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The Percentage Of Health Care Data Breaches Due To Criminal Acts Has Risen From 20 to 50 Percent Since 2010

May 16, 2016

The percentage of health care data breaches due to criminals has risen from 20 to 50 percent since 2010, but health care organizations are failing on defense, according to a new study.
On average, the percentage of health care organizations hit by a data breach has stayed steady, in the high 80s and low 90s, according to Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder at Ponemon Institute, which conducted the study, but the number of breaches due to accidentally lost devices has dropped.
Most recently, ransomware and denial-of-service attacks have become top security concerns. These kinds of attacks have the potential to shut down the operations of a health care organization, putting lives at risk.
Ransomware typically encrypts all data, making patient records inaccessible to doctors and nurses.
Denial-of-service attacks shut down the tools and systems used to access those records.
“A lot of these tools now are Internet-facing or are actually in the cloud,” Ponemon explained.
“I think we’re actually in a situation where the bad guys are winning at this point,” said Rick Kam, president and co-founder at ID Experts, which sponsored the report.
One reason is finger pointing, he said. Health care providers point to third-party business associates, such as drug companies and claims processors, while the business associates point the finger back at the health care providers.
“Neither the business associates nor the health care entities are doing their job,” he said. “There’s a small increase in security budgets, but that incremental spending is not keeping up with the threat.”
Another contributing factor, he added, is that the majority of the health care organizations are regional and local hospitals, which are not flush with cash.
Health care organizations understand that they are targets.
More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, said that they are at greater risk than other industries for a data breach.
And there has been some improvements.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said they have policies and procedures that are in place to effectively prevent or quickly detect unauthorized patient data access, up from 58 percent in 2015.
And 57 percent said they have the expert personnel to be able to identify and resolve data breaches, up from 53 percent in 2015.
In addition, 71 percent have an incident response plan process in place, with involvement from information technology, information security and compliance, a slight increase from 69 percent in last year’s study.
However, slightly more than half of health care organizations, 52 percent, said that security budgets have stayed the same since last year, and 10 percent said their budgets decreased.

By Maria Korolov

www.csoonline.com

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Health care records frequently targeted by anonymous hackers

May 5, 2016

For 10 days in February one hospital’s records hung in limbo. At Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California, a ransomware attack kept health care records in control of anonymous hackers, until hospital officials paid $17,000 to take back their system.
Data ransom attacks are today’s technological version of kidnapping. It’s anonymous, more cost-effective and more appealing to criminal enterprises than taking physical hostages. And it’s the reason health care institutions today are taking steps to ensure security.
As part of an ongoing conversation, health care professionals and government agencies will meet on May 1-11 in Washington D.C. to discuss health data as part of the Health Datapalooza event presented by Health Data Consortium.
At Creighton University, law professor Edward Morse is researching the technological and legal limitations for paying data ransom.
“If you can deny access to patient care records, you shut down hospital operations,” Morse said. “With HIPAA, a patient’s electronic records are protected under law. But, a patient’s medical information is only as strong as an institution’s weakest link.
It can be as simple as a disgruntled employee; someone who is willing to give up a password to a potential hacker, so hospitals are working to increase security and limit the number of employees who can access sensitive data.
Adam Kuenning, attorney with Erickson | Sederstrom and a Creighton law professor, teaches HIPAA privacy and security.
“Patient care comes first for any medical professional,” Kuenning said. “The importance of keeping the information secure, may sometimes be lost while the medical professional is focused on the patient’s care.”
Any HIPAA breach of more than 500 patients must be reported to the media, and the Department of Health and Human Services keeps a record of these cases online. Since 2009, more than 1500 cases have been recorded. For cases affecting less than 500 patients, only a letter sent to affected persons is required.
To ensure HIPAA compliance, HHS is conducting audits healthcare companies, but often carelessness is the root cause of a breach. A frequent problem are laptops and thumb drives with private medical information left in an employee’s car.
“Data that’s not encrypted is being stolen somehow,” Kuenning said. “People are breaking into your office, stealing your computer, your servers when you didn’t encrypt your records that evening.”
In the California hospital case, an outside hacker stole records by taking over the computer system. In these cases, it’s common that patient information isn’t actually stolen; rather, hackers freeze the system, making the records inaccessible to medical personnel who need the information to properly care for the patients.
Last June, President Barack Obama stated while the U.S. government won’t pay ransom for hostages, American families have never “been prosecuted for paying a ransom.” In most health care cases, private ransom payments often go unnoticed. Few cases like Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital are publicized. According to Morse, thousands of attacks are attempted, but it’s unknown how many are successful.
“With this crime, it’s embarrassing to institutions, that their systems aren’t secure,” Morse said.
Payouts to criminal enterprises are relatively inexpensive. The black market values each patient’s record at $50 or $60, Morse found. According to a Ponemon Institute Survey, hackers only earn about $28,000 annually, but Morse notes that this wage could equate to a lot more with hackers coming from developing countries.
Without patient’s records, the hospital reaches a standstill, creating the need to comply and pay ransom.
“If you can pay, you would do it in a New York minute,” Morse said.
As the health care industry becomes more invested in technological innovations, institutions must keep privacy in mind, as a data breach can “ultimately, sully the reputation of an institution,” Morse said.

Source: Creighton University

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