UPMC Hacker Who Stole PII of 65,000 Employees Gets Maximum 7-Year Sentence
Oct21

UPMC Hacker Who Stole PII of 65,000 Employees Gets Maximum 7-Year Sentence

The hacker who gained access to the databases of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and stole the personally identifiable information (PII) and W-2 information of approximately 65,000 UPMC employees has been handed the maximum sentence for the offenses and will serve 7 years in jail. Sean Johnson, of Detroit, Michigan – aka TheDearthStar and Dearthy Star – hacked into the databases of UPMC in 2013 and 2014 and stole highly sensitive information which was then sold on dark web hacking forums and was used by identity thieves to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of UPMC employees. The Department of Justice (DOJ) also alleged Johnson conducted further cyberattacks between 2014 and 2017 and stole the PII of an additional 90,000 individuals. Those sets of data were also sold to identity thieves on dark web forums. In total, fraudulent tax returns totaling $2.2 million were filed and around $1.7 million was dispersed by the IRS. The funds received were converted to Amazon gift cards, which were used to purchase high-value goods that were shipped to Venezuela. Three of...

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September 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Oct20

September 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

There was a 23.7% month-over-month increase in reported healthcare data breaches in September, which saw 47 data breaches of 500 or more records reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. While that is more than 1.5 breaches a day, it is under the average of 55.5 breaches per month over the past 12 months. While data breaches increased, there was a major decrease in the number of breached healthcare records, dropping 75.5% from August to 1,253,258 records across the 47 reported data breaches, which is the third-lowest total over the past 12 months. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in September 2021 16 healthcare data breaches were reported in September 2021 that involved the exposure, theft, or impermissible disclosure of more than 10,000 healthcare records. The largest breach of the month was reported by the State of Alaska Department of Health & Social Services. The breach was initially thought to have resulted in the theft of the personal and protected health information (PHI) of all state residents, although the breach was...

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Alert Issued About Ongoing BlackMatter Ransomware Attacks
Oct19

Alert Issued About Ongoing BlackMatter Ransomware Attacks

A joint alert has been issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) about ongoing BlackMatter ransomware attacks. The group has been conducting attacks in the United States since July 2021, which have included attacks on critical infrastructure entities and two organizations in the U.S. Food and Agriculture Sector. Evidence has been obtained that links the gang to the DarkSide ransomware gang that conducted attacks between September 2020 and May 2021, including the attack on Colonial Pipeline, with BlackMatter ransomware potentially a rebrand of the DarkSide operation. Investigations into the attacks have allowed the agencies to obtain important information about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of the group, and an analysis has been performed on a sample of the ransomware in a sandbox environment. The group is known to use previously compromised credentials to gain access to victims’ networks, then leverages the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and...

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Phishing Attack on Business Associate Affects Tens of Thousands of Professional Dental Alliance Patients
Oct18

Phishing Attack on Business Associate Affects Tens of Thousands of Professional Dental Alliance Patients

Professional Dental Alliance, a network of dental practices affiliated with the North American Dental Group, has notified tens of thousands of patients that some of their protected health information was stored in email accounts that were accessed by an unauthorized individual between March 31 and April 1, 2021. Professional Dental Alliance says the breach occurred at its vendor North American Dental Management. Steps were immediately taken to secure the affected accounts and prevent further unauthorized access. An investigation was launched which revealed several email accounts were accessed by an unauthorized individual after employees responded to phishing emails. The investigation into the breach uncovered no evidence of attempted or actual misuse of patient data, with the investigators concluding the breach was likely limited to credential harvesting. A comprehensive review of the affected email accounts confirmed they contained protected health information such as names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, Social Security numbers, dental...

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MITRE Launches Centers to Protect Critical Infrastructure and Public Health
Oct15

MITRE Launches Centers to Protect Critical Infrastructure and Public Health

MITRE has launched two new organizations which have been tasked with addressing critical healthcare challenges and improving cybersecurity to better protect critical infrastructure. MITRE is a nonprofit organization that manages federally funded research and development centers to support government agencies in defense, healthcare, homeland security, cybersecurity, and other fields. MITRE Labs was established in 2020 as part of a restructuring of MITRE, with the new unit tasked with driving breakthroughs in applied science and advanced technology to transform the future of U.S. scientific and economic leadership. Two new organizations have now been established within MITRE labs – The Cyber Infrastructure Protection Innovation Center and the Clinical Insights Innovation Cell. The Cyber Infrastructure Protection Innovation Center was set up to bridge the technology gap between the public and private sector and ensure the operational technology, industrial control systems, and cyber-physical systems of critical infrastructure organizations are protected. Nation-state actors and...

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New Jersey Infertility Clinic Settles Data Breach Investigation with State and Pays $495,000 Penalty
Oct14

New Jersey Infertility Clinic Settles Data Breach Investigation with State and Pays $495,000 Penalty

A New Jersey infertility clinic accused of violating HIPAA and New Jersey laws by failing to implement appropriate cybersecurity measures has settled the investigation with the state and will pay a $495,000 penalty. Millburn, NJ-based Diamond Institute for Infertility and Menopause, LLC (Diamond) operates two healthcare facilities in New Jersey, one in New York, and provides consultancy services in Bermuda. Providing those services involves the collection, storage, and use of personal and protected health information (PHI). Between August 2016 and January 2017, at least one unauthorized individual accessed Diamond’s network which contained the PHI of 14,663 patients, 11,071 of which were New Jersey residents. As a HIPAA-covered entity, Diamond is required to implement technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI. Diamond is also subject to New Jersey laws and is similarly required to implement reasonable and adequate safeguards to protect medical data from unauthorized access. Diamond Investigated for...

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Ransom Disclosure Act Requires Disclosure of Payments to Ransomware Gangs Within 48 Hours
Oct11

Ransom Disclosure Act Requires Disclosure of Payments to Ransomware Gangs Within 48 Hours

A new bill has been introduced that, if passed, will require victims of ransomware attacks to disclose any payments made to the attackers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 48 hours of the ransom being paid. The Ransom Disclosure Act was introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and aims to provide the DHS with the data it needs to investigate ransomware attacks and improve understanding of how cybercriminal enterprises operate, thus allowing the DHS to gain a much better picture of the ransomware threat facing the United States. Between 2019 and 2020 ransomware attacks increased by 62% worldwide, and by 158% in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received 2,500 complaints about ransomware attacks in 2020, up 20% from the previous year and there were more than $29 million in reported losses to ransomware attacks in 2020. Not all ransomware attacks are reported. Many victims choose to quietly pay the attackers for the keys to decrypt their data and prevent the public disclosure of any data stolen in the...

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Insider Threat Self-Assessment Tool Released by CISA
Oct06

Insider Threat Self-Assessment Tool Released by CISA

Public and private sector organizations have a new tool to help them assess their level of vulnerability to insider threats. The new Insider Threat Risk Mitigation Self-Assessment Tool has been created by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help users further their understanding of insider threats and develop prevention and mitigation programs. In healthcare, security efforts often focus on the network perimeter and implementing measures to block external threats, but insider threats can be just as damaging, if not more so. Insiders can steal sensitive information for financial gain, can take information to provide to their next employer, or can abuse their privileged access to cause significant harm. Insider breaches can have major consequences for businesses, with may include reputation damage, loss of revenue, theft of intellectual property, reduced market share, and even physical harm. CISA says insider threats can include current and former employers, contractors, or other individuals with inside knowledge about a business. The threat posed by...

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Lawsuit Alleges Ransomware Attack Resulted in Hospital Baby Death
Oct04

Lawsuit Alleges Ransomware Attack Resulted in Hospital Baby Death

A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed against an Alabama hospital alleging vital information that could have prevented the death of a baby was not available due to a ransomware attack and that the mother was not informed that patient care had been affected by the incident. Springhill Medical Center in Mobile, AL suffered a ransomware attack in 2019 which caused widespread encryption of files and a major IT system outage. Computer systems were taken offline for 8 days, during which time care continued to be provided to patients with staff operating under the hospital’s emergency protocol during the downtime. With no access to computer systems patient information was recorded on paper charts. Following the attack, Springhill Medical Center issued a statement about the incident and said it had no impact on patient care, “We’d like to assure our patients and the community that patient safety is always our top priority and we would never allow our staff to operate in an unsafe environment.” During the system downtime, Teiranni Kidd arrived at the hospital to have her baby...

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National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Do Your Part, #BeCyberSmart
Oct04

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Do Your Part, #BeCyberSmart

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Throughout October, the importance of cybersecurity is highlighted and resources are made available to raise awareness of cyber threats and encourage individuals and organizations to adopt cybersecurity best practices and better protect accounts and sensitive data. Cybersecurity Awareness Month was launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the United States Department of Homeland Security in 2004 to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity. Each year has a different theme, although the overall aim is the same – To empower individuals and the organizations they work for to improve cybersecurity and make it harder for hackers and scammers to succeed. The month is focused on improving education about cybersecurity best practices, raising awareness of the digital threats to privacy, encouraging organizations and individuals to put stronger safeguards in place to protect sensitive data, and highlighting the importance of security awareness training. This year has the overall theme – “Do Your Part,...

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NSA/CISA Issue Guidance on Selecting Secure VPN Solutions and Hardening Security
Sep30

NSA/CISA Issue Guidance on Selecting Secure VPN Solutions and Hardening Security

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued new guidance on selecting and improving the security of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) solutions. VPN solutions allow remote workers to securely connect to business networks. Data traffic is routed through an encrypted virtual tunnel to prevent the interception of sensitive data and to block external attacks. VPNs are an attractive target for hackers, and vulnerabilities in VPN solutions have been targeted by several Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups. APT actors have been observed exploiting vulnerabilities in VPN solutions to remotely gain access to business networks, harvest credentials, remotely execute code on the VPN devices, hijack encrypted traffic sessions, and obtain sensitive data from the devices. Several common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) have been weaponized to gain access to the vulnerable devices, including Pulse Connect Secure SSL VPN (CVE-2019-11510), Fortinet FortiOS SSL VPN (CVE-2018-13379), and Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS (CVE_2020-2050)....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CISA and FBI Warn About Escalating Conti Ransomware Attacks
Sep23

CISA and FBI Warn About Escalating Conti Ransomware Attacks

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued a warning about escalating Conti ransomware attacks. CISA and the FBI have observed Conti ransomware being used in more than 400 cyberattacks in the United States and globally. Like many ransomware gangs, prior to deploying Conti ransomware the gang exfiltrates data from victims’ networks. A ransom demand is issued along with a threat to publish the stolen data if the ransom is not paid. The developers of Conti ransomware run a ransomware-as-a-service operation, where affiliates are recruited to conduct attacks. Under this model, affiliates usually receive a percentage of any ransoms they generate. Conti appears to operate slightly differently, where affiliates are paid a wage to conduct attacks. A variety of methods are used to gain access to victims’ networks. Spear phishing emails are common, where malicious attachments such as Word documents with embedded scripts are used as malware droppers. Typically, a malware variant such as TrickBot or IcedID is downloaded...

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August 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Sep21

August 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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FTC Tells Developers of Health Apps and Wearable Devices to Notify Individuals About Data Breaches
Sep16

FTC Tells Developers of Health Apps and Wearable Devices to Notify Individuals About Data Breaches

Developers of health apps and wearable devices such as fitness trackers that collect health data have been warned by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that they are required to comply with the FTC Health Breach Notification Rule and must notify consumers about data breaches. The FTC Health Breach Notification Rule was introduced in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and requires individuals to be notified if there is a breach of their health data. The Health Breach Notification Rule applies to vendors of personal health records and associated companies, but in a policy statement issued on September 16, 2021, the FTC said health apps and other connected devices that collect or use the health information of U.S. consumers are also covered by Rule. The policy statement was approved during an open meeting on Wednesday by a vote of 3-2. The FTC Health Breach Notification Rule applies to health apps and wearable devices that collect health information from a consumer and can draw information from multiple sources, such as through an API that allows...

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Health and Public Health Sector Warn of Elevated Risk of BlackMatter Ransomware Attacks
Sep13

Health and Public Health Sector Warn of Elevated Risk of BlackMatter Ransomware Attacks

The health and public health sector is facing an elevated risk of ransomware attacks by affiliates of the BlackMatter ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation, according to the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) of the Department of Health and Human Services. The BlackMatter threat group emerged in July 2021 shortly after the DarkSide ransomware gang shut down its operation and the Sodinokibli/REvil took its infrastructure offline. The Russian speaking threat group is believed to originate in Eastern Europe and has conducted many attacks over the past couple of months in Brazil, Chile, India, Thailand, and the United States. The group also started leaking data stolen in attacks on its data leak site on August 11, 2021. The threat group has mostly conducted ransomware attacks on companies in the real estate, food and beverage, architecture, IT, financial services, and education sectors, and while the ransomware gang has publicly stated it would not attack hospitals, critical infrastructure companies, nonprofits, government, and defense contractors, there is...

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OCR Announces 20th Financial Penalty Under HIPAA Right of Access Enforcement Initiative
Sep13

OCR Announces 20th Financial Penalty Under HIPAA Right of Access Enforcement Initiative

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has imposed its 20th financial penalty under the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative that was launched in late 2019. Children’s Hospital & Medical Center (CHMC), a pediatric care provider in Omaha, Nebraska, has been ordered to pay a penalty of $80,000 to resolve the alleged HIPAA Right of Access violation, is required to adopt a corrective action plan to address the noncompliance discovered by OCR, and will be monitored for compliance by OCR for a period of one year. The Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act gave individuals the right to obtain a copy of their protected health information held by a HIPAA covered entity, and for parents and legal guardians to obtain a copy of the medical records of their minor children. HIPAA covered entities must provide the requested records within 30 days and are only permitted to charge a reasonable cost-based fee for providing copies. In certain circumstances, covered entities can apply for a 30-day extension, making...

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

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

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

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FBI & CISA Warn of Increased Risk of Ransomware Attacks over Labor Day Weekend
Sep02

FBI & CISA Warn of Increased Risk of Ransomware Attacks over Labor Day Weekend

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued a warning to all public and private sector organizations about the increased risk of ransomware attacks at times when offices are normally closed, such as long holiday weekends. While many employees will be having a long weekend due to Labor Day, this is a time when threat actors are usually highly active. The low staff numbers during holidays and weekends make it less likely that their attacks will be detected and blocked. The CISA and the FBI explained in the warning that they have observed an increase in “highly impactful ransomware attacks occurring on holidays and weekends,” and provided multiple examples of threat actors conducting attacks over holiday weekends in the United States in 2021. Most recently, the Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware actors conducted an attack on the Kaseya remote monitoring and management tool over the Fourth of July 2021 holiday weekend. The attack affected hundreds of organizations including many managed service providers and their...

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Outpatient Facilities Targeted by Cyber Actors More Frequently Than Hospitals
Sep01

Outpatient Facilities Targeted by Cyber Actors More Frequently Than Hospitals

A new analysis of breach reports submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has revealed outpatient facilities and specialty clinics have been targeted by cyber threat actors more frequently than hospital systems in the first 6 months of 2021. Researchers at Critical Insight explained in their 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report that cybercriminals have changed their targets within the healthcare ecosystem and are now focusing on outpatient facilities and business associates more often than hospitals and health insurers. While large health systems are naturally attractive targets for cybercriminals, smaller healthcare organizations tend to have weaker security defenses and can be attacked more easily and are low hanging fruit for hackers. The potential profits from the attacks may be lower, but so too is the effort to gain access to their networks and sensitive data. “It is no secret as to why hackers are showing interest. Electronic protected health information (ePHI) is worth more than a credit card number or social security number. Scammers...

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Researchers Identify Easily Exploitable Vulnerabilities in Drug Infusion Pumps
Aug31

Researchers Identify Easily Exploitable Vulnerabilities in Drug Infusion Pumps

Researchers at McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR), in conjunction with the medical device cybersecurity firm Culinda, have identified 5 previously unreported vulnerabilities in two widely used models of B. Braun drug infusion pumps. The devices are used globally in hospitals to treat adult and pediatric patients and automate the delivery of medications and nutrients to patients. They are especially useful for ensuring controlled delivery of critical medication doses. The flaws in the B. Braun infusion pumps could be exploited by an unauthenticated attacker to change the configuration of the infusion pumps while they are in standby mode, which could result in an unexpected dose of medication being delivered the next time the device is used, potentially causing harm to a patient. McAfee alerted B.Braun to the vulnerabilities in the B. Braun Infusomat Space Large Volume Pump and the B. Braun SpaceStation on January 11, 2021, and recommended safeguards that should be implemented to prevent the flaws being exploited. In May 2021, B.Braun published information for customers and...

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July 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Aug23

July 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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CISA Publishes Guidance on Protecting Sensitive Data and Responding to Double-Extortion Ransomware Attacks
Aug20

CISA Publishes Guidance on Protecting Sensitive Data and Responding to Double-Extortion Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks dramatically increased in 2020 and cyberattacks using the file-encrypting malware are showing no sign of abating. Attacks have continued to increase this year to the point where there were almost half the number of attempted ransomware attacks in Q2, 2021 as there were all of 2019. Most threat actors conducting ransomware attacks are now using double extortion tactics, where ransoms must be paid to obtain the keys to decrypt files but also to prevent the publication of data stolen in the attacks. The theft of data prior to file encryption has not only helped ransomware gangs demand huge ransom payments, but the threat of leaking data has greatly increased to probability of the ransom being paid. Many victims end up paying the ransom to prevent data leakage, even though they have valid backups that will allow them to restore the encrypted data for free. To help public and private sector organizations deal with the threat of these double-extortion ransomware attacks, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has published new guidance, which...

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1.4 Million Individuals Affected by St. Joseph’s/Candler Ransomware Attack
Aug19

1.4 Million Individuals Affected by St. Joseph’s/Candler Ransomware Attack

Around 4 a.m. on Thursday June 17, 2021, St. Joseph’s/Candler (SJ/C) hospital system in Savannah, GA suffered a ransomware attack. Upon detection of suspicious network activity, SJ/C immediately took steps to isolate and secure its systems. The attack prevented access to computer systems and emergency protocols were implemented, with staff reverting to pen and paper to record patient data. SJ/C notified law enforcement about the security breach and launched an investigation. Assisted by third party cybersecurity firms, SJ/C determined the hackers first gained access to its systems on December 18, 2020 and continued to have access to those systems until June 17, 2021, when the ransomware was deployed. “Patient care operations continue at our facilities using established back-up processes and other downtime procedures,” explained SJ/C in a statement shortly after the attack was detected. “Our physicians, nurses and staff are trained to provide care in these types of situations and are committed to doing everything they can to mitigate disruption and provide uninterrupted care to our...

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Cyberattack Forces Memorial Health System to Divert Patients to Alternate Hospitals
Aug17

Cyberattack Forces Memorial Health System to Divert Patients to Alternate Hospitals

Marietta, OH-based Memorial Health System has been forced to divert emergency care patients due to a suspected ransomware attack. The cyberattack occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, with the health system forced to shut down IT systems to contain the attack. Emergency protocols were implemented due to the lack of access to essential IT systems, and the staff has been working with paper charts. Memorial Health System operates three hospitals in Ohio and West Virginia, all of which have been affected by the attack. Since electronic health records were not accessible, patient safety was potentially put at risk, so the decision was taken to divert emergency patents. “We will continue to accept: STEMI, STROKE and TRAUMA patients at Marietta Memorial Hospital. Belpre and Selby are on diversion for all patients due to radiology availability. It is in the best interest of all other patients to be taken to the nearest accepting facility,” according to an August 15 press release. “If all area hospitals on are diversion, patients will be transported to the emergency department...

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Study Reveals Extent of Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities at Major Pharmaceutical Firms
Aug16

Study Reveals Extent of Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities at Major Pharmaceutical Firms

Reposify, a provider of an external attack surface management platform, has published the findings of a study of security vulnerabilities at pharmaceutical firms which shows the vast majority of pharma firms have unresolved vulnerabilities that are putting sensitive data and internal systems at risk of compromise. The study was conducted to assess the prevalence of exposures of services, sensitive platforms, unpatched CVEs and other security issues. Data analyzed for the Pharmaceutical Industry: 2021: The State of the External Attack Surface Report were collected over a two-week period in March 2021 and covered 18 of the leading pharmaceutical companies worldwide and more than 900 of their subsidiaries. Pharmaceutical companies hold vast amounts of sensitive personal data and extremely valuable drug and vaccine research data. That has made them an attractive target for cybercriminals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nation state hackers targeted pharma and biotech firms to gain access to sensitive COVID-19 research and vaccine development data. According to the 2020 Cost of a Data...

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NIST Updates Guidance on Developing Cyber Resilient Systems
Aug12

NIST Updates Guidance on Developing Cyber Resilient Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a major update to its guidance on developing cyber-resilient systems. A draft version of the updated guidance – NIST Special Publication 800-160, Volume 2, Revision 1: Developing Cyber-Resilient Systems: A Systems Security Engineering Approach – has been released which includes updates to reflect the changing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of cyber threat actors, who are now conducting more destructive attacks, including the use of ransomware. Organizations used to be able to focus their resources on perimeter defenses and penetration resistance; however, these measures are no longer as effective as they once were at preventing attacks. A modern approach is now required which requires more resilience to be built into IT systems, which requires measures to be taken to limit the ability of an attacker to damage infrastructure and move laterally within networks. “The document provides suggestions on how to limit the damage that adversaries can inflict by impeding their lateral movement, increasing their...

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Hospitals More Vulnerable to Botnets, Spam, and Malware than Fortune 1000 Firms
Aug11

Hospitals More Vulnerable to Botnets, Spam, and Malware than Fortune 1000 Firms

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) sought to identify the relationship between cybersecurity risk ratings and healthcare data breaches. The study was conducted using data obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services between 2014-2019 and hospital cybersecurity ratings obtained from BitSight. The data sample included 3,528 hospital-year observations and Fortune 1000 firms were used as the benchmark against which hospital cybersecurity ratings were compared. For many years, healthcare has lagged other industries when it comes to managing and reducing cybersecurity risk. The researchers found that in aggregate, hospitals had significantly lower cybersecurity ratings than the Fortune 1000 firms; however, the situation has been improving and, based on BitSight risk ratings, the healthcare industry has now caught up with Fortune 1000 firms. By 2019, the difference between the cybersecurity risk ratings of hospitals and Fortune 1000 firms was no longer statistically significant. While the gap has virtually been...

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

Healthcare Industry has Highest Number of Reported Data Breaches in 2021

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

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Multiple Critical Vulnerabilities Identified in Pneumatics System Used in 2,300 U.S. Hospitals
Aug03

Multiple Critical Vulnerabilities Identified in Pneumatics System Used in 2,300 U.S. Hospitals

Nine critical vulnerabilities have been identified in the Nexus Control Panel of Swisslog Healthcare Translogic Pneumatic Tube System (PTS) stations, which are used in more than 80% of major hospitals in the United States. Pneumatic tube systems are used to rapidly send test samples and medications around hospitals and the vulnerable PTS stations are present in 3,000 hospitals worldwide, including 2,300 in the United States. The vulnerabilities, collectively named ‘PwnedPiper’, were discovered by researchers at Armis Security. In total, 9 critical flaws were identified in the Nexus Control Panel and the firmware of all current models of Translogic PTS stations are affected. The vulnerabilities identified by the researchers are common in Internet of Things (IoT) devices but are far more serious in pneumatic tube systems, which are part of hospitals’ critical infrastructure. The Armis researchers pointed out that these systems are prevalent in hospitals, yet they have never been thoroughly analyzed or researched. The flaws could be exploited by a threat actor to cause denial of...

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

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

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

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Report: The State of Privacy and Security in Healthcare
Jul28

Report: The State of Privacy and Security in Healthcare

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

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The Average Ransomware Payment Fell by 38% in Q2, 2021
Jul27

The Average Ransomware Payment Fell by 38% in Q2, 2021

The average ransom payment made by victims of ransomware attacks fell by 38% between Q1 and Q2, 2021, according to the latest report from ransomware incident response company Coveware. In Q2, the average ransom payment was $136,576 and the median payment decreased by 40% to $47,008. One of the key factors driving down ransom payments is a lower prevalence of attacks by two key ransomware operations, Ryuk and Clop, both of which are known for their large ransom demands. Rather than the majority of attacks being conducted by a few groups, there is now a growing number of disparate ransomware-as-a-service brands that typically demand lower ransom payments. In Q2, Sodinokibi (REvil) was the most active RaaS operation conducting 16.5% of attacks, followed by Conti V2 (14.4%), Avaddon (5.4%), Mespinoza (4.9%), and Hello Kitty (4.5%). Ryuk only accounted for 3.7% of attacks and Clop 3.3%. The Sodinokibi gang has now gone silent following the attack on Kaseya and appears to have been shut down; however, the group has shut down operations in the past only to restart with a new ransomware...

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Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 Introduced in the Senate
Jul22

Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 Introduced in the Senate

In June, a bipartisan group of senators circulated a draft federal breach notification bill – the Cyber Incident Notification Act of 2021 – that requires all federal agencies, contractors, and organizations considered critical to U.S. national security to report data breaches and security incidents to the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within 24 hours of discovery. On Wednesday this week, an amended bill was formally introduced in the Senate. The draft bill was introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Susan Collins (R-ME). Another 12 senators across both parties have now added their names to the bill. The bill seeks to address some of the key issues that have come to light in the wake of recent cyberattacks that impacted U.S. critical infrastructure, including the SolarWinds Orion supply chain attack and the ransomware attacks on JBS and Colonial Pipeline. “The SolarWinds breach demonstrated how broad the ripple effects of these attacks can be, affecting hundreds or even thousands of entities connected to the...

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June 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jul21

June 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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U.S. Government Launches New One-Stop Ransomware Website
Jul19

U.S. Government Launches New One-Stop Ransomware Website

The Department of Justice and the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have announced the launch of a new web resource that will serve as a one-stop-shop providing information to help public and private sector organizations deal with the growing ransomware threat. The new resource – StopRansomware.gov – is an interagency resource that provides guidance on ransomware protection, detection, and response in a single location. The new resource provides general information about ransomware, including what ransomware is and how it is used by cybercriminals to extort money from public and private sector organizations. Detailed information is provided on how organizations can improve their security posture and defend against attacks, including ransomware best practices, bad practices to avoid, cyber hygiene tips, FAQs, and training material. The website includes a newsroom with the latest ransomware-related advice, along with alerts from CISA, the FBI, Department of Treasury, and other federal agencies about the ever-evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures used...

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CISA Publishes Guidance for MSPs and SMBs on Hardening Security Defenses
Jul15

CISA Publishes Guidance for MSPs and SMBs on Hardening Security Defenses

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are attractive targets for cybercriminals. They typically have privileged access to their clients’ networks, so a cyberattack on a single MSP can see the attacker gain access to the systems of many, if not all, of their clients. The recent Kaseya supply chain attack showed just how serious such an attack can be. An REvil ransomware affiliate gained access to Kaseya systems, through which it was possible to access the systems and encrypt data of around 60 of its customers, many of which are MSPs. Through those MSP customers, ransomware was deployed on up to 1,500 downstream businesses. Small- and mid-sized businesses often do not have staff to manage their own IT systems or may lack the skills or hardware to store sensitive data and support sensitive processes. Many turn to MSPs to provide that expertise. It is often more cost effective for SMBs to scale and support their network environments using MSPs rather than manage their resources themselves. Outsourcing IT or security functions to an MSP introduces risks, which need to be mitigated by SMBs....

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REvil Ransomware Websites Disappear Fueling Speculation of Law Enforcement Takedown
Jul14

REvil Ransomware Websites Disappear Fueling Speculation of Law Enforcement Takedown

The notorious REvil ransomware gang’s Internet and dark web sites have suddenly gone offline, days after President Biden called Vladimir Putin demanding action be taken against ransomware gangs and other cybercriminals conducting attacks from within Russia on U.S. companies. At around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the websites used by the gang for leaking data of ransomware victims, their ransom negotiation chat server, and command and control infrastructure went offline and have remained offline since. For one of the gang’s sites, the server IP address is no longer resolvable via DNS queries. REvil has grown into one of the most prolific ransomware-as-a-service operations. The gang was behind many ransomware attacks in the United States and worldwide, including the recent attack on JBS Foods and the supply chain attack on Kaseya, which saw ransomware used in attacks on around 60 managed service providers and up to 1,500 of their clients on July 2. A ransom demand of $70 million was issued to supply the keys to decrypt all victims’ devices, with the demand falling to $50 million shortly...

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Kaseya Security Update Addresses Flaws Exploited in KSA Ransomware Attack
Jul12

Kaseya Security Update Addresses Flaws Exploited in KSA Ransomware Attack

Kaseya has announced a security update has been released for the Kaseya KSA remote management and monitoring software solution to fix the zero-day vulnerabilities recently exploited by the REvil ransomware gang in attacks on its customers and their clients. The vulnerabilities exploited in the attack were part of a batch of seven flaws that were reported to Kaseya in April 2021 by the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure (DIVD). Kaseya had developed patches to correct four of the seven vulnerabilities in its Virtual System Administrator solution and released these as part of its April and May security updates; however, before patches could be released for the remaining three vulnerabilities, one or more of them were exploited by an REvil ransomware affiliate. The attack affected approximately 60 customers who had deployed the Kaseya VSA on-premises, many of which were managed service providers (MSPs). The REvil ransomware gang gained access to their servers, encrypted them, and pushed their ransomware out to approximately 1,500 business clients of those companies. Following...

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

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

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

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HHS: Take Action Now to Secure Vulnerable PACS Servers
Jul05

HHS: Take Action Now to Secure Vulnerable PACS Servers

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

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CISA Releases Ransomware Readiness Assessment Audit Tool
Jul05

CISA Releases Ransomware Readiness Assessment Audit Tool

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

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Exploit Released for ‘PrintNightmare’ Zero-Day Windows Print Spooler RCE Vulnerability
Jul02

Exploit Released for ‘PrintNightmare’ Zero-Day Windows Print Spooler RCE Vulnerability

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued an alert following the publication of a proof of concept (PoC) exploit for a zero-day vulnerability in the Windows Print Spooler service. The vulnerability has been dubbed PrintNightmare and is tracked as CVE-2021-34527. The flaw is due to the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performing privileged file operations. Microsoft says the flaw can be exploited by an authenticated user calling RpcAddPrinterDriverEx(). If exploited, an attacker would gain SYSTEM privileges and could execute arbitrary code and could install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. The PoC exploit for the vulnerability was published by the Chinese security firm Sangfor. Typically, exploits for unpatched vulnerabilities are not released publicly until software developers have been notified about a flaw and sufficient time has been allowed for a patch to be released and applied by users. In this case an error was made. Sangfor researchers published the PoC exploit in late June, as...

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

NIST Publishes Critical Software Definition for U.S. Agencies

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

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Government Watchdog Makes 7 Recommendations to HSS to Improve Cybersecurity
Jun30

Government Watchdog Makes 7 Recommendations to HSS to Improve Cybersecurity

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

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PHI of Up to 500,000 Individuals Potentially Stolen in Wolfe Eye Clinic Ransomware Attack
Jun24

PHI of Up to 500,000 Individuals Potentially Stolen in Wolfe Eye Clinic Ransomware Attack

Wolfe Eye Clinic, an operator of a network of eye health clinics throughout Iowa, has announced it was the victim of a ransomware attack on February 8, 2021. Hackers gained access to its systems and used ransomware to encrypt files. A ransom demand was issued for the keys to decrypt files, but the clinic refused to pay and opted to recover files from backups. As is now common in ransomware attacks, prior to file encryption the attackers exfiltrated data from Wolfe Eye Clinic systems. Wolfe Eye Clinic explained in its substitute breach notification letter that immediate action was taken to secure its network environment and independent IT security and forensic investigators were engaged to determine the scope and extent of the security breach. Due to the scale and complexity of the attack, it took until May 28, 2021 for the full scope of the security breach to be determined and to identify the information compromised in the attack. The forensic investigation concluded on June 8, 2021, when it was confirmed the attackers accessed and exfiltrated the data of current and former...

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NIST Releases Draft Guidance for Ransomware Risk Management
Jun22

NIST Releases Draft Guidance for Ransomware Risk Management

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

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May 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jun18

May 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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Houston Hospital Workers’ Lawsuit over Vaccine Mandate Dismissed by Federal Judge
Jun14

Houston Hospital Workers’ Lawsuit over Vaccine Mandate Dismissed by Federal Judge

Many U.S. employers have implemented a policy that requires their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including several major healthcare systems and hospitals. These policies are in line with the guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month, which confirmed that U.S. employers are within their rights to require their employees to be vaccinated, with certain exceptions such as on medical or religious grounds. Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas introduced its vaccine mandate to ensure patients were protected against COVID-19 and set a June 7, 2021 deadline for employees to be vaccinated. While the majority of workers at Houston Methodist Hospital have been or have agreed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, On Monday June 7, a walkout was staged by a small minority of workers over the vaccine requirements. On Tuesday, the hospital took the decision to suspend 178 workers without pay over their refusal to be inoculated. A lawsuit was brought by 117 of those workers, with lead plaintiff, Jennifer Bridges, claiming that if she is dismissed for...

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

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

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

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Texas Legislature Passes Bill Calling for State AG to Establish Data Breach ‘Wall of Shame’
Jun10

Texas Legislature Passes Bill Calling for State AG to Establish Data Breach ‘Wall of Shame’

The Texas Legislature has followed in the footsteps of California and Maine and has passed a bill that requires the Texas Attorney General to publish notices of breaches of personal data that affect state residents on the state Attorney General’s public-facing website. House Bill 3746, which was unanimously passed, amends the Texas Business and Commerce Code § 521.053 and calls for the Texas Attorney General to publish notifications of data breaches that have affected 250 or more Texas residents and to update the website to include the notification within 30 days of the notification being received. Once a company has been listed on the website, the listing must remain in place for 12 months. The listing will be removed provided the individual or company has not suffered any further data breaches affecting 250 or more Texas residents during that 12-month period. Texas law requires notifications of breaches of system security to be sent to the state Attorney General within 60 days of the breach being discovered. The breach notices must include a detailed description of the nature of...

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Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center Pays $5,000 to Resolve HIPAA Right of Access Case
Jun02

Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center Pays $5,000 to Resolve HIPAA Right of Access Case

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has announced a settlement has been reached with The Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center, Inc. (DELC) that resolves a potential HIPAA Right of Access violation. This is the 8th financial penalty to be announced in 2021 to resolve violations of the HIPAA Rules, and the 19th settlement under OCR’s HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative that was launched in the fall of 2019. DELC is a West Virginia-based healthcare provider specializing in treating endocrine disorders. In August 2019, OCR received a complaint that alleged DELC had failed to respond to a request for a copy of protected health information in a timely manner. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires a copy of an individual’s protected health information contained in a designated record set to be provided within 30 days of a request being received. In this case, the complainant wanted a copy of her minor child’s protected health information and DELC had failed to provide those records within the allowed 30 days. OCR notified DELC on October 30, 2019 about the investigation into...

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More than 3.2 Million Individuals Affected by 20/20 Hearing Care Network Data Breach
Jun02

More than 3.2 Million Individuals Affected by 20/20 Hearing Care Network Data Breach

The 20/20 Hearing Care Network has started notifying millions of current and former members that some of their protected health information (PHI) has potentially been compromised and/or deleted. On January 11, 2021, suspicious activity was detected in its AWS cloud storage environment. Steps were immediately taken to prevent further unauthorized access and an investigation was launched to determine the nature and scope of the security breach. Third party forensics experts assisted with the investigation and confirmed that S3 buckets hosted in AWS had been accessed, data in those buckets downloaded, and then all data in the S3 buckets was deleted. The forensic investigation confirmed in late February that some of the data downloaded and deleted from the storage environment included PHI for some or all health plan members for whom records were held. While data theft was confirmed, it was not possible to tell exactly which information had been accessed or removed from the S3 buckets. The types of data potentially obtained in the attack included names, Social Security numbers, dates of...

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SolarWinds Orion Hackers Targeting U.S. Organizations with New Spear Phishing Campaign
Jun01

SolarWinds Orion Hackers Targeting U.S. Organizations with New Spear Phishing Campaign

Microsoft has discovered a large-scale spear phishing campaign being conducted by the Russian Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group behind the SolarWinds Orion supply chain attack. The spear phishing campaign has been active since at least January 2021 and the APT group, tracked by Microsoft as Nobelium. The APT group has been experimenting and has trialed various delivery techniques, including leveraging the Google Firebase platform to deliver a malicious ISO file via HTML email attachments that deliver a variety of malware payloads. Nobelium escalated the campaign on May 25, 2021 when it started using the Constant Contact mass-mailing service to distribute messages to targets in a wide range of industry verticals. The latest campaign targeted around 7,000 individual accounts across 350 government organizations, intergovernmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Each target had its own unique infrastructure and tooling, which has helped the group stay under the radar. The attackers gained access to the Constant Contact account of the U.S. Agency for International...

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Clinical Laboratory Settles HIPAA Security Rule Violations with OCR for $25,000
May25

Clinical Laboratory Settles HIPAA Security Rule Violations with OCR for $25,000

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced a settlement has been reached with Peachstate Health Management, LLC, dba AEON Clinical Laboratories to resolve multiple violations of the HIPAA Security Rule. Peachstate is a CLIA-certified laboratory that provides a range of services including clinical and genetic testing services through its publicly traded parent company, AEON Global Health Corporation (AGHC). OCR launched a compliance investigation on August 31, 2016 following a breach of unsecured protected health information reported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on January 7, 2015 involving its business associates, Authentidate Holding Corporation (AHC). The VA had contracted with AHC to manage the VA’s Telehealth Services Program. The aim of the OCR investigation was to assess whether the breach was the result of the failure to comply with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. During the course of the investigation, OCR learned that AHC had entered into a reverse merger with Peachstate on January 27, 2016 and had...

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FBI Warns of Ongoing Conti Ransomware Attacks on Healthcare Organizations and First Responders
May24

FBI Warns of Ongoing Conti Ransomware Attacks on Healthcare Organizations and First Responders

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a TLP:WHITE Flash notice about ongoing Conti ransomware attacks targeting healthcare and first responder networks. According to the FBI, the Conti ransomware gang has attacked 16 healthcare and first responder organizations in the United States. In addition to healthcare providers, the gang has attempted ransomware attacks on 911 dispatch centers, emergency medical services, law enforcement agencies and municipalities. The gang is known to have conducted attacks on 400 organizations worldwide, including a recent attack on the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health (DoH) in Ireland. To date, the gang has claimed 290 victims in the United States. Conti ransomware is believed to be operated by the Russian cybercrime group Wizard Spider and is a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation. The threat group is known for attacking large organizations and issuing huge ransom demands, which have been as high as $25 million. The ransom demand set for each victim based on the extent of the encryption and the perceived ability...

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April 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
May18

April 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare Groups Raise Concern About the Proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes

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

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CISA/FBI Provide Best Practices for Preventing Business Disruption from Ransomware Attacks
May12

CISA/FBI Provide Best Practices for Preventing Business Disruption from Ransomware Attacks

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued an alert about DarkSide ransomware in the wake of the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline. The cyberattack caused major disruption to fuel supplies to the East Coast. Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut down systems to contain the threat, including the operational technology of its 5,500-mile pipeline which supplies diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel to the U.S. East Coast. The four main pipelines were shut down over the weekend, and while smaller pipelines were quickly restored, the main pipelines have remained shut down pending safety assessments. The pipelines transport around 2.5 million barrels of fuel a day and provide 45% of the East Coast’s fuel. The attack affected Colonial Pipeline’s information technology network, but its operational technology network was not affected. The DarkSide ransomware gang issued a statement shortly after the attack explaining the attacks was conducted purely for financial reasons and not for political reasons or to cause economic or...

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

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

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

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CISA/NIST Issue Guidance on Improving Defenses Against Software Supply Chain Attacks
May03

CISA/NIST Issue Guidance on Improving Defenses Against Software Supply Chain Attacks

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have published guidance to help organizations improve their defenses against software supply chain attacks. The guidance document – Defending Against Software Supply Chain Attacks – explains the three most common methods that threat groups use in supply chain attacks along with in-depth recommendations for software customers and vendors for prevention, mitigation, and improving resilience against software supply chain attacks. Like many supply chain attacks, the recent SolarWinds Orion attack involved hijacking the software update mechanism of the platform to deliver a version of the software with malicious code that provided the attackers with persistent access to the solution on more than 18,000 customers’ systems, with the attackers then cherry picking targets of interest for more extensive compromises. This was also the method used by the threat group behind the NotPetya wiper attacks in 2017. The software update mechanism used by a popular tax...

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

Study: 1 in 5 Enterprise Users Have Set Weak Passwords

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

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

Ransom Payment Increase Driven by Accellion FTA Data Exfiltration Extortion Attacks

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

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Three Zero-Day Vulnerabilities in SonicWall Email Security are Being Actively Exploited
Apr22

Three Zero-Day Vulnerabilities in SonicWall Email Security are Being Actively Exploited

Three zero-day vulnerabilities have been identified in SonicWall Email Security products that are being actively exploited in the wild by at least one threat actor. The vulnerabilities can be chained to gain administrative access to enterprise networks and achieve code execution. SonicWall Email Security solutions are deployed as a physical appliance, virtual appliance, software installation, or as a hosted SaaS solution and provide protection from phishing, spear phishing, malware, ransomware, and BEC attacks. The solutions do not need to be Internet facing, but hundreds are exposed to the Internet and are vulnerable to attack. In one instance, a threat actor with intimate knowledge of the SonicWall application exploited the vulnerabilities to gain administrative access to the application and installed a backdoor that provided persistent access. The threat actor was able to access files and emails, harvest credentials from memory, and then used those credentials to move laterally within the victim’s network. The three vulnerabilities were identified by the Mandiant Managed Defense...

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Pulse Connect Secure Vulnerabilities Being Actively Exploited, Including New Zero-Day Flaw
Apr21

Pulse Connect Secure Vulnerabilities Being Actively Exploited, Including New Zero-Day Flaw

At least one threat group is exploiting vulnerabilities in Ivanti’s Pulse Connect Secure products, according to a recent alert from the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). While there has not been an official attribution, the threat actor has been linked to China by some security researchers and targets have included government, defense, financial, and critical infrastructure organizations. FireEye has been tracking the malicious activity and reports that at least 12 malware families have been involved in cyberattacks exploiting the vulnerabilities since August 2020. These attacks have involved the harvesting of credentials to allow lateral movement within victim networks and the use of scripts and the replacement of files to achieve persistence. Several entities have now confirmed that they have been attacked after they identified malicious activity using the Pulse Connect Secure Integrity Tool. Access has been gained to Pulse Connect Secure appliance by exploiting multiple vulnerabilities including three vulnerabilities that were disclosed in 2019 and...

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March 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Apr19

March 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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NSA/CISA/FBI: Patch Now to Stop Russian Government Hackers Exploiting These 5 Vulnerabilities
Apr16

NSA/CISA/FBI: Patch Now to Stop Russian Government Hackers Exploiting These 5 Vulnerabilities

Tension is growing between Russia and the United States over the continuous cyberattacks on the U.S. government and public and private sector organizations by Russian government hackers. Yesterday, a joint alert was issued by the National Security Agency (NSA), DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), warning of the continued exploitation of software vulnerabilities by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The attacks have been attributed to the Cozy Bear Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Group – aka APT29/The Dukes – which is part of the SVR. The APT group is conducting widespread scanning and exploitation of software flaws in vulnerable systems to gain access to credentials that allow them to gain further access to devices and networks for espionage activities. The NSA, CISA, and the FBI have shared details of five software vulnerabilities that continue to be successfully exploited by the SVR to gain access to devices and networks. The NSA, CISA, and the FBI have previously shared mitigations that can be...

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COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain Continues to Be Targeted by Threat Groups
Apr15

COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain Continues to Be Targeted by Threat Groups

The global COVID-19 vaccine cold chain continues to be targeted advanced persistent threat groups, according to an updated report from IBM Security X-Force. X-Force researchers previously published a report in December 2020 warning that cyber adversaries were targeting the COVID-19 cold chain to gain access to vaccine data and attacks continue to pose a major threat to vaccine distribution and storage. There are currently more than 350 logistics partners that are part of the cold chain and are involved in the delivery and storage of vaccines at low temperatures. Since the initial report was published on cold chain phishing attacks, IBM X-Force researchers have identified a further 50 email message files tied to spear phishing campaigns, which have targeted 44 companies in 14 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The companies being targeted underpin the transport, warehousing, storage, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, with the most targeted organizations involved in transportation, IT and electronics, and healthcare such companies in biomedical...

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

100 Million+ Devices Affected by NAME:WRECK DNS Vulnerabilities

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

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

Immediate Patching Required for 4 New Critical Microsoft Exchange Server Vulnerabilities

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

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HHS Information Blocking and Interoperability Regulations Now in Effect
Apr09

HHS Information Blocking and Interoperability Regulations Now in Effect

The new information blocking and interoperability regulations developed by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the 21st Century Cures Act took effect on Monday this week. It has been over a year since the final rule was released, and now the benefits of the information blocking and interoperability provisions can now be realized. The final rule defines information blocking and stipulates the penalties for providers that engage in activities that interfere with access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (EHI). The final rule also gives patients new rights over their healthcare data and allows them to request it be sent to the application of their choosing. The compliance date was April 5, 2021, after which healthcare providers, certified health IT developers, and health information exchanges must comply with the provisions of the final rule. For the first 18 months from April 5, 2021, the information blocking provision only applies to a subset of EHI detailed in the US Core Data for Interoperability (v1). Core EHI includes clinical notes,...

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Vulnerabilities in Mission Critical SAP Systems Actively Exploited by Multiple Threat Groups
Apr08

Vulnerabilities in Mission Critical SAP Systems Actively Exploited by Multiple Threat Groups

Researchers at security firm Onapsis have observed cybercriminals exploiting multiple vulnerabilities in mission-critical SAP systems. Since mid-2020, there have been more than 300 observed attacks exploiting one or more of six unpatched vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities in SAP systems are highly sought after by cybercriminals due to the widespread use of SAP systems. SAP says 92% of the Forbes Global 2000 use SAP to power their operations, including the majority of pharmaceutical firms, critical infrastructure and utility companies, food distributors, defense contractors and others. Over 400,000 organizations use SAP globally and 77% of the world’s transactional revenue touches a SAP system. Onapsis reports critical SAP vulnerabilities are typically weaponized within 72 hours of patches being released. Unprotected SAP applications in cloud environments are often discovered and compromised in less than 3 hours. Despite the high risk of exploitation, many organizations are slow to apply patches. One of the vulnerabilities currently being exploited is 11 years old, while the others...

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PHI from Multiple Covered Entities Published on GitHub
Apr05

PHI from Multiple Covered Entities Published on GitHub

Med-Data Inc. has confirmed that the protected health information of patients of several of its clients has been uploaded to the open-source software development hosting website GitHub, where it could have been accessed by unauthorized individuals. The Spring, TX-based revenue cycle management services vendor assists healthcare providers and health plans by processing Medicaid eligibility, third party liability, workers’ compensation and patient billing. On December 10, 2020, Med-Data was notified by security researcher Jelle Ursem that some data of its data had been discovered on GitHub. Dissent Doe of Databreaches.net provided a link to the uploaded data on December 14, 2020, according to the Med-Data breach notice. An investigation was immediately launched, and it was determined that one of its employees had saved files containing protected health information to personal folders on GitHub Arctic Code Vault between December 2018 and September 2019. Med-Data said the files were removed from GitHub on December 17, 2020. The files contained names, addresses, dates of birth, Social...

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Ransomware Attack on Home Healthcare Service Provider Affects 753,000 Individuals
Apr02

Ransomware Attack on Home Healthcare Service Provider Affects 753,000 Individuals

Personal Touch Holding Corp, a Lake Success, NY-based provider of home health services, is alerting 753,107 patients about a breach of their protected health information. Personal Touch Holding Corp operates around 30 Personal Touch Home Care subsidiaries in more than half a dozen U.S. states. On January 27, 2021, Personal Touch discovered it was the victim of a cyberattack involving its private cloud hosted by its managed service providers. The attackers encrypted the cloud-stored business records of Personal Touch and 29 of its direct and indirect subsidiaries. The investigation into the ransomware attack is ongoing. At this stage it is unclear to what extent individual’s protected health information was compromised; however, it is possible that the attackers obtained data stored in its private cloud prior to the use of ransomware. An analysis of its cloud environment revealed the following types of patient information may have been compromised in the attack: names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, financial information, including check...

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New Jersey Plastic Surgery Practice Pays $30K to OCR to Settle HIPAA Right of Access Case
Mar29

New Jersey Plastic Surgery Practice Pays $30K to OCR to Settle HIPAA Right of Access Case

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has announced a settlement has been reached with Ridgewood, NJ-based Village Plastic Surgery to resolve potential violations of the HIPAA Right of Access. Under the terms of the settlement, Village Plastic Surgery will pay a $30,000 penalty and will adopt a corrective action plan that requires policies and procedures to be implemented related to access to protected health information (PHI). OCR will also monitor Village Plastic Surgery for compliance for 2 years. OCR launched an investigation into Village Plastic Surgery following receipt of a complaint from a patient of the practice on September 7, 2019. The patient had requested a copy of the medical records held by the plastic surgery practice but had not been provided with those records within the maximum time allowed by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. OCR intervened and, during the course of its investigation, Village Plastic Surgery did not provide the patient with the requested records. OCR investigators determined that the delay in providing the records, which exceeded the 30 allowed days for acting...

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SalusCare Takes Legal Action Against Amazon to Obtain AWS Audit Logs to Investigate Data Breach
Mar26

SalusCare Takes Legal Action Against Amazon to Obtain AWS Audit Logs to Investigate Data Breach

SalusCare, a provider of behavioral healthcare services in Southwest Florida, experienced a cyberattack in March that saw patient and employee data exfiltrated from its systems. The exact method used to gain access to its servers has not been confirmed, although the cyberattack is believed to have started with a phishing email that was used to deliver malware. The malware was used to exfiltrated its entire database to an Amazon AWS storage account. The attack occurred on March 16, 2021 and the investigation into the breach established that the attacker, an individual who appeared to be based in Ukraine, gained access to its Microsoft 365 environment, downloaded sensitive data, and uploaded the stolen data to two Amazon S3 storage buckets. Amazon was notified about the illegal activity and it suspended access to the S3 buckets to stop the attacker accessing the stolen data.  SalusCare requested access to the audit logs, which it requires to continue to investigate the breach and determine exactly what data was stolen. SalusCare also wants to make sure that the suspension is...

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Massachusetts Mental Health Clinic Settles HIPAA Right of Access Case for $65,000
Mar25

Massachusetts Mental Health Clinic Settles HIPAA Right of Access Case for $65,000

Arbour Hospital, a mental health clinic in Boston, MA, has settled a HIPAA Right of Action investigation with the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and has agreed to pay a $65,000 penalty. OCR was informed about a potential violation of the HIPAA Right of Access on July 5, 2019. A patient of Arbour Hospital alleged he had requested a copy of his medical records from the hospital on May 7, 2019 but had not been provided with those records within two months. When a healthcare provider receives a request from a patient who wishes to exercise their HIPAA Privacy Rule right to obtain a copy of their healthcare records, a copy of those records must be provided as soon as possible and no later than 30 days after the request is received. A 30-day extension is possible in cases where records are stored offsite or are otherwise not easily accessible. In such cases, the patient requesting the records must be informed about the extension in writing within 30 days and be provided with the reason for the delay. OCR contacted Arbour Hospital and provided technical assistance on the HIPAA Right...

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February 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Mar19

February 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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CISA/FBI Issue Joint Alert About Spear Phishing Attacks Delivering TrickBot Malware
Mar18

CISA/FBI Issue Joint Alert About Spear Phishing Attacks Delivering TrickBot Malware

The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued a joint security alert about TrickBot malware. TrickBot was first identified in 2016 and started out as a banking Trojan; but the malware has since had a host of new capabilities added and is now extensively used as a malware loader for delivering other malware variants, including ransomware such as Ryuk and Conti. “TrickBot has evolved into a highly modular, multi-stage malware that provides its operators a full suite of tools to conduct a myriad of illegal cyber activities,” explained CISA/FBI in the alert. In late 2019, TrickBot survived an attempt by Microsoft and its partners to disrupt its infrastructure and spam campaigns distributing the malware soon recommenced, with TrickBot activity surging in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Check Point researchers warned about an increase in TrickBot infections following the takedown of the Emotet botnet. TrickBot was the 4th most prevalent malware variant in 2020 and rose to third in January 2021; however, since...

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

2020 Saw Major Increase in Healthcare Hacking Incidents and Insider Breaches

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

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What is a HIPAA Violation?
Mar14

What is a HIPAA Violation?

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

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

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

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

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HIPAA Social Media Rules
Mar12

HIPAA Social Media Rules

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

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

Multistate Settlement Resolves 2019 American Medical Collection Agency Data Breach Investigation

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

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Cost of 2020 US Healthcare Ransomware Attacks Estimated at $21 Billion
Mar11

Cost of 2020 US Healthcare Ransomware Attacks Estimated at $21 Billion

Ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry skyrocketed in 2020. In 2020, at least 91 US healthcare organizations suffered ransomware attacks, up from 50 the previous year. 2020 also saw a major ransomware attack on the cloud software provider Blackbaud, with that attack known to have affected at least 100 US healthcare organizations. The first known ransomware attack occurred in 1989 but early forms of ransomware were not particularly sophisticated and attacks were easy to mitigate. The landscape changed in 2016 when a new breed of ransomware started to be used in attacks. These new ransomware variants use powerful encryption and delete or encrypt backup files to ensure data cannot be easily recovered without paying the ransom. Over the past 5 years ransomware has been a constant threat to the healthcare industry, with healthcare providers being increasingly targeted in recent years. Attacks now see sensitive data stolen prior to file encryption, so even if files can be recovered from backups, payment is still required to prevent the exposure or sale of stolen data. Healthcare...

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Comment Period on Proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes Extended by 45 Days
Mar10

Comment Period on Proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes Extended by 45 Days

Changes to the HIPAA Rules are infrequent, so when updates are proposed they tend to include a slew of new requirements and updates to existing provisions. Before any updates are made, a request for information (RFI) is issued to allow the HHS to obtain feedback on aspects of the HIPAA Rules that are causing problems, and areas where improvements could be made. Following the RFI, a notice of proposed rulemaking is issued by the HHS followed by a comment period. The comment period is the last chance for industry stakeholder, including patients and their families, to voice their opinions about the proposed changes before they are signed into law. After issuing an RFI, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 10, 2020, along with the standard 60-day comment period from the date of publication in the Federal Register (January 21, 2021). The comment period was due to expire on March 22, 2021. Since the proposed changes include updates to the HIPAA Privacy Rule that will impact virtually everyone in the healthcare industry, the HHS has taken...

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The HIPAA Password Requirements and the Best Way to Comply With Them
Mar09

The HIPAA Password Requirements and the Best Way to Comply With Them

It is important that Covered Entities and Business Associates understand the HIPAA password requirements and the best way to comply with them because if a data breach is found to be attributable to a lack of compliance, the penalties could be significant. However, understanding the HIPAA password requirements is not straightforward. HIPAA is intentionally technology-neutral; so whereas Security Standard §164.312(d) stipulates Covered Entities must “implement procedures to verify that a person or entity seeking access to electronic protected health information is the one claimed”, there is no indication what procedures should be implemented or even that user verification should be password-based. Guidance published by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests there are three ways in which users can verify their identity: With something only known to the user, such as a password or PIN, With something the user possesses, such as a smart card or key, or With something unique to the user, such as a fingerprint or facial image. In addition to the above, a required...

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FTC Urged to Enforce Breach Notification Rule When Fertility Tracking Apps Share User Data Without Consent
Mar09

FTC Urged to Enforce Breach Notification Rule When Fertility Tracking Apps Share User Data Without Consent

On March 4, 2021, Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), and Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey) and Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey) wrote a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to start enforcing the Health Breach Notification Rule. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a mandate to protect Americans from bad actors that betray consumer trust and misuse consumers’ healthcare data and has the authority to take enforcement action but is not enforcing compliance with the Health Breach Notification Rule. The Health Breach Notification Rule was introduced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and requires vendors of personal health records, PHR related entities, and third-party service providers to inform consumers about unauthorized disclosures of personal health information. The Health Breach Notification Rule applies to entities not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and has similar provisions to the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. While the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has enforced compliance with...

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Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act Signed into Law
Mar08

Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act Signed into Law

The Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA) has been signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam. CDPA requires persons conducting business in the Commonwealth of Virginia to comply with new data privacy and security requirements. The CDPA takes effect on January 1, 2023. The CDPA mirrors some of the privacy and security provisions of the EUs General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect on March 25, 2018, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that took effect on January 1, 2020. While there are similarities with the GDPR and the CCPA, there are some differences, so compliance with either the CCPA or the GDPR does not guarantee compliance with the CDPA. Like the CCPA, the CDPA only applies to organizations that control or process significant amounts of consumer data, with the data threshold twice as high as the CCPA, although there is no minimum revenue threshold in the CDPA. The CDPA applies to any person or business that: Controls or processes the personal data of 100,000 or more Virginia residents in a calendar year; or Controls or processes the data of...

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Two Employees Fired for Impermissible PHI Disclosures to Third Parties
Mar08

Two Employees Fired for Impermissible PHI Disclosures to Third Parties

Humana has discovered an employee of a subcontractor of a business associate impermissibly disclosed the protected health information of 62,950 of its members to a third-party for training purposes. Cotiviti was contracted by Humana to provide assistance requesting medical records and used a subcontractor to review the requested medical records. Under HIPAA, subcontractors used by business associates are also required to comply with HIPAA. The privacy violations occurred between October 12, 2020 and December 16, 2020 and Cotiviti notified Humana about the HIPAA violation on December 22, 2020. Cotiviti has worked with Humana to ensure that safeguards are implemented to prevent similar privacy breaches in the future, and that those safeguards are put in place at any subcontractors it uses. The individual who disclosed the data is no longer employed by the subcontractor. The types of data disclosed includes member names’, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, full or partial Social Security Numbers, insurance identification numbers, provider names, dates of...

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IBM X-Force: Healthcare Cyberattacks Doubled in 2020
Mar03

IBM X-Force: Healthcare Cyberattacks Doubled in 2020

A new report from IBM X-Force shows healthcare cyberattacks doubled in 2020 with 28% of attacks involving ransomware. The massive increase in healthcare industry cyberattacks saw the sector rise from last place to 7th, with the finance and insurance industry the most heavily targeted, followed by manufacturing, energy, retail, professional services, and government. Healthcare accounted for 6.6% of cyberattacks across all industry sectors in 2020. The 2021 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index report was compiled from monitoring data from over 130 countries and included data from more than 150 billion security events a day, with the data gathered from multiple sources including IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence and Incident Response, X-Force Red, IBM Managed Security Services, and external sources such as Intezer and Quad9. The most common way networks were breached was the exploitation of vulnerabilities in operating systems, software, and hardware, which accounted for 35% of all attacks up from 30% in 2019. This was closely followed by phishing attacks, which were the initial...

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NSA Releases Guidance on Adopting a Zero Trust Approach to Cybersecurity
Mar02

NSA Releases Guidance on Adopting a Zero Trust Approach to Cybersecurity

The National Security Agency (NSA) has recently released new guidance to help organizations adopt a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity to better defend against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. Zero Trust is a security strategy which assumes that breaches are inevitable or have happened and an intruder is already inside the network. This approach assumes that any device or connection may have been compromised so it cannot be implicitly trusted. Continuous verification is required in real time from multiple sources before access is granted and for system responses. Adopting a Zero Trust approach to security means adhering to the concept of least-privileged access for every access decision and constantly limiting access to what is needed, with anomalous and potentially malicious activity constantly examined. “Zero Trust is a security model, a set of system design principles, and a coordinated cybersecurity and system management strategy based on an acknowledgement that threats exist both inside and outside traditional network boundaries,” explained the NSA in the guidance....

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March 1, 2021: Deadline for Reporting 2020 Small Healthcare Data Breaches
Feb25

March 1, 2021: Deadline for Reporting 2020 Small Healthcare Data Breaches

The deadline for reporting healthcare data breaches of fewer than 500 records that were discovered in 2020 is fast approaching. HIPAA covered entities and business associates have until March 1, 2021 to submit breach reports to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR)that were discovered between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. HIPAA defines a breach as “an impermissible use or disclosure under the Privacy Rule that compromises the security or privacy of the protected health information.  An impermissible use or disclosure of protected health information is presumed to be a breach unless the covered entity or business associate, as applicable, demonstrates that there is a low probability that the protected health information has been compromised.” A risk assessment should be conducted to determine the probability that PHI has been compromised, that must include the nature and extent of PHI involved, the probability of identification of individuals; the person who used/disclosed the PHI; whether PHI was viewed or acquired by an unauthorized...

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Whistleblower Who Falsely Claimed Nurse Violated HIPAA Jailed for 6 Months
Feb24

Whistleblower Who Falsely Claimed Nurse Violated HIPAA Jailed for 6 Months

A Georgia man who falsely claimed a former acquaintance had violated patient privacy and breached the HIPAA Rules has been sentenced to 6 months in jail and fined $1,200. In October 2019, Jeffrey Parker, 44, of Rincon, GA, claimed to be a HIPAA whistleblower and alerted the authorities about serious privacy violations by a nurse at a Savannah, GA hospital, including emailing graphic pictures of traumatic injuries of hospital patients internally and externally. According to court documents, Parker “engaged in an intricate scheme” to frame a former acquaintance for violations of the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s Privacy Rule. To back up the fake claims, Parker created multiple email accounts in the names of real patients and used those accounts to send false accusations of privacy violations. Emails were sent to the hospital where the nurse worked, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Parker also alleged that he had been threatened for his actions as a whistleblower and law enforcement took steps to ensure his...

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

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

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

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January 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Feb19

January 2021 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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100% of Tested mHealth Apps Vulnerable to API Attacks
Feb16

100% of Tested mHealth Apps Vulnerable to API Attacks

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

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Sharp HealthCare Pays $70,000 to Resolve HIPAA Right of Access Violation
Feb15

Sharp HealthCare Pays $70,000 to Resolve HIPAA Right of Access Violation

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has fined Sharp HealthCare $70,000 for failing to provide a patient with timely access to his medical records. This is the sixteenth financial penalty to be agreed with OCR under the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative that was launched in late 2019. OCR received a complaint from a patient on June 11, 2019 that alleged Sharp Healthcare, doing business as Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers (SRMC), failed to provide him with a copy of his medical records within 30 days, as is required by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The patient claimed to have made a request in writing on April 2, 2019 but had not been provided with the requested records after waiting more than 2 months. OCR investigated and provided technical assistance to SRMC on the HIPAA Right of Access provision of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the requirement to send medical records to a third party if requested by a patient. OCR closed the complaint on June 25, 2019. The same patient filed a second complaint with OCR on August 19, 2019 when the requested medical records had still not been...

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Renown Health Pays $75,000 to Settle HIPAA Right of Access Case
Feb11

Renown Health Pays $75,000 to Settle HIPAA Right of Access Case

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is continuing to crackdown on noncompliance with the HIPAA Right of Access. This week, OCR announced its fifteenth settlement to resolve a HIPAA Right of Access enforcement action. Renown Health, a not-for-profit healthcare network in Northern Nevada, agreed to settle its HIPAA case with OCR to resolve potential violations of the HIPAA Right of Access and has agreed to pay a financial penalty of $75,000. OCR launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from a Renown Health patient who had not been provided with an electronic copy of her protected health information. In January 2019, the patient submitted a request to Renown Health and asked for her medical and billing records to be sent to her attorney. After waiting more than a month for the records to be provided, the patient filed a complaint with OCR. It took Renown Health until December 27, 2019 to provide the requested records, almost a year after the initial request was made. The HIPAA Privacy Rule (45 C.F.R. § 164.524) requires medical...

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Feds Release Ransomware Fact Sheet
Feb09

Feds Release Ransomware Fact Sheet

A ransomware factsheet has been released by the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) to raise awareness of the threat of ransomware attacks and provide insights that can be leveraged to prevent and mitigate attacks. The fact sheet was developed by an interagency group of more than 15 government agencies and is primarily intended for use by police and fire departments, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and critical infrastructure entities. The factsheet was released as part of the “Reduce the Risk of Ransomware Campaign” launched by the DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in January 2021. The fact sheet explains the impact ransomware attacks have had on the public sector, provides information on U.S. government efforts to combat ransomware threats, and details the most common methods used by threat actors to gain access to networks to deploy ransomware payloads: Phishing emails, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) vulnerabilities, and software vulnerabilities. Phishing emails contain either a malicious link or file attachment. If...

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Public Health Emergency Privacy Act Introduced to Ensure Privacy and Security of COVID-19 Data
Feb03

Public Health Emergency Privacy Act Introduced to Ensure Privacy and Security of COVID-19 Data

On January 28, 2021, Democratic senators introduced the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act to protect the privacy of Americans and ensure data security measures are applied to safeguard COVID-19 related health data collected for public health purposes. The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and U.S. representatives Anna Eshoo, D-CA., Jan Schakowsky, D-IL., and Suzan DelBene, D-WA and requires strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information to be set. “Technologies like contact tracing, home testing, and online appointment booking are absolutely essential to stop the spread of this disease, but Americans are rightly skeptical that their sensitive health data will be kept safe and secure,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Legal safeguards protecting consumer privacy failed to keep pace with technology, and that lapse is costing us in the fight against COVID-19.” The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act will ensure strict privacy protections are implemented to ensure any health data collected...

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

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

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

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Multinational Law Enforcement Operation Takes Down the Emotet Botnet
Jan28

Multinational Law Enforcement Operation Takes Down the Emotet Botnet

Europol has announced the notorious Emotet Botnet has been taken down as part of a multinational law enforcement operation. Law enforcement agencies in Europe, the United States, and Canada took control of the Emotet infrastructure, which is comprised of hundreds of servers around the world. The Emotet botnet was one of the most prolific malware botnets of the last decade and the Emotet Trojan was arguably the most dangerous malware variant to emerge in recent years. The Emotet operators ran one of the most professional and long-lasting cybercrime services and was one of the biggest players in the cybercrime world. Around 30% of all malware attacks involved the Emotet botnet. The Emotet Trojan was first identified in 2014 and was initially a banking Trojan, but the malware evolved into a much more dangerous threat and became the go-to solution for many cybercriminal operations. The Emotet Trojan acted as a backdoor into computer networks and access was sold to other cybercriminal gangs for data theft, malware distribution, and extortion, which is what made the malware so dangerous....

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Ransomware Attacks Account for Almost Half of Healthcare Data Breaches
Jan28

Ransomware Attacks Account for Almost Half of Healthcare Data Breaches

A new report published by Tenable has revealed almost half of all healthcare data breaches are the result of ransomware attacks, and in the majority of cases the attacks were preventable. According to the Tenable Research 2020 Threat Landscape Retrospective Report, 730 data breaches were reported across all industry sectors in the first 10 months of 2020 and more than 22 billion records were exposed. 8 million of those records were exposed in healthcare data breaches. Healthcare registered the highest number of data breaches of any industry sector between January and October 2020, accounting for almost a quarter (24.5%) of all reported data breaches, ahead of technology (15.5%), education (13%), and the government (12.5%). Due to the high number of healthcare data breaches, Tenable researchers analyzed those breaches to identify the main causes and found that ransomware attacks accounted for 46.4% of all reported data breaches, followed by email compromise attacks (24.6%), insider threats (7.3%), app misconfigurations (5.6%) and unsecured databases (5%). Across all industry...

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FBI Issues Warning Following Spike in Vishing Attacks
Jan25

FBI Issues Warning Following Spike in Vishing Attacks

Many data breaches start with a phishing email, but credential phishing can also occur via other communication channels such as instant messaging platforms or SMS messages. One often overlooked way for credentials to be obtained is phishing over the telephone. These phishing attacks, termed vishing, can give attackers the credentials they need to gain access to email accounts and cloud services and escalate privileges. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an alert after a spike in vishing incidents to steal credentials to corporate accounts, including credentials for network access and privilege escalation. The change to remote working in 2020 due to COVID-19 has made it harder for IT teams to monitor access to their networks and privilege escalation, which could allow these attacks to go undetected. The FBI warned that it has observed a change in tactics by threat actors. Rather than only targeting credentials of individuals likely to have elevated privileges, cybercriminals are now trying to obtain all credentials. While the credentials of low-ranking...

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

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

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

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OCR Announces Enforcement Discretion Regarding Use of Online or Web-based Scheduling Applications for COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments
Jan20

OCR Announces Enforcement Discretion Regarding Use of Online or Web-based Scheduling Applications for COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has announced it will be exercising enforcement discretion and will not impose financial penalties on HIPAA-covered entities or their business associates for violations of the HIPAA Rules in connection with the good faith use of online or web-based scheduling applications (WBSAs) for scheduling individual appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations. The notice of enforcement discretion applies to the use of WBSAs for the limited purpose of scheduling individual appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The notification is effectively immediately, is retroactive to December 11, 2020, and will remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. A WBSA is a non-public facing online or web-based application that allows individual appointments to be scheduled in connection with large scale COVID-19 vaccination. The purpose of a WBSA is to allow covered healthcare providers to rapidly schedule large numbers of appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations....

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

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

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

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December 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Jan18

December 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

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

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

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

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

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M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Has $4.3 Million OCR HIPAA Fine Overturned on Appeal
Jan15

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Has $4.3 Million OCR HIPAA Fine Overturned on Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has overturned a $4,348,000 HIPAA violation penalty imposed on University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The Civil Monetary Penalty was imposed on M.D. Anderson in 2018 following an investigation of three data breaches that were reported to the Office for Civil Rights between 2013 and 2014 that involved the loss/theft of unencrypted devices between 2012 and 2013. Two unencrypted flash drives containing the ePHI of 2,264 and 3,598 patients were lost, and an unencrypted laptop computer containing the ePHI of 29,021 patients was stolen. The Office for Civil Rights investigation concluded that M.D. Anderson was in violation of two provisions of the HIPAA Rules. The first violation was the failure to implement encryption or adopt an alternative and equivalent method to limit access to ePHI stored on electronic devices, and the second prohibits unauthorized disclosures of ePHI. HIPAA penalties are tiered and are based on the level of culpability, with the Office...

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2020 HIPAA Violation Cases and Penalties
Jan13

2020 HIPAA Violation Cases and Penalties

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

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OCR Continues HIPAA Right of Access Crackdown with $200,000 Fine
Jan13

OCR Continues HIPAA Right of Access Crackdown with $200,000 Fine

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is continuing to crackdown on healthcare providers that are not providing patients with timely access to their medical records. Yesterday, OCR announced a settlement had been agreed with Banner Health to resolve a HIPAA Right of Access investigation. Banner Health agreed to pay $200,000 to settle the case. The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives individuals the right to access, inspect, and obtain a copy of their own protected health information. When a request is received, HIPAA-covered entities are required to provide a copy of the requested records within 30 days. In late 2019, OCR announced it was cracking down on noncompliance with this important provision of HIPAA. Since then, 14 financial penalties have been imposed on covered entities that have failed to provide patients with timely access to their medical records. Phoenix, AZ-based Banner Health is one of the largest health care systems in the United States. The non-profit health system operates 30 hospitals and many primary care, urgent care, and specialty care facilities. OCR received two...

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HITECH Act Amendment Creating Cybersecurity Safe Harbor Signed into Law
Jan12

HITECH Act Amendment Creating Cybersecurity Safe Harbor Signed into Law

On January 5, 2020, President Trump added his signature to a bill (HR 7898) that amends the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) and creates a safe harbor for companies that have implemented recognized security best practices prior to experiencing a data breach. While the bill does not go as far as preventing the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights from imposing financial penalties for HIPAA compliance issues that contributed to a data breach, the amendment requires OCR to take into consideration the security measures that were in place to reduce cybersecurity risk in the 12 months prior to a data breach. The main aim of the bill is to incentivize healthcare organizations to adopt an established, formalized, and recognized cybersecurity framework and adhere to industry security best practices, as doing so will provide a degree of insulation against regulatory enforcement actions. The bill requires the HHS to consider an entity’s use of recognized security best practices when investigating reported data breaches...

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FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Egregor Ransomware Activity
Jan11

FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Egregor Ransomware Activity

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

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Jail Terms for HIPAA Violations by Employees
Jan10

Jail Terms for HIPAA Violations by Employees

The penalties for HIPAA violations by employees can be severe, especially those involving the theft of protected health information. HIPAA violations by employees can attract a fine of up to $250,000 with a maximum jail term of 10 years and a 2-year jail term for aggravated identity theft. Jail terms for HIPAA violations are relatively rare, but there have been several cases where HIPAA violations by employees have been referred to the Department of Justice and have resulted in financial penalties and jail time. Some cases that have resulted in jail terms for HIPAA violations by employees are listed below, along with cases where jail terms have only narrowly been avoided. Jail Term for Former Transformations Autism Treatment Center Employee In February 2017, a former behavioral analyst at the Transformations Autism Treatment Center (TACT) was discovered to have stolen the protected health information of patients following termination. Jeffrey Luke, 29, of Collierville, TN gained access to a TACT Google Drive account containing the PHI of patients following termination and...

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How Should You Respond to an Accidental HIPAA Violation?
Jan06

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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Healthcare Industry Cyberattacks Increase by 45%
Jan06

Healthcare Industry Cyberattacks Increase by 45%

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

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Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in 2020
Jan01

Largest Healthcare Data Breaches in 2020

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

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CISA Launches SolarWinds Supply Chain Compromise Website and Free Malicious Activity Detection Tool
Dec30

CISA Launches SolarWinds Supply Chain Compromise Website and Free Malicious Activity Detection Tool

The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has launched a website providing resources related to the ongoing cyber activities of the advanced persistent threat (APT) group responsible for compromising the SolarWinds Orion software supply chain. The threat actors behind the attack gained access to the networks of federal, state, and local governments, critical infrastructure entities, and private sector organizations around the world. In addition to compromising the software update mechanism of SolarWinds Orion, the hackers also exploited vulnerabilities in commonly used authentication mechanisms to gain persistent access to networks. According to Microsoft, the main goal of the attackers appears to be to gain persistent local access to networks by delivering the Sunburst/Solarigate backdoor, then pivot to victims’ cloud assets. Recently it has become clear that more than one threat group is conducting cyber espionage after the discovery of a different malware variant that was introduced through the SolarWinds Orion software update feature. Microsoft and Palo Alto...

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OCR Announces its 19th HIPAA Penalty of 2020
Dec23

OCR Announces its 19th HIPAA Penalty of 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has settled a HIPAA Right of Access compliance case with Peter Wrobel, M.D., P.C., doing business as Elite Primary Care. Elite Primary Care is a provider of primary health services in Georgia. OCR launched a compliance investigation following receipt of a complaint from an Elite Primary Care patient on April 22, 2019 who alleged he had been denied access to his health records. OCR contacted the practice and provided technical assistance on the HIPAA Right of Access on May 2, 2019. OCR advised the practice to review the facts of the request and provide access to the requested records if the request met the requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The patient subsequently submitted a request for access in writing which was received by the practice on June 5, 2019. The patient filed a second complaint with OCR on October 9, 2019, as the practice continued to deny him access to his requested records. Elite Primary Care sent the patient’s medical records to his new healthcare provider on November 21, 2019 and...

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November 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Dec22

November 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

For the second successive month, the number of reported healthcare data breaches has fallen; however, it should be noted that the number of breaches reported in October 2020 was almost three times the average monthly number due, in a large part, to the ransomware attack on the cloud service provider Blackbaud. November saw 47 data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights by HIPAA-covered entities and business associates, 25.39% fewer than October. Even with that reduction, breaches are still well above the 12-month average of 41 data breaches a month (Median = 38 breaches).   The number of healthcare records exposed in healthcare data breaches similarly fell for the second successive month. In November, 1,139,151 healthcare records were exposed or impermissibly disclosed, a 54.73% fall from October. The average number of monthly breached healthcare records over the past 12 months is 1,885,959 records and the median is 1,101,902 records. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in November 2020 Name of Covered Entity State Covered...

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

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

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

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OCR Issues Guidance on Disclosures of PHI to Health Information Exchanges under HIPAA
Dec21

OCR Issues Guidance on Disclosures of PHI to Health Information Exchanges under HIPAA

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has published new guidance on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules covering disclosures of protected health information (PHI) to health information exchanges (HIEs) for the public health activities of a public health authority (PHA). An HIE is an organization that enables the sharing of electronic PHI (ePHI) between more than two unaffiliated entities such as healthcare providers, health plans, and their business associates. HIEs’ share ePHI for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations, for public health reporting to PHAs, and for providing other functions and services such as patient record location and data aggregation and analysis. HIPAA supports the use of HIEs and the sharing of health data to improve public health, which has been especially important during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates to disclose protected health information to an HIE for reporting to a PHA that is engaged in...

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

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

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

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FTC Settles 2019 Consumer Data Breach Case with SkyMed
Dec18

FTC Settles 2019 Consumer Data Breach Case with SkyMed

The Nevada-based emergency services provider SkyMed has reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) following an audit of its information security practices in the wake of a 2019 data breach that exposed consumers’ personal information. SkyMed was notified by security researcher Jeremiah Fowler in 2019 that it had a misconfigured Elasticsearch database that was leaking patient information. The lack of protection meant the records of 136,995 patients could be accessed over the internet without the need for any authentication. The database could be accessed using any Internet browser and personal information in the database could be downloaded, edited, or even deleted. The database contained information such as patient names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, membership account numbers, and health information, according to Fowler. Fowler also identified artifacts related to ransomware in the database. When notified about the exposed database, SkyMed launched an investigation but found no evidence to indicate any information in the database had been misused....

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House Passes Bill Calling for HHS to Recognize Adoption of Cybersecurity Best Practices
Dec16

House Passes Bill Calling for HHS to Recognize Adoption of Cybersecurity Best Practices

A new bill (HR 7898) has been passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee which seeks to amend the HITECH Act to require the Department of Health and Human Services to recognize whether cybersecurity best practices have been adopted by HIPAA-covered entities and business associates when making certain determinations, such as financial penalties following security breaches or for other regulatory purposes. The HIPAA Safe Harbor Bill, if signed into law, would reward covered entities and business associates that have met cybersecurity practices through reduced financial penalties and shorter compliance audits. The legislation calls for the HHS Secretary to consider whether the entity has adequately demonstrated recognized security practices have been in place for no less than 12 months, which may mitigate financial penalties, result in an early, favorable termination of an audit, or mitigate other remedies which may otherwise have been agreed with respect to resolving potential HIPAA Security Rule violations. The bill defines ‘Recognized Security Practices’ as “standards,...

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CISA: SolarWinds Orion Software Under Active Attack
Dec15

CISA: SolarWinds Orion Software Under Active Attack

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a warning that sophisticated hackers are actively exploiting SolarWinds Orion IT monitoring and management software. The cyberattack, which is ongoing, is believed to be the work of a highly sophisticated, evasive, nation state hacking group who created a Trojanized version of Orion software that has been used to deploy a backdoor into customers’ systems dubbed SUNBURST. The supply chain attack has impacted around 18,000 customers, who are understood to have downloaded the Trojanized version of SolarWinds Orion and the SUNBURST backdoor. SolarWinds Orion is used by large public and private organizations and government agencies. SolarWinds customers include all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, NASA and National Security Agency. Its solutions are also used by 425 of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies. The US Treasury, US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and Department of Homeland Security are known to have been attacked. The campaign...

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HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes Proposed to Improve Care Coordination and Patient Rights
Dec10

HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes Proposed to Improve Care Coordination and Patient Rights

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking detailing multiple HIPAA Privacy Rule changes that are intended to remove regulatory burdens, improve care coordination, and give patients better access to their protected health information (PHI). OCR issued a request for public input on potential HIPAA Privacy Rule changes in December 2018 under the HHS’ Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care. The regulatory sprint was intended to accelerate transformation of the healthcare system and remove some of the barriers that have hampered the coordination of care, were making it difficult for healthcare providers to share patient information and placed an unnecessary burden on patients and their families who were trying to get their health information exchanged. In response to the request for information, the HHS received around 1,300 comments spanning 4,000 pages. The HHS has had to strike a balance between providing more flexibility to allow health information to be shared easily and ensuring the privacy and security of healthcare data. “Our proposed...

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Russian State-Sponsored Hackers Exploiting Vulnerability in VMWare Virtual Workspaces
Dec10

Russian State-Sponsored Hackers Exploiting Vulnerability in VMWare Virtual Workspaces

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has issued a cybersecurity advisory warning Russian state-sponsored hacking groups are targeting a vulnerability in VMWare virtual workspaces used to support remote working. The flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-4006, is present in certain versions of VMware Workspace One Access, Access Connector, Identity Manager, and Identity Manager Connector products and is being exploited to gain access to enterprise networks and protected data on the affected systems. The flaw is a command-injection vulnerability in the administrative configurator component of the affected products. The vulnerability can be exploited remotely by an attacker with valid credentials and access to the administrative configurator on port 8443. If successfully exploited, an attacker would be able to execute commands with unrestricted privileges on the operating system and access sensitive data. VMWare released a patch to correct the vulnerability on December 3, 2020 and also published information to help network defenders identify networks that have already been compromised, along...

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Six More Healthcare Providers Impacted by Ransomware Attacks
Dec10

Six More Healthcare Providers Impacted by Ransomware Attacks

GBMC HealthCare in Maryland, Golden Gate Regional Center in California, and Dyras Dental in Michigan have recently suffered ransomware attacks and Allegheny Health Network, AMITA Health, and Bayhealth have announced they have been affected by the ransomware attack on Blackbaud Inc. GBMC HealthCare Towson, MD-based GBMC HealthCare has announced it suffered a ransomware attack on December 6, 2020 that forced its computer systems offline and the healthcare provider is now operating under EHR downtime procedures while the attack is mitigated.  GBMC HealthCare had planned for such an attack and had processes in place to ensure care could continue to be provided to patients while keeping disruption to a minimum. Safe and effective care continues to be provided to patients and its emergency department did not stop receiving patients; however, some elective procedures scheduled for Monday 7, December were postponed. Efforts are underway to bring systems back online and restore the encrypted data and law enforcement has been notified and is investigating the attack. The Egregor ransomware...

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

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

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

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COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain Organizations Targeted in Global Phishing Campaign
Dec04

COVID-19 Vaccine Cold Chain Organizations Targeted in Global Phishing Campaign

The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency has issued a warning about a global spear phishing campaign targeting organizations in the cold storage and supply chain that are involved with the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Two of the first vaccines to be produced must be kept and low temperatures during storage and transit prior to being administered. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be kept at -94°F (-70°C) and the Moderna vaccine at -4°F (-20°C), so cold chain organizations are a key element of the supply chain. At the start of the pandemic, IBM X-Force established a cyber threat task force to track threats targeting organizations involved in the fight against COVID-19. The task force recently published a report about an ongoing spear phishing campaign that started in September 2020 which is targeting organizations supporting the Cold Chain Equipment Optimization Platform program. The program was launched in 2015 by the United Nations Children’s Fund and partner organizations to distribute vaccines worldwide. Phishing emails have been sent to executives in sales,...

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Researchers Describe Possible Synthetic DNA Supply Chain Attack
Dec02

Researchers Describe Possible Synthetic DNA Supply Chain Attack

A team of researchers at Ben-Gurion University in Israel have described a possible bioterrorist attack scenario in which the supply chain of synthetic DNA could be compromised. DNA synthesis providers could be tricked into producing harmful DNA sequences and delivering them to unsuspecting customers. Synthetic DNA is currently produced for research purposes and is available in many ready-to-use forms. Clients of DNA synthesis providers specify the DNA sequences they require and the DNA synthesis company generates the requested sequences to order and ships them to their customers. There are safety controls in place to prevent DNA being synthesized that could be harmful, but the Ben-Gurion University researchers point out that those safety checks are insufficient. Hackers could potentially exploit security weaknesses and inject rogue genetic information into the synthesis process, unbeknown to the customers or DNA synthesis providers. For example, rogue genetic material could be inserted that encodes for a harmful protein or a toxin. The researchers describe an attack scenario where...

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FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Ragnar Locker Ransomware Activity
Nov26

FBI Issues Warning About Increasing Ragnar Locker Ransomware Activity

Threat actors using Ragnar Locker ransomware have stepped up their attacks and have been targeting businesses and organizations in many sectors, according to a recent private industry alert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ragnar Locker ransomware was first identified by security researchers in April 2019, with the first known attack targeting a large corporation that was issued with an $11 ransom demand for the keys to decrypt files and ensure the secure deletion of the 10 terabytes of sensitive data stolen in the attack. While not named in the FBI alert, the attack appears to have been on the multinational energy company, Energias de Portugal. The gang was also behind the ransomware attacks on the Italian drinks giant Campari and the Japanese gaming firm Capcom. Since that attack, the number of Ragnar Locker victims has been steadily growing. Attacks have been successfully conducted on cloud service providers, and companies in communication, construction, travel, enterprise software, and other industries. As with other human-operated ransomware attacks, the threat...

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Free Google Services Abused in Phishing Campaigns
Nov26

Free Google Services Abused in Phishing Campaigns

Several phishing campaigns have been identified that are using free Google services to bypass email security gateways and ensure malicious messages are delivered to inboxes. Phishing emails often include hyperlinks that direct users to websites hosting phishing forms that harvest credentials. Email security gateways use a variety of methods to detect these malicious hyperlinks, including blacklists of known malicious websites, scoring of domains, and visiting the links to analyze the content on the destination website. If the links are determined to be suspicious or malicious, the emails are quarantined or rejected. However, by using links to legitimate Google services, phishers are managing to bypass these security measures and ensure their messages are delivered. The use of Google services by phishers is nothing new; however, security researchers at Arborblox have identified an uptick in this activity that has coincided with increased adoption of remote working. The researchers identified 5 campaigns abusing free Google services such as Google Forms, Google Drive, Google Sites,...

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HHS Releases Final Rules with Safe Harbors for Cybersecurity Donations
Nov25

HHS Releases Final Rules with Safe Harbors for Cybersecurity Donations

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

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October 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report
Nov23

October 2020 Healthcare Data Breach Report

October saw well above average numbers of data breaches reported the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. There were 63 reported breaches of 500 or more records, which is a 33.68% reduction from September but still 41.82% more breaches than the monthly average over the last 12 months. The elevated numbers of breaches can be partly explained by continued reports from healthcare organizations that were impacted by the ransomware attack on the cloud software firm Blackbaud. The protected health information of more than 2.5 million individuals were exposed or compromised in those 63 breaches, which is 74.08% fewer records than September, but still 26.81% more than the monthly average number of breached records over the past 12 months. Largest Healthcare Data Breaches Reported in October 2020 Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Type of Breach Individuals Affected Breach Cause Luxottica of America Inc. Business Associate Hacking/IT Incident 829,454 Ransomware Attack AdventHealth Orlando Healthcare Provider Hacking/IT Incident 315,811 Blackbaud Ransomware Presbyterian Healthcare Services...

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HIPAA Right of Access Failure Results in $65,000 Fine for University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Nov20

HIPAA Right of Access Failure Results in $65,000 Fine for University of Cincinnati Medical Center

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights has announced its 18th HIPAA financial penalty of the year with the 12th fine under its HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative. In 2019, OCR announced a new drive to ensure individuals are given timely access to their health records, at a reasonable cost, as mandated by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. It had become clear to OCR that healthcare providers were not always fully complying with this important HIPAA Privacy Rule provision and some patients were having trouble obtaining a copy of their medical records. The latest financial penalty of $65,000 was imposed on the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, LLC (UCMC) and stemmed from a complaint received by OCR on May 30, 2019 from a patient who had sent a request to UCMC on February 22, 2019 asking for an electronic copy of the medical records maintained in UCMC’s electronic health record system to be sent to her lawyer. The HIPAA Right of Access requires copies of medical records to be provided, on request, no later than 30 days after receipt of the request. 45 C.F.R. § 164.524 also states that...

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Microsoft Warns of Ongoing Sophisticated Phishing Campaign Targeting Office 365 Users
Nov19

Microsoft Warns of Ongoing Sophisticated Phishing Campaign Targeting Office 365 Users

Microsoft has issued a warning to Office 365 about an ongoing phishing campaign targeting user credentials. The campaign uses sophisticated techniques to bypass email security gateways and social engineering tactics to fool company employees into visiting websites where credentials are harvested. A variety of lures are used in the phishing emails which target remote workers, such as fake password update requests, information on teleconferencing, SharePoint notifications, and helpdesk tickets. The lures are plausible and the websites to which Office 365 users are directed are realistic and convincing, complete with replicated logos and color schemes. The threat actors have used a range of techniques to bypass secure email gateways to ensure the messages are delivered to inboxes. These include redirector URLs that can detect sandbox environments and will direct real users to the phishing websites and security solutions to benign websites, to prevent analysis. The emails also incorporate heavy obfuscation in the HTML code. Microsoft notes that the redirector sites have a unique...

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ASPR Provides Update on Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare Sector
Nov18

ASPR Provides Update on Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare Sector

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

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Nation State APT Groups Targeting Companies Involved in COVID-19 Research and Vaccine Development
Nov16

Nation State APT Groups Targeting Companies Involved in COVID-19 Research and Vaccine Development

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups in Russia and North Korea are targeting companies involved in research into COVID-19 and vaccine development, according to Microsoft. Six large pharmaceutical firms and a clinical research company are known to have been targeted by three APT groups who are attempting to gain access to research and vaccine data. The cyberattacks have been on “pharmaceutical companies in Canada, France, India, South Korea and the United States,” according to Microsoft and three APT groups are known to be conducting attacks – the Russian APT group Strontium (aka Fancy Bear/APT28) and two APT groups with links to North Korea – The Lazarus Group (aka Zinc) and Cerium. Additionally, in the summer of 2020, warnings were issued by several government agencies about attacks on COVID-19 research firms by another Russian APT group, Cozy Bear (aka APT29). The targeted organizations have contracts with or investments from governments to advance research into COVID-19 and vaccine development. Most of the targeted companies have developed vaccines which are currently...

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Private Practitioner Pays $15,000 Penalty for HIPAA Right of Access Failure
Nov13

Private Practitioner Pays $15,000 Penalty for HIPAA Right of Access Failure

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced its 11th financial penalty under its HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative. Dr. Rajendra Bhayani, a Regal Park, NY-based private practitioner specializing in otolaryngology has agreed to pay a financial penalty of $15,000 to settle the case and adopt a corrective action plan to address areas of noncompliance discovered by OCR during the investigation. OCR launched an investigation after a complaint was received from a patient in September 2018 alleging Dr. Bhayani had failed to provider her with a copy of her medical records. The patient had sent a request to the otolaryngologist in July 2018, but two months later and the records had still not been provided. OCR contacted Dr. Bhayani and provided technical assistance on the HIPAA Right of Access and closed the complaint; however, a second complaint was received from the patient a year after the first in July 2019 claiming she had still not been provided with her medical records. OCR intervened again and the records were eventually...

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FTC Settlement with Zoom Resolves Allegations of Cybersecurity Failures and Deceptive Security Practices
Nov11

FTC Settlement with Zoom Resolves Allegations of Cybersecurity Failures and Deceptive Security Practices

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Zoom to resolve allegations that the teleconferencing platform provider misled its customers about the level encryption and had failed to implement appropriate cybersecurity protections for its users. During the pandemic, use of the Zoom platform skyrocketed, with business users and consumers adopting the platform in the millions. The platform was used by consumers to maintain contact with friends and family, while remote workers used the platform to communicate with the office and collaborate while working from home. The platform proved to be extremely popular in healthcare for providing telehealth services and in education for communicating with students. Zoom reported in its second quarter earnings call that it has seen 400% growth of corporate clients with more than 10 employees and around 300 million meetings were taking place each day. The massive increase in popularity attracted the attention of security researchers, who discovered multiple security vulnerabilities in the platform. One of the main issues...

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Ransomware Attack on Medicaid Billing Service Provider Impacts 116,000 Individuals
Nov11

Ransomware Attack on Medicaid Billing Service Provider Impacts 116,000 Individuals

Timberline Billing Service, LLC, a Des Moines, IA-based Medicaid billing company, has suffered a ransomware attack that resulted in the encryption and theft of data. An investigation into the attack revealed an unknown individual gained access to its systems between February 12, 2020 and March 4, 2020 and deployed ransomware. Prior to the encryption of files, some information was exfiltrated from its systems. Timberline’s clients include around 190 schools in Iowa. School districts in the state that have been impacted by the breach have now been notified. It is currently unclear exactly how many schools were affected and if the breach was limited to schools in Iowa. Timberline also has offices in Kansas and Illinois. The types of data potentially obtained by the attacker included names, dates of birth, Medicaid ID numbers, and billing information. A limited number of Social Security numbers were also potentially compromised. While data theft occurred, no reports have been received to indicate any data have been misused. The breach has been reported to the Department of Health and...

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