to comply with the requirements of the HIPAA, Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules. Microsoft has already taken steps toward making many of its services suitable for healthcare providers by agreeing to enter into a business associate agreement. Crucially for...

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Termination for Nurse HIPAA Violation Upheld by Court
Oct19

Termination for Nurse HIPAA Violation Upheld by Court

A nurse HIPAA violation alleged by a patient of Norton Audubon Hospital culminated in the termination of the registered nurse’s employment contract. The nurse, Dianna Hereford, filed an action in the Jefferson Circuit Court alleging her employer wrongfully terminated her contract on the grounds that a HIPAA violation had occurred, when she claims she had always ‘strictly complied with HIPAA regulations.’ The incident that resulted in her dismissal was an alleged impermissible disclosure of PHI. Hereford had been assigned to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at Norton Audubon Hospital and was assisting with a transesophageal echocardiogram. At the time of the alleged HIPAA violation, the patient was in an examination area that was closed off with a curtain. Hereford was present along with a physician and an echocardiogram technician. Alleged Improper Disclosure of Sensitive Health Information Before the procedure took place, Hereford performed a ‘Time-Out’ to ensure the patient understood what the procedure would entail, checked to make sure the site of the procedure was clearly marked...

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HHS Issues Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties in California
Oct17

HHS Issues Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties in California

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a limited waiver of HIPAA sanctions and penalties in California. The waiver was announced following the presidential declaration of a public health emergency in northern California due to the wildfires. As was the case with the waivers issued after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the limited waiver of HIPAA sanctions and penalties only applies when healthcare providers have implemented their disaster protocol, and then only for a period of up to 72 hours following the implementation of that protocol. In the event of the public health emergency declaration ending, healthcare organizations must then comply with all provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule for all patients still under their care, even if the 72-hour period has not yet ended. Whenever the HHS issued a limited waiver of HIPAA sanctions and penalties, healthcare organizations must still comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule and the Privacy Rule is not suspended.  The HHS simply exercises its authority under the Project Bioshield Act of...

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Q3, 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct16

Q3, 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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Bill Introduced to Standardize State Data Breach Notification Laws
Oct16

Bill Introduced to Standardize State Data Breach Notification Laws

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule explains how HIPAA covered entities and their business associates’ data breach response should include issuing notifications to patients, plan members and the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. Healthcare organizations must also comply with state data breach notification laws, which in some U.S. states, requires notifications to be issued more rapidly. Those laws cover different types of information, have additional notification requirements, and in some states, require credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to be offered to breach victims. Currently, there are 48 separate state data breach notification laws. For a small health system operating in one or two states, keeping up to date with relevant state data breach notification laws is straightforward. For large health systems and health plans that operate in multiple states, keeping up to date with changes to state laws, and ensuring compliance with those laws, can be a challenge. Bill Proposes Standardization of State Data Breach Notification Laws Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI)...

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Former Nurse Convicted of Theft of Patient Information and Tax Fraud
Oct16

Former Nurse Convicted of Theft of Patient Information and Tax Fraud

A former nurse from Midway, FL has been convicted of wire fraud, theft of government funds, possession of unauthorized access devices and aggravated identity theft by a court in Tallahassee. 41-year old Tangela Lawson-Brown was employed as a nurse in a Tallahassee nursing home between October 2011 and December 2012. During her time at the nursing home, Lawson-Brown stole the personal information of 26 patients, although she was discovered to have a notebook containing the personal information of 150 individuals. According to a press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Lawson-Brown’s husband was arrested in January 2013 and items were seized from Lawson-Brown’s vehicle by the Tallahassee Police Department, including the notebook. The police investigation revealed that in 2011, Lawson-Brown used the stolen credentials to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of 105 individuals, including 24 patients of the nursing home. Lawson-Brown filed claims totaling more than $1 million. The IRS detected many of the claims as fraudulent,...

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Is Skype HIPAA Compliant?
Oct13

Is Skype HIPAA Compliant?

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

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How Should You Respond to an Accidental HIPAA Violation?
Oct12

How Should You Respond to an Accidental HIPAA Violation?

The majority of HIPAA covered entities, business associates, and healthcare employees take great care to ensure HIPAA Rules are followed, but what happens when there is accidental HIPAA violation? How should healthcare employees, covered entities, and business associates respond? How Should Employees Report an Accidental HIPAA Violation? Accidents happen. If a healthcare employee accidentally views the records of a patient, if a fax is sent to an incorrect recipient, an email containing PHI is sent to the wrong person, or any other accidental disclosure of PHI has occurred, it is essential that the incident is reported to your Privacy Officer. Your Privacy Officer will need to determine what actions need to be taken to mitigate risk and reduce the potential for harm. The incident will need to be investigated, a risk assessment may need to be performed, and a report of the breach may need to be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). You should explain that a mistake was made and what has happened. You will need to explain which patient’s...

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

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

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

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Summary of September 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches
Oct10

Summary of September 2017 Healthcare Data Breaches

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

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Internet of Medical Things Resilience Partnership Act Bill Introduced
Oct09

Internet of Medical Things Resilience Partnership Act Bill Introduced

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

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53% of Businesses Have Misconfigured Secure Cloud Storage Services
Oct09

53% of Businesses Have Misconfigured Secure Cloud Storage Services

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

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Is WhatsApp HIPAA Compliant?
Oct06

Is WhatsApp HIPAA Compliant?

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

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Does HIPAA Require Identity Theft Protection Services to Be Offered to Data Breach Victims?
Oct06

Does HIPAA Require Identity Theft Protection Services to Be Offered to Data Breach Victims?

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires covered entities to issue notifications to individuals after their ePHI has been exposed or stolen, but what about credit monitoring and identity theft protection services? Must they be offered? HIPAA does not stipulate whether credit monitoring and identity theft protection services should be provided to individuals impacted by a data breach. The decision whether or not to provide those services is left to the discretion of the covered entity. However, following a breach of unsecured protected health information, HIPAA-covered entities are required to provide breach victims with details of the steps that should be taken to mitigate risk and protect themselves from harm. Those steps include obtaining a credit report from credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The credit reporting bureaus must provide consumers with a free credit report once every 12 months if requested. Breach victims should be instructed to monitor their accounts for any sign of fraudulent activity and should be told what to do if suspicious...

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OCR Clarifies HIPAA Rules on Disclosures to Family, Friends and Other Individuals
Oct05

OCR Clarifies HIPAA Rules on Disclosures to Family, Friends and Other Individuals

The recent attack in Las Vegas has prompted the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to clarify HIPAA Rules on disclosures to family, friends and other individuals. Following Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, OCR issued a partial waiver of certain provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule in the disaster areas of both hurricanes. OCR sometimes, but not always, issued such a waiver after a natural disaster when a public health emergency has been declared. However, OCR did not issue a HIPAA Privacy Rule waiver after the attack in Las Vegas, and neither was a waiver issued following the Orlando nightclub shootings in 2016. OCR does not usually issue waivers of HIPAA Rules following shootings and other man-made disasters. Healthcare organizations involved in the treatment of victims of the Las Vegas shootings were required to continue to follow the provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In its reminder about HIPAA Rules on disclosures to family, friends and other individuals, OCR explained that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows healthcare organizations to disclose...

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What are the HIPAA Breach Notification Requirements?
Oct04

What are the HIPAA Breach Notification Requirements?

All HIPAA covered entities must familiarize themselves with the HIPAA breach notification requirements and develop a breach response plan that can be implemented as soon as a breach of unsecured protected health information is discovered. While most HIPAA covered entities should understand the HIPAA breach notification requirements, organizations that have yet to experience a data breach may not have a good working knowledge of the requirements of the Breach Notification Rule. Vendors that have only just started serving healthcare clients may similarly be unsure of the reporting requirements and actions that must be taken following a breach. The issuing of notifications following a breach of unencrypted protected health information is an important element of HIPAA compliance. The failure to comply with HIPAA breach notification requirements can result in a significant financial penalty. With this in mind, we have compiled a summary of the HIPAA breach notification requirements for covered entities and their business associates. Summary of the HIPAA Breach Notification Requirements...

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month: What to Expect
Oct02

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: What to Expect

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

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Is OneDrive HIPAA Compliant?
Sep30

Is OneDrive HIPAA Compliant?

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

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HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns
Sep30

HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns

It has been a short stint as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Tom Price, who resigned from the post on September 29, 2017, two days shy of 8 months in the position. Spending only 231 days as Secretary, Price is the shortest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. Price was nominated for the position of HHS Secretary by President Trump on November 29, 2016. The nomination was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on February 1, 2017. However, Price resigned under pressure following revelations about his extensive use of charter jets and military aircraft to travel across the United States for government work. Rather than use commercial airlines for travel, Price had spent more than $400,000 on private jets, even though commercial airline flights were available. Price had vowed not refrain from using private charter flights for travel in the future and offered to pay back part of the costs incurred, reportedly $51,887, to cover the cost of seats. President Trump said that would be “unacceptable,” leaving him little...

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HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Computing Platforms
Sep27

HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Computing Platforms

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

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

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

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

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The Benefits of Using Blockchain for Medical Records
Sep26

The Benefits of Using Blockchain for Medical Records

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

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The Compliancy Group Helps Imperial Valley Family Care Medical Group Pass HIPAA Audit
Sep20

The Compliancy Group Helps Imperial Valley Family Care Medical Group Pass HIPAA Audit

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights commenced the second round of HIPAA compliance audits late last year. The audit program consists of desk-based audits of HIPAA-covered entities and business associates, followed by a round of in-depth audits involving site visits. The desk audits have been completed, with the site audits put on hold and expected to commence in early 2018. Only a small number of covered entities have been selected to be audited as part of the second phase of compliance audits; however, covered entities that have escaped an audit may still be required to demonstrate they are in compliance with HIPAA Rules. In addition to the audit program, any HIPAA-covered entities that experiences a breach of more than 500 records will be investigated by OCR to determine whether the breach was the result of violations of HIPAA Rules. OCR also investigates complaints submitted through the HHS website. The first round of HIPAA compliance audits in 2011/2012 did not result in any financial penalties being issued, but that may not be the case for the...

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PhishMe Report Shows Organizations Are Struggling to Prevent Phishing Attacks
Sep19

PhishMe Report Shows Organizations Are Struggling to Prevent Phishing Attacks

Organizations are struggling to prevent phishing attacks, according to a recently published survey by PhishMe. The survey, conducted on 200 IT executives from a wide range of industries, revealed 90% of IT executives are most concerned about email-related threats, which is not surprising given the frequency and sophisticated nature of attacks. When attacks do occur, many organizations struggle to identify phishing emails promptly and are hampered by an inefficient phishing response. When asked about how good their organization’s phishing response is, 43% of respondents rated it between totally ineffective and mediocre. Two thirds of respondents said they have had to deal with a security incident resulting from a deceptive email. The survey highlighted several areas where organizations are struggling to prevent phishing attacks and respond quickly when phishing emails make it past their defenses. PhishMe also notes that many first line IT support staff have not received insufficient training or lack the skills to identify phishing emails. Consequently, many fail to escalate threats...

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Hospital Staff Discovered to Have Taken and Shared Photographs of Patient’s Genital Injury
Sep15

Hospital Staff Discovered to Have Taken and Shared Photographs of Patient’s Genital Injury

An investigation has been conducted into a privacy violation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Bedford Memorial hospital, in which photographs and videos of a patient’s genitals were taken by hospital staff and in some cases, were shared with other individuals including non-hospital staff. The patient was admitted to the hospital in late December 2017, with photos/videos shared over the following few weeks. The patient was admitted to the hospital on December 23, 2016 with a genital injury – a foreign object had been inserted into the patient’s penis and was protruding from the end. The bizarre injury attracted a lot of attention and several staff members not involved with the treatment of the patient were called into the operating room to view the injury. Multiple staff members took photographs and videos of the patient’s genitals while the patient was sedated and unconscious. The privacy breach was reported by one hospital employee who alleged images/videos were being shared with other staff members not involved in the treatment of the patient. The complaint...

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OCR Launches Information is Powerful Medicine Campaign to Encourage Patients to Access Their Health Data
Sep13

OCR Launches Information is Powerful Medicine Campaign to Encourage Patients to Access Their Health Data

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of patients’ right to access their health information and the benefits of doing so. The “Information is Powerful Medicine” campaign informs patients that they have the right to obtain copies of their health data and tells them to “Get it. Check it. Use it.” The benefits to patients are clear. If they obtain copies of the health information they can check their medical records for errors and correct any mistakes. Having access to health data helps patients to make better decisions about their health care and discuss their health more fully with their providers. Armed with their health data, patients can do more to stay healthy. Patients are advised that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows them to obtain a physical or electronic copy of their health data and that their provider should provide the information as requested within 30 days. It has been explained that they may be charged a nominal fee for obtaining a copy of their health data. Patients are also informed that...

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Limited HIPAA Waiver Granted to Hospitals in Irma Disaster Zone
Sep12

Limited HIPAA Waiver Granted to Hospitals in Irma Disaster Zone

A public health emergency has been declared in areas of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida affected by Hurricane Irma. As was the case in Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced a limited waiver of HIPAA Privacy Rule sanctions and penalties for hospitals affected by Irma. OCR has stressed that the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules have not been suspended and covered entities must continue to follow HIPAA Rules; however, certain provisions of the Privacy Rule have been waived under the Project Bioshield Act of 2014 and Section 1135(b) of the Social Security Act. In the event that a hospital in the disaster zone does not comply with the following aspects of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, penalties and sanctions will be waived: 45 CFR 164.510(b) – Obtain a patient’s agreement to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient’s care 45 CFR 164.510(a) – Honor requests to opt out of the facility directory. 45 CFR 164.520 – Distribute a notice of...

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

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

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

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Vulnerabilities Identified in Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 Devices
Sep11

Vulnerabilities Identified in Smiths Medical Medfusion 4000 Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HHS Issues Partial Waiver of Sanctions and Penalties for Privacy Rule Violations in Hurricane Harvey Disaster Zone
Aug31

HHS Issues Partial Waiver of Sanctions and Penalties for Privacy Rule Violations in Hurricane Harvey Disaster Zone

During emergencies such as natural disasters, complying with all HIPAA Privacy Rule provisions can be a challenge for hospitals and can potentially have a negative impact on patient care and disaster relief efforts. In emergency situations, HIPAA Rules still apply. The HIPAA Privacy Rule allows patient information to be shared to help with disaster relief efforts and ensure patients get the care they need. The Privacy Rule permits covered entities to share patient information for treatment purposes, for public health activities, to disclose patient information to family, friends and others involved in a patient’s care, to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public and, under certain circumstances, allows covered entities to share limited information with the media and other individuals not involved in a patient’s care (45 CFR 164.510(a)). In such cases, any disclosures must be limited to the minimum necessary information to accomplish the purpose for which the information is being disclosed. However, disasters often call for a...

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Lawsuit Filed Against Aetna for Disclosure of HIV Status of Patients
Aug31

Lawsuit Filed Against Aetna for Disclosure of HIV Status of Patients

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Aetna following a privacy breach that saw the HIV positive status of up to 12,000 individuals impermissibly disclosed. Details of prescribed HIV medications were visible through the clear plastic windows of envelopes, along with individuals’ names and addresses, in a recent mailing. The letters related to pharmacy benefits and information on how HIV medications could be received. As a result of an error, which has been attributed to letters slipping inside the envelopes, many individuals had had their HIV status disclosed to neighbors, family members and roommates. While breach notification letters have been sent to 12,000 individuals who received the mailing, it is unclear exactly how many individuals had details of their HIV medications disclosed. Last week, Aetna announced that “this type of mistake is unacceptable,” and confirmed action was being taken to ensure proper safeguards are put in place to prevent similar incidents from happening. However, for individuals affected by the error, serious and irreparable harm has been caused....

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

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

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

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Researchers Call for Updates to Guidelines for Emailing Patients
Aug30

Researchers Call for Updates to Guidelines for Emailing Patients

Researchers from Indiana University have conducted a study of current guidelines on emailing patients and have identified major weaknesses, a lack of up-to-date best practices, and outdated security practices that are no longer required due to changes in technology. Additionally, they confirmed there is a lack of information on new methods of communication such as secure texting and a lack of evidence showing the effectiveness of proposed practices for emailing and texting patients. There was little to no evidence on how using email or text messages to communicate with patients could improve patient outcomes and a lack of information on how new communication tools could be used effectively by practitioners. The researchers studied 11 sets of guidelines on electronically communicating with patients and found weaknesses across the board. The pace of change of technology is not reflected in the available guidelines, with many of the recommendations no longer required. The researchers were unsure if any of the valid recommendations in the guidelines are actually being followed. The...

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Ransomware Attack on Salina Family Healthcare Impacts 77,000 Patients
Aug29

Ransomware Attack on Salina Family Healthcare Impacts 77,000 Patients

In June, ransomware was installed on servers and workstations at Salina Family Healthcare in Kansas resulting in the encryption and potential disclosure of patients’ protected health information. The attack occurred on June 18, 2017. Salina Family Healthcare was able to limit the extent of the attack by taking swift action to secure its systems. It was also possible to restore the encrypted data from recent backups so no ransom needed to be paid. A third-party computer forensics firm was contracted to analyze its systems to determine how the ransomware was installed and whether the attackers succeeded in gaining access to or stealing patient data. While evidence of data theft was not uncovered, the firm was unable to rule out the possibility that the actors behind the attack viewed or copied patient data. The protected health information potentially accessed includes names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, medical treatment information, and health insurance details. While data access was possible, no reports have been received to suggest any information has...

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

Security Scorecard Gives Government and Healthcare Poor Marks for Security Posture

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

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Third-Party Mailing Error Sees Aetna Plan Members’ HIV Status Disclosed
Aug25

Third-Party Mailing Error Sees Aetna Plan Members’ HIV Status Disclosed

Aetna is in the news again for the wrong reasons, having experienced another protected health information breach. The latest incident impacts approximately 12,000 Aetna plan members and resulted in highly sensitive information being disclosed to unauthorized individuals. An error was made in a recent mailing to plan members. That error resulted in the HIV positive of members being disclosed to other individuals. The letters advised plan members about their options for filling in their HIV prescriptions. However, some of that information was visible through the transparent plastic window in the envelope along with names and addresses. The mailing was sent by a third-party vendor on July 28, 2017. Aetna was notified of the error by the Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, which in turn were notified of the error by some individuals whose HIV status had been disclosed. Those individuals said that in addition to the information being visible to the mailman, the letters had been viewed by roommates, neighbors and family members. The potential harm caused by an...

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Credit Monitoring Services Must Now Be Offered to Breach Victims in Delaware
Aug24

Credit Monitoring Services Must Now Be Offered to Breach Victims in Delaware

For the first time in 10 years, Delaware has amended its data breach notification law and has now introduced some of the strictest requirements of any state. Any ‘person’ operating in the state of Delaware must now notify individuals of the exposure or theft of their sensitive information and must offer breach victims complimentary credit monitoring services for 12 months. Connecticut was the first state to introduce similar laws, with California also requiring the provision of credit monitoring services to breach victims. Breach victims must also be advised of security incidents involving their sensitive information ‘as soon as possible’ and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach. The new law also requires companies operating in the state to implement “reasonable” security measures to safeguard personal information – Delaware is the 14th state to require companies to adopt security measures to ensure sensitive information is protected. The definition of ‘personal information’ has also been expanded and now includes usernames/email addresses in combination with a...

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NIST Updates Digital Identity Guidelines and Tweaks Password Advice
Aug22

NIST Updates Digital Identity Guidelines and Tweaks Password Advice

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

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Phillips Ships DoseWise Portal with Serious Vulnerabilities
Aug22

Phillips Ships DoseWise Portal with Serious Vulnerabilities

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

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Institute for Women’s Health Hacked: PHI Potentially Compromised
Aug21

Institute for Women’s Health Hacked: PHI Potentially Compromised

Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations have increased, although that is far from the only malware threat. Keylogging malware can be used to obtain sensitive information such as login credentials, or in the case of the San Antonio Institute for Women’s Health (IFWH), credit and debit card information as it was entered into its system. The keylogging malware was discovered on the IFWH network on July 6, 2017, prompting a forensic investigation of its systems. That investigation revealed the malware had been installed on June 5, although it took until July 11 for the malware to be removed from the majority of its systems and a further two days for IFWH to confirm that the malware had been completely removed from all terminal servers and workstations. During the time that the malware was present, it recorded and transmitted sensitive data as information was entered into its system. The types of data recorded by the malware between June 5 and July 11 includes names, dates of birth, addresses, Social Security numbers, scheduling notes, current procedural technology and other...

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Healthcare Hacking Incidents Overtook Insider Breaches in July
Aug18

Healthcare Hacking Incidents Overtook Insider Breaches in July

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

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August Sees OCR Breach Reports Surpass 2,000 Incidents
Aug16

August Sees OCR Breach Reports Surpass 2,000 Incidents

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

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Pacific Alliance Medical Center Announces Ransomware Attack
Aug14

Pacific Alliance Medical Center Announces Ransomware Attack

A ransomware attack on the Los Angeles Pacific Alliance Medical Center has potentially resulted in the attackers gaining access to the protected health information of its patients. The attack occurred on or around June 14, 2017. Pacific Alliance Medical Center became aware that its systems had been compromised when files started to be encrypted. The incident triggered Pacific Alliance Medical Center’s emergency response procedures and its networked computer systems were rapidly shut down to prevent the spread of the virus. The Information Technology Department conducted an initial investigation which revealed several computer systems had been attacked. The forensic investigation has now been completed, the virus has been removed and data have been successfully decrypted. It is unclear whether a ransom was paid. Efforts are continuing to restore its systems and improve protections to ensure incidents such as this are prevented in the future. Those measures include enhanced antivirus protection and other system safeguards. All affected individuals have now been notified of the breach...

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HIMSS Research Shows Healthcare Organizations Have Enhanced Their Cybersecurity Programs
Aug11

HIMSS Research Shows Healthcare Organizations Have Enhanced Their Cybersecurity Programs

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Senate Passes Jessie’s Law to Help Prevent Drug Overdoses
Aug09

U.S. Senate Passes Jessie’s Law to Help Prevent Drug Overdoses

West Virginia senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito have announced that Jessie’s Law has been passed by the Senate. The legislation is intended to ensure doctors are provided with details of a patient’s previous substance abuse history if consent to share the information is provided by the patient. Jesse’s law takes its name from Michigan resident Jessica Grubb who was in recovery from opioid abuse when she underwent surgery. She had been struggling with addition for seven years, but prior to surgery had been clean for 6 months. Her parents, who were at the hospital while their daughter underwent surgery, had repeatedly told doctors not to prescribe opioids unless their daughter was under the strictest supervision. However, her discharging physician gave her a prescription for 50 oxycodone tablets. Grubb overdosed and died the same night she was discharged from hospital. Her discharging doctor did not receive the information about her history of opioid use. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Manchin and co-sponsored by Capito, will ensure physicians are better informed...

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Medical Device Cybersecurity Act Takes Aim at Medical Device Security
Aug08

Medical Device Cybersecurity Act Takes Aim at Medical Device Security

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

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

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

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

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Protenus Provides Insight into 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Trends
Aug03

Protenus Provides Insight into 2017 Healthcare Data Breach Trends

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

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Beazley Insights: 133% Increase in Healthcare Ransomware Demands
Aug02

Beazley Insights: 133% Increase in Healthcare Ransomware Demands

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

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How Often Should Healthcare Employees Receive Security Awareness Training?
Aug01

How Often Should Healthcare Employees Receive Security Awareness Training?

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

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

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

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

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Only One Third of Patients Use Patient Portals to View Health Data
Jul27

Only One Third of Patients Use Patient Portals to View Health Data

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule permits patients to access the health information held by their providers, yet relatively few patients are exercising that right, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, at least through patient portals. The Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program encouraged healthcare providers to transition from paper to electronic medical records and now almost 90% of patients of participating providers have access to patient portals where they can view their health data. Even though patients have been provided with access, fewer than a third of patients are using patient portals to view their health information. GAO looked at patient health information access from the patients’ perspective, conducting interviews with patients to find out why they are not taking advantage of this valuable resource. Out of the healthcare organizations that participated in the Medicare EHR Program, 88% of hospitals and 87% of professionals offered patients access to their health information...

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

HITRUST Launches Community Extension Program to Promote Collaboration on Risk Management

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

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4-Month Data Breach Discovered During Ransomware Investigation: 300,000 Patients Impacted
Jul26

4-Month Data Breach Discovered During Ransomware Investigation: 300,000 Patients Impacted

Women’s Health Care Group of Pennsylvania, one of the largest healthcare networks in the state, has alerted approximately 300,000 patients that some of their sensitive protected health information has been compromised. The types of data exposed – and potentially stolen – include names, addresses, dates of birth, lab test orders, lab test results, blood types, race, gender, pregnancy status, medical record numbers, employer information, insurance details, medical diagnoses, physicians’ names and Social Security numbers. Identity theft protection services are being offered to all affected patients. Those individuals would do well to activate those services promptly, as hackers gained access to a server and workstation containing the above information in January this year, with access to systems possible until at least May. In May, a virus was installed on a server/workstation preventing the hospital from accessing patient data. While ransomware can be installed as a result of a phishing email or software vulnerability, in this case it appears to have been deployed by...

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OCR Data Breach Portal Update Highlights Breaches Under Investigation
Jul25

OCR Data Breach Portal Update Highlights Breaches Under Investigation

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed it was mulling over updating its data breach portal – commonly referred to as the OCR ‘Wall of Shame’. Section 13402(e)(4) of the HITECH Act requires OCR to maintain a public list of breaches of protected health information that have impacted more than 500 individuals. All 500+ record data breaches reported to OCR since 2009 are listed on the breach portal. The data breach list contacts a wide range of breaches, many of which occurred through no fault of the covered entity and involved no violations of HIPAA Rules. OCR has received some criticism for its breach portal for this very reason, most recently from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) who said the breach portal was ‘unnecessarily punitive’ in its current form. For example, burglaries will occur even with reasonable physical security in place and even with appropriate controls in place, rogue healthcare employees will access PHI out of curiosity or with malicious intent on occasion, with some considering it unfair for those breaches to remain on public display...

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Hospital Employee Discovered to Have Accessed Medical Records Without Authorization for 14 Years
Jul24

Hospital Employee Discovered to Have Accessed Medical Records Without Authorization for 14 Years

Cases of employees snooping on medical records are relatively common, although an incident at Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts stands out due to the length of time that an employee was accessing medical records without authorization before being caught. The hospital was tipped off about the employee in April after a former patient made a complaint about their medical record being accessed inappropriately. In response to the complaint, the hospital conducted a full review which revealed the former patient’s medical records had been accessed by an employee without any legitimate reason for doing so. Further investigation revealed it was far from a one off.  The employee had been accessing the records of patients without authorization for a period of 14 years. The first instance dated back to 2003 and the inappropriate access continued until May 2017. During that time, the employee accessed the records of more than 1,000 patients. Tewksbury Hospital, which is run by the Department of Public Health, has now written to all patients whose medical records were inappropriately accessed,...

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Model HIPAA-Compliant PHI Access Request Form Released by AHIMA
Jul21

Model HIPAA-Compliant PHI Access Request Form Released by AHIMA

The American Healthcare Information Management Association (AHIMA) has announced it has released a model PHI access request form for healthcare providers to give to patients who want to exercise their right under HIPAA to obtain copies of their health data. The model PHI access request form is compliant with HIPAA regulations and can be easily customized to suit the needs of each healthcare organization. AHIMA claims that until now, a model PHI access request form was not available to healthcare providers. HIPAA-covered entities have had to develop their own forms and there is considerable variation in the forms used by different healthcare organizations. Patients with multiple healthcare providers often find the process of obtaining their health data confusing. AHIMA has listened to feedback from its members and industry stakeholders who explained that the process of accessing medical records was often confusing for patients. Even some healthcare organizations are confused about what is permitted and not permitted under HIPAA Rules when it comes to providing access to health data....

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Is Google Drive HIPAA Compliant?
Jul21

Is Google Drive HIPAA Compliant?

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

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U.S. Data Breaches Hit Record High
Jul20

U.S. Data Breaches Hit Record High

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

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

Are You Blocking Ex-Employees’ PHI Access Promptly?

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

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

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

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

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Is Dropbox HIPAA Compliant?
Jul14

Is Dropbox HIPAA Compliant?

Healthcare organizations can benefit from using Dropbox, but is Dropbox HIPAA compliant? Can the service be used to store and share protected health information? Is Dropbox HIPAA Compliant? Dropbox is a popular file hosting service used by many organizations to share files, but what about protected health information? Is Dropbox HIPAA compliant? Dropbox claims it now supports HIPAA and HITECH Act compliance but that does not mean Dropbox is HIPAA compliant. No software or file sharing platform can be HIPAA compliant as it depends on how the software or platform is used. That said, healthcare organizations can use Dropbox to share or store files containing protected health information without violating HIPAA Rules. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requires covered entities to enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) with an entity before any protected health information (PHI) is shared. Dropbox is classed as a business associate so a BAA is required. Dropbox will sign a business associate agreement with HIPAA-covered entities. To avoid a HIPAA...

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ONC Offers Help for Covered Entities on Medical Record Access for Patients
Jul13

ONC Offers Help for Covered Entities on Medical Record Access for Patients

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Privacy Rule requires covered entities to give medical record access for patients on request. Patients should be able to obtain a copy of their health records in paper or electronic form within 30 days of submitting the request. Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance for covered entities on providing patients with access to their medical records. A series of videos was also released to raise awareness of patients’ rights under HIPAA to access their records. In theory, providing access to medical records should be a straightforward process. In practice, that is often not the case. Patients often have difficulty accessing their electronic health data with many healthcare organizations unable to easily provide health records electronically. Patient portals often provide information for patients, although the information available via patient portals can be incomplete or inaccurate. When patients need to obtain their health information to give to other...

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Indiana Senate Passes New Law on Abandoned Medical Records
Jul13

Indiana Senate Passes New Law on Abandoned Medical Records

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

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Almost 12,000 Records Compromised in Two New Ransomware Attacks
Jul11

Almost 12,000 Records Compromised in Two New Ransomware Attacks

In the past two weeks, two further healthcare organizations have announced that they have experienced ransomware attacks that potentially resulted in the protected health information of patients being accessed by cybercriminals. A combined 11,843 patient records were exposed in the two attacks. The first incident affects PVHS-ICM Employee Health and Wellness, LLC. Ransomware was installed on a server at a single UCHealth walk-in clinic in Fort Collins, CO. The ransomware attack was discovered on May 4, 2017, with the crypto-ransomware believed to have been installed the same day. A third-party computer expert was called in to help remove the ransomware and conduct a forensic investigation of the affected server. That investigation revealed the data stored on the server dated back to September 23, 2014 and included the protected health information of 10,143 individuals. PVHS-ICM has not indicated whether the ransom was paid. The protected health information on the server included patients’ names, home addresses and other demographic information along with health records, including...

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AMIA Urges HHS to Provide More Information on Common Rule Updates
Jul07

AMIA Urges HHS to Provide More Information on Common Rule Updates

The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, otherwise known as the Common Rule, was first adopted in 1991; however, there have been numerous calls for the policy to be updated. The purpose of the Common Rule is to provide a framework for protecting human research subjects across the entire federal government. The Common Rule was introduced at a time when research was mainly conducted at medical institutions and universities. At the time, digital data was not in use. The past 26 years have seen considerable changes to where research is conducted, how much information is now available, how easy it is for information to be shared and for research participants to be identified. Earlier this year, proposed Common Rule updates were published by the HHS. The Trump administration is reviewing the Common Rule updates, although at this stage it is unclear whether any changes will be made, and if so, when those changes will be implemented. The updates were subjected to a 40-day regulatory freeze; but more than 150 days have now passed and there has been no further communication...

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OCR Draws Attention to Risks from File Sharing Tools and Cloud Computing
Jul03

OCR Draws Attention to Risks from File Sharing Tools and Cloud Computing

File sharing and collaboration tools offer many benefits to HIPAA-covered entities, although the tools can also introduce risks to the privacy and security of electronic health information.  Many companies use these tools, including healthcare organizations, yet they can easily lead to the exposure or disclosure of sensitive data. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has recently issued a reminder to covered entities and business associates of the potential risks associated with file sharing and collaboration tools, explaining the risks these services can introduce and how covered entities can use these services and remain in compliance with HIPAA Rules. While file sharing tools and cloud computing services may incorporate all the necessary protections to ensure data is secured and cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals, over the past few years there have been numerous cases where human error has resulted in misconfigurations. Those errors have led to data breaches. A Metalogix survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute revealed that one in...

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

U.S. Healthcare Providers Affected by Global Ransomware Attack

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

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Reports Flood in on New ‘Unprecedented’ Global Ransomware Attack
Jun27

Reports Flood in on New ‘Unprecedented’ Global Ransomware Attack

A major global cyberattack involving Petya ransomware is currently underway, with firms across Russia, Ukraine and Europe affected. The attack is understood to involve a variant of Petya ransomware which has spread using similar methods to those used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks last month. Companies confirmed as being infected with the ransomware include the Russian oil firm Rosneft, the Russian metal maker Evraz, French construction materials firm Saint Gobain, many Russian banks, the international Boryspil airport in Ukraine, the Ukraine government, two Ukrainian postal services, the Ukrainian aviation firm Antonov, shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk, legal firm DLA Piper, food manufacturer Mondelez, the advertising group WPP and pharmaceutical giant Merck.  Many more companies are believed to have been attacked with the list of victims certain to grow. Attacks now occurring in the UK and India and may spread further afield. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman has said the ransomware attack is unprecedented. The attacks appear to have started Tuesday, with...

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World’s Largest Data Breach Settlement Agreed by Anthem
Jun26

World’s Largest Data Breach Settlement Agreed by Anthem

The largest data breach settlement in history has recently been agreed by the health insurer Anthem Inc. Anthem experienced the largest healthcare data breach ever reported in 2015, with the cyberattack resulting in the theft of 78.8 million records of current and former health plan members. The breach involved names, addresses, Social Security numbers, email addresses, birthdates and employment/income information. A breach on that scale naturally resulted in many class-action lawsuits, with more than 100 lawsuits consolidated by a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Now, two years on, Anthem has agreed to settle the litigation for $115 million. If approved, that makes this the largest data breach settlement ever – Substantially higher than $18.5 million settlement agreed by Target after its 41 million-record breach and the $19.5 million paid to consumers by Home Depot after its 50-million record breach in 2014. After experiencing the data breach, Anthem offered two years of complimentary credit monitoring services to affected plan members. The settlement will, in...

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Google to Remove Personal Medical Information From Its Search Results
Jun23

Google to Remove Personal Medical Information From Its Search Results

There are only a handful of content categories that Google will not display in its search results. Now the list has grown slightly with the addition of personal medical records, specifically, the ‘confidential, personal medical records of private people.’ The update to its policy was made yesterday, with medical records joining national identification numbers such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, images of signatures, sexual abuse images, revenge porn, and material that has been uploaded to the Internet in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Google’s indexing system captures all publicly accessible information that has been uploaded to the Internet, although there has been criticism in recent years about the types of information Google allows to be listed. Even so, it is rare for Google to make changes to its algorithms to block certain types of content. The last addition to the list of material that can be removed automatically by Google was revenge porn – nude or sexually explicit images that have been uploaded to the...

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Healthcare Data Breach Costs Fall to $380 Per Record
Jun21

Healthcare Data Breach Costs Fall to $380 Per Record

Healthcare data breach costs have fallen year-over-year according to the latest IBM Security/Ponemon Institute study.  While there was a slight decline, for the seventh straight year, healthcare data breach costs are still higher than any other industry sector. This year, the Ponemon Institute calculated the average healthcare data breach costs to be $380 per record. The average global cost per record for all industries is now $141, with healthcare data breach costs more than 2.5 times the global average. Last year, average healthcare data breach costs were $402 per record. The average cost of a breach in the United States across all industries is $225 per record, up from $221 in 2016. Data breach costs have risen substantially over the past seven years, although the latest report shows there was a 10% reduction in data breach costs across all industry sectors. This was the first year that data breach costs have shown a decline. The average global cost of a data breach now stands at $3.62 million, having reduced from $4 million last year. The study was conducted globally, with 63...

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

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

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

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Delayed Breach Notification Sees CoPilot Fined $130,000 by NY AG
Jun19

Delayed Breach Notification Sees CoPilot Fined $130,000 by NY AG

A data breach that occurred in October 2015 should have seen affected individuals notified within 2 months, yet it took CoPilot Provider Support Services Inc., until January 2017 to issue breach notifications. An administration website maintained by CoPilot was accessed by an unauthorized individual on October 26, 2015. That individual also downloaded the data of 221,178 individuals. The stolen data included names, dates of birth, phone numbers, addresses, and medical insurance details. The individual suspected of accessing the website and downloading data was a former employee. CoPilot contacted the FBI in February 2016 to receive help with the breach investigation and establish the identity of the unauthorized individual. However, notifications were not sent by CoPilot until January 18, 2017. CoPilot says the delay was due to the time taken for the FBI to investigate the breach; however, since CoPilot was aware that reimbursement-related records had been stolen, notifications should have been sent sooner. Further, law enforcement did not instruct CoPilot to delay the issuing of...

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OCR’s Wall of Shame Under Review by HHS
Jun16

OCR’s Wall of Shame Under Review by HHS

Since 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has been publishing summaries of healthcare data breaches on its website. The data breach list is commonly referred to as OCR’s ‘Wall of Shame’. The data breach list only provides a brief summary of data breaches, including the name of the covered entity, the state in which the covered entity is based, covered entity type, date of notification, type of breach, location of breach information, whether a business associate was involved and the number of individuals affected. The list includes all reported data breaches, including those which occurred due to no fault of the healthcare organization. The list is not a record of HIPAA violations. Those are determined during OCR investigations of breaches. Making brief details of the data breaches available to the public is an ‘unnecessarily punitive’ measure, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who recently criticized OCR about its data breach list. Burgess was informed at a cybersecurity hearing last week that HHS secretary Tom Price is currently...

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

Study: 1 in 5 Enterprise Users Have Set Weak Passwords

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

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Microsoft Patches Two Critical, Actively Exploited Vulnerabilities
Jun14

Microsoft Patches Two Critical, Actively Exploited Vulnerabilities

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

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OCR Issues Guidance on the Correct Response to a Cyberattack
Jun12

OCR Issues Guidance on the Correct Response to a Cyberattack

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued new guidance to covered entities on the correct response to a cyberattack. OCR issued a quick response checklist and accompanying infographic to explain the correct response to a cyberattack and the sequence of actions that should be taken. Responding to an ePHI Breach Preparation is key. Organizations must have response and mitigation procedures in place and contingency plans should exist that can be implemented immediately following the discovery a cyberattack, malware or ransomware attack. The first stage of the response is to take immediate action to prevent any impermissible disclosure of electronic protected health information. In the case of a network intrusion, unauthorized access to the network – and data – must be blocked and steps taken to prevent data from being exfiltrated. Healthcare organizations may have staff capable of responding to such an incident, although third party firms can be contracted to assist with the response. Smaller healthcare organizations may have little choice...

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

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

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

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

Recent Employee Snooping Incidents Highlight Need for Access Controls and Alerts

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

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Plastic Surgery Clinic Employee Suspected of Stealing 15,000 Patient Records
Jun02

Plastic Surgery Clinic Employee Suspected of Stealing 15,000 Patient Records

A former employee of a Californian plastic surgery clinic is suspected of stealing the medical records of around 15,000 patients. The employee worked at the Rodeo Drive clinic in Beverly Hills run by Dr. Zain Kadri. The employee had been employed as a driver and translator since September 2016, but had subsequently been given other duties such as data entry. Allegedly, she quit the practice on May 13 after being accused of embezzlement. The employee was later discovered to have taken photographs of patients before and during surgical procedures and uploaded those pictures to the image sharing site Snapchat. Further data theft was uncovered in May while the clinic was transferring paper records to digital files. As part of that process, the clinic checked a company phone used by the former employee. Images were discovered on the device including photographs of patients, but also photographs of patient IDs, usernames and passwords, copies of checks and credit and debit card information. Conversations were also reportedly recorded by the employee. It is unclear how much of that...

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

OCR Reminds Covered Entities of Security Incident Definition and Notification Requirements

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

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

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

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

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Molina Healthcare Patient Portal Discovered to Have Exposed Patient Data
May31

Molina Healthcare Patient Portal Discovered to Have Exposed Patient Data

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Device Security Testing Only Performed by One in Twenty Hospitals

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

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Impermissible Disclosure of HIV Status to Employer Results in $387,000 HIPAA Penalty
May24

Impermissible Disclosure of HIV Status to Employer Results in $387,000 HIPAA Penalty

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced a new HIPAA settlement to resolve violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center Inc., has paid OCR $387,200 to resolve potential HIPAA violations discovered during an OCR investigation of a complaint about an impermissible disclosure of PHI. In September 2014, OCR received a complaint about a potential privacy violation involving a patient of St. Luke’s Spencer Cox Center for Health. In the complaint, it was alleged that a member of St Luke’s staff violated the privacy of a patient by faxing protected health information to the individual’s employer. The information in the fax was highly sensitive, including the patient’s sexual orientation, HIV status, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health diagnosis, details of physical abuse suffered, medical care and medications. Instead of faxing the information, the data should have been sent to a personal post box as requested. The investigation revealed that the incident was not the only time that the HIPAA Privacy Rule...

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Leading Cause of Healthcare Data Breaches in April was Hacking
May23

Leading Cause of Healthcare Data Breaches in April was Hacking

The monthly Breach Barometer Report from Protenus shows a significant reduction in the number of exposed healthcare records in April, with 232,060 records exposed compared to more than 1.5 million in March. The number of reported data breaches also fell from 39 to 34. The report offers some further good news. The time taken by healthcare organizations to report security incidents also fell last month. 66% of breaches were reported within the 60-day time period allowed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Breach Notification Rule. While it is good news that the trend for reporting data breaches more promptly is continuing, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Protenus reports that in April, it took an average of 51 days from the date of the breach to discovery, and an average of 59 days from the discovery of a breach to the submission of a breach report to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. The data for the Protenus Breach Barometer report was supplied by Databreaches.net, which uncovered one of the worst breaches of the year to date. The theft of...

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

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

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

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WannaCry Ransomware Encrypted Hospital Medical Devices
May17

WannaCry Ransomware Encrypted Hospital Medical Devices

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

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WannaCrypt Ransomware Attacks Stopped, But Only Briefly
May15

WannaCrypt Ransomware Attacks Stopped, But Only Briefly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guidance on Securing Wireless Infusion Pumps Issued by NIST
May11

Guidance on Securing Wireless Infusion Pumps Issued by NIST

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

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Security Breach Highlights Need for Patient Portals to be Pen Tested
May11

Security Breach Highlights Need for Patient Portals to be Pen Tested

A range of safeguards must be implemented to ensure networks and EHRs are protected. Encryption should be considered to prevent the loss or theft of devices from exposing the ePHI of patients. However, it is important for healthcare organizations also check their patient portals for potential vulnerabilities and implement safeguards to prevent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information. The failure to implement appropriate safeguards on web-based applications can easily result in unauthorized disclosures of patients PHI, as was recently demonstrated at True Health Diagnostics. The Frisco, TX-based healthcare services company offers testing for a wide range of diseases and genetic abnormalities, with test information available to patient via a web portal. The web portal allows patients to obtain their test results quickly. Patients are required to register and can only access their records if they first log in to the portal. However, a flaw on the web portal allowed patients to access not only their own test results, but the test results and PHI of other patients. The website...

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Memorial Hermann Health System Hit with $2.4 Million HIPAA Fine
May11

Memorial Hermann Health System Hit with $2.4 Million HIPAA Fine

Memorial Hermann Health System has agreed to settle potential HIPAA Privacy Rule violations with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for $2.4 million. The settlement stems from an impermissible disclosure on a press release issued by MHHS in September 2015. Memorial Hermann Health System (MHHS) is a 16-hospital health system based in Southeast Texas, serving patients in the Greater Houston area. In September, a patient visited a MHHS clinic and presented a fraudulent identification card to hospital staff. The fraudulent ID card was identified as such by hospital staff, law enforcement was notified and the patient was arrested. The hospital disclosed the name of the patient to law enforcement, which is allowable under HIPAA Rules. However, the following action taken by the hospital was a violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. MHHS issued a press release about the incident but included the patients name in the title of the press release. That press release was approved before release by MHHS senior management, even though naming the patient...

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

180,000 Patient Records Dumped Online by The Dark Overlord

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

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NCCIC Warns of Highly Sophisticated Campaign Delivering Multiple Malware Variants
May05

NCCIC Warns of Highly Sophisticated Campaign Delivering Multiple Malware Variants

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

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Rise in Business Email Compromise Scams Prompts IC3 Warning
May05

Rise in Business Email Compromise Scams Prompts IC3 Warning

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

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Bitglass Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Security Report
May04

Bitglass Publishes 2017 Healthcare Data Security Report

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

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Survey Explores Trust in Healthcare Organizations’ Ability to Keep Data Secure
May04

Survey Explores Trust in Healthcare Organizations’ Ability to Keep Data Secure

A recent survey by Accenture has explored consumers’ attitudes about healthcare data security and revealed the impact healthcare data breaches have had on consumers. The survey showed the extent to which individuals had suffered losses as a result of a data breach, how consumers felt their organization handled data breaches and the effect those breaches had on trust. Trust in Healthcare Providers and Insurers is High In the United States, trust in healthcare providers’ and health insurers’ ability to keep sensitive data secure is high. 88% of respondents said they trusted their physician or other healthcare providers ‘somewhat’ (53%) or ‘a great deal’ (36%). Trust in hospitals was slightly lower at 84% (54% somewhat / 30% a great deal). Health insurers and laboratories that process medical tests fared slightly worse, both somewhat trusted by 54% of respondents and trusted a great deal by 28% of respondents. Distrust –not at all trusted or not trusted very much – was highest in urgent care clinics (25%), non-medical staff at physicians’ and healthcare providers’ offices (36%)...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patient Records Must be Disclosed by Organ Procurement Organization, Rules Supreme Court Judge
Apr21

Patient Records Must be Disclosed by Organ Procurement Organization, Rules Supreme Court Judge

A New York Supreme Court Judge has recently ruled that patient records held by the New York Organ Donor Network must be turned over to a plaintiff and that the request cannot be denied based on HIPAA. Patrick McMahon claims he was fired from his position of Transplant Coordinator by the New York Organ Donor Network following complaints he made about organ harvesting from four patients who were still showing clear signs of life and had not been declared legally dead. The New York Organ Donor Network maintains the plaintiff was fired for poor performance while he was still a probationary employee. The allegations about the procurement of organs have been denied. McMahon requested the New York Organ Donor Network turn over the medical records of the four patients as they are ‘material and necessary’ to show the patients showed signs of brain activity at the time the organs were harvested.  The New York Organ Donor Network had previously denied McMahon’s request, instead providing contact details of the patients’ next of kin, informing McMahon that he needed to obtain consent forms...

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OCR Settlement Highlights Importance of Obtaining Signed Business Associate Agreements
Apr21

OCR Settlement Highlights Importance of Obtaining Signed Business Associate Agreements

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has sent another warning to HIPAA-covered entities about the need to obtain signed, HIPAA-compliant business associate agreements with all vendors prior to disclosing any protected health information. Yesterday, OCR announced it has agreed to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act with The Center for Children’s Digestive Health (CCDH); a small 7-center pediatric subspecialty practice based in Park Ridge, Illinois. On August 13, 2015, OCR conducted a HIPAA compliance review of CCDH following an investigation of FileFax Inc., which was contracted by CCDH to store inactive patient records. The FileFax investigation revealed the company had not signed a business associate agreement prior to being provided with patients’ PHI. The subsequent compliance review of CCDH similarly revealed that no signed business associate agreement existed. CCDH had therefore impermissibly disclosed patients’ PHI to FileFax in violation of HIPAA Rules. CCDH had provided paper records relating...

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

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

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

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

Congress Advised to Offer Incentives to Improve Healthcare Threat Intelligence Sharing

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

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

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

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

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More than 55,000 Patients Impacted by ABCD Pediatrics Ransomware Attack
Apr04

More than 55,000 Patients Impacted by ABCD Pediatrics Ransomware Attack

San Antonio, TX-based ABCD Pediatrics has discovered cybercriminals gained access to its servers and used ransomware to encrypt data, including the protected health information of its patients. The individuals behind the attack may also have gained access to data stored on the healthcare provider’s servers prior to ransomware being deployed. The breach report submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights indicates 55,447 patients have been impacted. The attack involved a variant of CrySiS ransomware called Dharma, which started encrypting data on February 6, 2017. Dharma ransomware is not known to exfiltrate data; however, an analysis of the attack revealed a number of suspicious user accounts on the servers, suggesting access had been gained prior to the ransomware being installed. User logs were also discovered that indicated programs or users may have been on the servers for a limited period of time prior to the ransomware being installed. Fortunately, the encryption process was hampered by the anti-virus solution used by ABCD Pediatrics. ABCD...

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

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

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

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FBI Warns Healthcare Industry About Anonymous FTP Server Cyberattacks
Mar29

FBI Warns Healthcare Industry About Anonymous FTP Server Cyberattacks

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

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SAFER Guides Updated by ONC: Ransomware Prevention and Mitigation Strategies Included
Mar28

SAFER Guides Updated by ONC: Ransomware Prevention and Mitigation Strategies Included

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has updated its SAFER Guides to include information to help healthcare providers protect against ransomware infections and mitigate ransomware attacks. The Safety Assurance Factors for Electronic Health Record Resilience (SAFER) Guides were first released in January 2014 to help healthcare providers improve the usability of their EHRs and address the risks that EHR technology can introduce. The SAFER Guides can also be used to reduce the potential for patients to suffer EHR-related harm. The SAFER Guides cover a range of key focus areas and include evidence-based best practices that can be adopted by healthcare providers to improve the usability and safety of their EHRs. Over the past three years, technology has changed as have the threats faced by the healthcare industry. The guides were therefore due an update to keep them useful and relevant. Prior to issuing the updated guides, ONC sought feedback from healthcare providers and developers of EHRs. The comments...

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Roger Severino Named New Director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights
Mar27

Roger Severino Named New Director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has a new leader. The Trump Administration has chosen former civil rights trial attorney Roger Severino to lead the HIPAA enforcement efforts of the Office for Civil Rights. Severino joins OCR from the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, where he served as Director since May 2015. A formal announcement about the appointment of the new OCR Director has yet to be issued; however, the Heritage Foundation has confirmed that Severino is no longer on the staff and his name has been added to the HHS website. A spokesperson for OCR has also confirmed that Severino will be the new director and Severino’s LinkedIn profile has also been updated to include his new position as OCR chief. Severino has a background in civil rights litigation, having worked as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice for seven years in the Housing and Civil Enforcement division. During his time at the DOJ, Severino enforced the Fair Housing Act, Title II...

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

What Can Small Healthcare Providers Do To Prevent Ransomware Attacks?

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

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WEDI Offers Healthcare Cybersecurity Tips to Improve Resilience Against Cyberattacks
Mar22

WEDI Offers Healthcare Cybersecurity Tips to Improve Resilience Against Cyberattacks

WEDI, the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, has issued a new white paper exploring some of the common cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are exploited by threat adversaries to gain access to healthcare networks and patient and health plan members’ protected health information. The white paper – The Rampant Growth of Cybercrime in Healthcare – is a follow up to a primer released in 2015 that explored the anatomy of a cyberattack. WEDI points out the seriousness of the threat faced by the healthcare industry. Cyberattacks are costing the healthcare industry around $6.2 billion each year, with the average cost of a healthcare data breach around $2.2 million. Cyberattacks and other security incidents having risen sharply in recent years. More records are now being exposed than at any other time in history and the number of healthcare data incidents being reported reached record levels last year. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights received 315 reports of major healthcare data breaches last year and recent research by Fortinet showed that in the...

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Snapshot of Healthcare Data Breaches in February 2017
Mar21

Snapshot of Healthcare Data Breaches in February 2017

The Protenus Breach Barometer healthcare data breach report for February includes some good news. Healthcare data breaches have not risen month on month, with both January and February seeing 31 data breaches reported. The report offers some further good news. Healthcare hacking incidents fell in February, accounting for just 12% of the total number of breaches reported during the month. There was also a major fall in the number of healthcare records exposed or stolen. In January, 388,207 healthcare records were reported as being exposed or stolen. In February, the number fell to 206,151 – a 47% drop in exposed and stolen records. However, February was far from a good month for the healthcare industry. IT security professionals have long been concerned about the threat from within, and last month clearly showed those fears are grounded in reality. February saw a major increase in the number of incidents caused by insiders. Insider breaches in February accounted for 58% of the total number of incidents reported for which the cause was known; double the number reported the previous...

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NY State HIE Improves Care Quality and Operational Efficiency of Emergency Departments
Mar17

NY State HIE Improves Care Quality and Operational Efficiency of Emergency Departments

A recent study of the Health Information Exchange adopted in New York State has shown the value of investing in an HIE and the positive impact it has on patient outcomes and operational efficiency. Following considerable investment in the New York State HIE, patient stays have been reduced, the likelihood of readmission has fallen, as have the number of physicians needed to examine patients in emergency departments. The study has shown that quality of care has been improved along with operational efficiency, resulting in considerable cost savings and improved patient outcomes. The study examined almost 86,000 emergency department encounters over a period of 19 months between July 1, 2012 and January 31, 2014 at four emergency departments linked to the HealthLinkNY Health Information Exchange. During that time, there were 46,270 patient visits which were attended by 326 physicians. Emergency departments were selected for the study as they are high pressure environments where physicians are required to treat patients with a wide range of medical conditions and must gather information...

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Almost 18,000 Metropolitan Urology Patients Impacted by Ransomware Attack
Mar17

Almost 18,000 Metropolitan Urology Patients Impacted by Ransomware Attack

Wauwatosa, WI-based Metropolitan Urology Group has recently discovered a ransomware attack that affected two computer servers potentially resulted in the attackers gaining access to the protected health information of 17,634 patients. The ransomware attack occurred on November 28, 2016, although it was initially unclear whether access to patients’ PHI had been gained by the attackers. Metropolitan Urology Group contracted an international information technology company to perform a thorough analysis of the affected servers and its systems to determine the nature and extent of the attack. On January 10, 2017, Metropolitan Urology Group was informed that patient data may have been accessed as a result of the infection. The firm was able to successfully remove the ransomware infection and restore the medical group’s systems. Current patients are unaffected by the security breach. The data stored on the servers related to patients who had received medical services at the medical group’s facilities between 2003 and 2010. The types of data that were potentially accessed include patients’...

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VA to Abandon EHR In Favor of Commercial EHR System
Mar15

VA to Abandon EHR In Favor of Commercial EHR System

The challenges of developing and maintaining a custom EHR system have proved too great for the Department of Veteran Affairs. The VA developed its EHR system – VistA – in house; however, it was labor intensive, costly and time consuming to maintain and use. According to VA secretary, David Shulkin, the system is “too complex and too difficult to maneuver”. A decision needed to be taken on whether to continue to plough money and resources into getting VistA to work as it should, or to call it quits and opt for a new, commercially available system. The VA has more important priorities than software development and has opted for the latter. Shulkin wants veterans to have more choice about where they receive care. Having an EHR that allows data to be easily shared is essential to ensure veterans get the best medical treatment possible. Yet the VistA system often resulted in care being delayed which had a negative effect on patient outcomes. The decision to ditch VistA has been a long time coming. The system has been extensively discussed at hearings and last year feedback was sought on...

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