EnTech Receives HIPAA Seal of Compliance Award

Compliancy Group confirmed EnTech, a managed IT service provider in Fort Myers, FL, as compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules.

For over 20 years, Entech has been helping companies in Southwest Florida get the most out of information technology by providing managed IT and integration The company also provides strategic technology consultancy services to assist businesses to decide on the appropriate IT architectures to match their needs.

When providing healthcare organizations with those services, EnTech needs to adhere to the HIPAA Rules. The company should put in place suitable safety measures to ascertain the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). Employees must be mindful of their responsibilities with regard to HIPAA and ePHI.

The HIPAA coaches of the Compliancy Group and its compliance tracking solution known as “The Guard” helped EnTech to successfully finish the 6-Stage Risk Analysis and Remediation Process set by Compliancy Group. With this excellent achievement, the Compliancy Group confirmed the company’s HIPAA compliance and awarded its HIPAA Seal of Compliance. Only companies that have met all the HIPAA Security, Privacy, Breach Notification, and Omnibus Rules requirements are given the award of HIPAA Seal of Compliance to prove that they have a reliable HIPAA compliance program set up.

Entech’s Chief Development Officer, David Spire said that they are very proud that they have acquired this designation, which shows their commitment to their clients and community. With the constantly changing threat landscape, healthcare organizations that directly or indirectly offer medical care these days should take all the required measures to secure all their personal data.

In addition to a signed business associate agreement, Entech’s HIPAA Seal of Compliance gives present and future clients the reassurance of their commitment to keeping the privacy and security of personal information and fulfilling its responsibilities as required by the HIPAA.

Class Action Data Breach Lawsuit Settled by UCLA Health for $7.5 Million

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of data breach has been settled by UCLA. The lawsuit that was discovered in October 2014 will cost UCLA Health $7.5 million to settle.

Suspicious activity was discovered by UCLA Health on its network back in October 2014. Once detected, UCLA Health contacted the FBI to assist them with the investigation. The forensic investigation revealed that hackers had indeed gained access to its network, although it was believed that at the time they did not succeed in accessing the parts of the network where the medical center stored its patients’ medical information. On May 5, 2015, however, it was confirmed by UCLA that the hackers had in fact gained access to certain sections of the network containing patients’ protected health information and names, addresses, dates of birth, Medicare IDs, health insurance information, and Social Security numbers may have been viewed or copied. 4.5 million patients were affected by the breach in total.

Upon the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights investigation into the breach, they were satisfied with UCLA Health’s breach response and the administrative and technical safeguards that had been put in place after the breach to improve their security.

As a result of this UCLA Health avoided a financial penalty. However, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of patients affected by the breach. The complainants alleged UCLA Health failed to inform them about the breach in a timely manner, there had been violations to California’s privacy laws, breach of contract and the failure to protect the privacy of patients by UCLA Health constituted negligence.

UCLA Health notified patients about the breach on July 15, 2015. Although this was, in fact, in line with HIPAA requirements (under 60 days from the discovery that PHI had been compromised) the complainants believed they should have been notified in a more brisk manner, given the fact that it had been 9 months since the breach had occurred.

Under the terms of the settlement, all patients affected by the breach can claim two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Patients will also be given the opportunity to make a claim to recover costs that have been placed upon them in protecting themselves against unauthorized use of their personal and health information. Furthermore, they also have the ability to submit a claim to recover losses suffered due to fraud and identity theft.

A claim of up to $5,000 can be made by patients in order to cover the costs of protecting their identities and even up to $20,000 for any damage or losses that resulted from identity theft and fraud. $2 million of the $7.5 million settlement has been put to the side to cover patients’ claims.  The $5.5 million remaining will be placed into a cybersecurity fund.  This fund will be used to improve cybersecurity defenses at UCLA Health.

May 20, 2019 is the cut-off date for patients to submit an objection or exclude themselves from the settlement. Preventative measure claim forms must be submitted by June 18, 2019. Patients also must enroll in the free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services by September 16, 2019. June 18, 2021 was the deadline for submitting claims for the reimbursement of losses is . The final court hearing on the settlement is set to take place on June 18, 2019.

Potential Huge Breach of Protected Health Information Discovered

Meditab Software Inc., Sacramento, CA-based medical software provider and it’s San Juan, PR-based affiliate, MedPharm Services have been subject of a huge breach of protected health information.

A fax processing service is also provided by Meditab and one of the servers used for processing faxes has been discovered to be leaking data. As a result, it could be accessed over the internet without the need for any authentication.

The unprotected fax server was discovered by SpiderSilk, a Dubai-based cybersecurity firm. The fax server was hosted on a subdomain of MedPharm Services. Furthermore, it housed an Elastisearch database containing fax communications. Those faxes could be accessed by anyone in real time. The database was formed in March 2018 and was home to over 6 million records. Currently, it is uncertain how many of those records contained protected health information.

A recent report on TechCrunch stated that a brief review of the faxes in the database showed they contained highly sensitive information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, payment information, insurance information, doctor’s notes, prescription details, diagnoses, lab test results, and medical histories. None of the above information was encrypted.

Meditab Software and MedPharm Services were both founded by Kalpesh Patel, who TechCrunch contacted in relation to the breach. The fax server was taken offline after the companies were alerted about the breach and an investigation was immediately launched to identify the cause of the breach.

In order to determine the extent of the breach, database logs are currently being assessed, which patients have been affected, and whether the database was accessed or downloaded by unauthorized individuals.

Currently, it is unclear just how long the server was left unprotected and how many patients have been affected by the breach. When the number of records in the database are considered, this breach has potential to be among the largest healthcare data breaches in history in the United States.

Healthcare Employees Are Vulnerable to Phishing Attacks, According to Study

The healthcare industry is being heavily targeted by cybercriminals and phishing is one of the most common methods they are using to gain access to healthcare networks and, as a result, sensitive data. The number of successful phishing attacks on healthcare institutions is a serious cause for concern.

OCR identified email as being the main location of breached ePHI at HIMSS19, and the highest risk of data breaches come from phishing attacks.

Is the high number of successful phishing attacks mostly down to the healthcare industry being targeted more than other industry sectors? Or is it as a result of healthcare employees being more susceptible to phishing attacks? A recently published study has provided us with some answers.

A study has recently been conducted by Dr. William Gordon of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and his team to determine the susceptibility of healthcare employees to phishing attacks.

To conduct the study, Gordon and his team analysed data from 6 healthcare institutions in the United States that used vendor solutions or custom-developed tools to send simulated phishing emails to their employees.

The researchers analyzed the data collected from the simulated phishing emails sent to healthcare employees between August 2011 and April 2018. The data set included 95 simulated phishing campaigns which resulted in 2,971,945 simulated phishing emails being sent.

422,062 of these emails (14.2%) were clicked by the employees. The institutional click rate median ranged between 7.4% and 16.7% per campaign. In one of its campaigns, an institutions had a median click rate of 30.7%. Overall, 1 in 7 emails attracted a click across all institutions and all campaigns.

The emails were divided into three categories: Office-related, IT-related and personal. IT-related emails (e.g. password resets, security alerts) turned out to be the most successful, with an institutional click rate median of 18.6%.

No significant association between the year that campaigns were conducted and click rates was found by the researchers. However, they did discover that repeated phishing simulations reduced the chances of employees falling for a later phishing email.

Institutions that ran between 6 and 10 simulated phishing campaigns lowered the odds of a click on a phishing email by 0.511. When more than 10 campaigns were conducted, the odds were reduced by 0.335.

The researchers indicated that the healthcare systems are uniquely vulnerable to phishing attacks, mostly as a result of a high turnover of employees and a constant influx of new employees that may not have had any previous cybersecurity training. High endpoint complexity was also named as a factor that makes healthcare institutions vulnerable to phishing attacks.

From the high click rates, the researchers concluded that phishing is a major cybersecurity risk in healthcare.

Three particular tactics were suggested by the researchers to counter the threat from phishing:

  1. Prevent emails from being delivered to employees through the use of spam filtering technology
  2.  Implement multi-factor authentication to decrease the value of credentials
  3. Improve security awareness through cybersecurity training and phishing simulations.

The report ‘Assessment of Employee Susceptibility to Phishing Attacks at US Health Care Institutions’ was published on JAMA Network Open on March 8, 2019. DOI:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0393.

25% of Healthcare Organizations Have Suffered a Mobile Security Breach in Past Year

It has been indicated by the Verizon Mobile Security Index 2019 report that 25% of healthcare organizations have experienced a security breach which involved a mobile device in the past 12 months.

Despite all businesses facing similar risks from mobile devices, it appears that healthcare organizations are addressing risks better than most other industry sectors. Out of the eight industry sectors that were surveyed, healthcare experienced the second lowest number of mobile security incidents, just behind manufacturing/transportation.

Healthcare mobile security breaches have fallen considerably in the past couple of years. Since 2017, 35% of surveyed healthcare organizations claimed they had experienced a mobile security breach in the past 12 months.

Although the figures suggest that healthcare organizations are getting better at protecting mobile devices, Verizon argue that may not necessarily be what is happening. A suggested explanation is that healthcare organizations may simply be struggling to identify security incidents involving mobile devices.

Out of all the healthcare organizations surveyed, 85% believed that their security defenses were effective. What’s more, 83% said they believed they would be able to detect a security incident quickly. That confidence may be misplaced as 25% of healthcare organizations have suffered a breach involving a mobile device and 80% of those entities were made aware of the breach from a third party.

As mobile devices are used regularly to access or store ePHI, a security incident could easily result in a breach of ePHI. 67% of all healthcare mobile security incidents were considered major breaches. From those breaches, 40% had significant lasting repercussions and, in 40% of cases, it was said to be difficult and expensive to remediate the situation.

67% of mobile device security incidents involved other devices being compromised, 60% of organizations said they experienced downtime as a result of the breach, and 60% said it resulted in the loss of data. 40% of healthcare organizations that suffered such a breach said multiple devices were compromised, downtime was experienced, and they lost data. 30% of breached entities said that cloud services had been compromised due to a mobile security breach.

The main security risks were seen to be related to how devices were used by employees. 53% of respondents claimed personal use of mobile devices posed a major security risk and 53% said user error was also a significant problem.

Out of all the healthcare organizations that were surveyed, 65% were less confident about their ability to protect mobile devices than other IT systems. Verizon claims that this could be partly explained by the lack of effective security measures in place. An example of this can be seen with just 27% of healthcare organizations using a private mobile network and only 22% having unified endpoint management (UEM) in place.

It was also confirmed from the survey that users are taking major risks and are breaching company policies. Across all industries, 48% of respondents said in order to get tasks completed, they sacrificed security. This percentage was only at 32% last year. 81% admitted to using mobile devices to connect to public Wi-Fi, despite the fact that in many cases doing so violates their company’s mobile device security policy.

Hospitals at High Risk of Suffering Devastating Cyberattack, According to Moody’s

The following four industry sectors – hospitals, banks, market infrastructure providers, and securities firms – face significant financial risks from cyberattacks, a new Moody’s Investors Service Report has revealed.

Those four sectors were discovered to have high risk of being exposed to cyberattacks. The four sectors are all heavily reliant on technology for daily operations, distribution of content, and customer engagement. An ever-increasing digitalization and interconnectedness within each sector and across different sectors means the risk of cyberattacks is also increasing.

In Moody’s report, they assessed vulnerability to a cyberattack and the impact such an attack could have on crucial businesses operations, reputation damage and disclosure of data. Cybersecurity measures that had been deployed to protect the company against cyberattacks were not taken into account for the report, unless mitigants had been applied consistently across each sector (e.g. supply chain diversity). In total, 35 broad industry sectors were assessed for the report and each were given a rating of low-risk, medium-risk, or high-risk.

The health insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries were all placed in the medium-risk category. Hospitals were rated at high-risk, with the main reasons being the sensitive and essential nature of data used by hospitals, the increasing number of vulnerabilities introduced due to connected medical devices, the value of healthcare data to hackers, and the estimated time it would take to recover from an attack as well as the disruption to the business during the mitigation of an attack.

A successful cyberattack can prove costly to mitigate. Entities which have been breached must increase investment in technology and infrastructure,  pay higher insurance premiums, cover the cost of regulatory fines and litigation, increase R&D spending. What’s more these attacks can have serious reputational effects, such as higher customer churn rates and a creditworthiness reduction.

“We view cyber risk as event risk that can have material impact on sectors and individual issuers,” stated Derek Vadala, Moody’s Managing Director. “Data disclosure and business disruption are the two primary types of cyber event risk that we view as having the potential for material impact on issuers’ financial profiles and business prospects.”

As the financial impact of a cyberattack can be substantial and long-lasting, it is vital for businesses and organizations in the high-risk sectors to have “robust sources of liquidity” to weather the storm.

While larger hospitals are likely to have more financial resources to assign to mitigating threats and recovering from cyberattacks, they are still not immune to attack. Even with these resources, they can still suffer a significant financial impact, particularly when you consider the fact that many hospitals have not purchased cyber insurance due to the high cost.

Cyberattacks on businesses and organizations in high-risk sectors have the potential to be catastrophic. This ultimately could have an impact on the ability of breached entities to pay back debts. The four high-risk industry sectors mentioned above hold a combined $11.7 trillion in rated debt.

Not only do they result in considerable financial costs and damage to an entity that is attacked, cyberattacks in the high-risk sectors would also likely have a number of ripple effects and a far-reaching impact on other industry sectors.

HIPAA Compliance Clashing with Healthcare Cybersecurity

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has recently told Congress that solely complying with HIPAA Rules is not enough to prevent data breaches. CHIME also claims that, in certain cases, HIPAA compliance can result in a lessening of healthcare cybersecurity defences.

President and CEO of CHIME, Russell P. Branzell and CHCIO Chair of the CHIME Board of Trustees Shafiq Rab recently responded to a request for information (RFI) by Congress on ways to tackle rising healthcare costs.

In a letter to Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) on March 1, 2019, they explained that the use of technology in healthcare helps to reduce costs and can improve efficiency as well as outcomes if used correctly.

It was stated in the letter that “significant advancements in healthcare technology have been made possible through policy, however, often overly stringent prescriptive mandates have added to healthcare costs, impeded innovation and increased burdens on clinicians.”

In order to improve the level of care that can be provided to patients, the use of technology and data sharing are vital. Despite this, both introduce new risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of healthcare data. While policies are being introduced to encourage the use of technology and improve interoperability, it is also crucial for cybersecurity measures to be put in place to protect patient data. Security requirements must be included alongside any policy recommendations.

Chime also wrote in the letter “as we increase interoperability, additional threats to data integrity will arise. Without proper safeguards, the safe and secure transmission of sensitive data will continue to be a challenge and will hinder efforts to care outcomes.”

Healthcare organizations that are compliant with HIPAA Rules will have met the minimum standards set by the HHS for healthcare data privacy and security. However, that does not mean that HIPAA-compliant organizations have a good level of protection against cyberattacks. HIPAA is a complex legislation to be compliant with and requires a significant amount of resources. That ultimately means fewer resources are then available to tackle cybersecurity issues the entity may have and to protect themselves against actual cyber threats.

Healthcare providers are dedicating resources in order to meet standards set by the HHS and its Office for Civil Rights (OCR), even though the measures introduced for HIPAA compliance may not address the most serious cyber threats to them. As a result, their ability to protect patient data could be diminished rather than strengthened as a result.

CHIME also believes that enforcement of compliance with HIPAA Rules, such as breach investigations and compliance audits, are unduly punishing. OCR appears to be more focused on dishing out punishment rather than helping healthcare providers recover from a breach, learn from it, and share the lessons learned so other healthcare organizations can also benefit.

Healthcare providers should not be burdened with protecting PHI in areas outside their control. CHIME suggests there should be an introduction of safe harbors “for organizations that demonstrate, and certify, cybersecurity readiness.” This may require amendments to be made to the HITECH Act, as well as a change to the language used for the definition of a breach so it no longer presumes guilt.

CHIME has also called for the HHS to make better guidance available for healthcare providers to help them assess threats that are within their control. They also believe that healthcare providers should not have to claim full responsibility for protecting PHI outside of their domain. CHIME has also suggested that the balance of responsibility for security needs to have a more even split between covered entities and their business associates.

OCR should assess the level of effort that has gone into protecting systems and PHI when considering enforcement actions. Policies should then be pursued that reward healthcare providers for good faith efforts to prevent cyberattacks, such as demonstrating sufficient compliance with NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework (CSF).

Measures such as these will help encourage healthcare providers to invest more of their resources in cybersecurity. This, in turn, will help to prevent more breaches from occurring and allow healthcare providers to avoid the high costs of mitigating those breaches, which will ultimately result in reduced healthcare costs.

New Federal Data Privacy Act Proposed by Nevada Senator

A new bill (the Data Privacy Act) has recently been introduced by Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV). This bill calls for improved privacy protections for consumers, greater accountability and transparency for data collection practices, and the prohibition of discriminatory data practices.

It is currently a requirement for HIPAA-covered entities to obtain consent from patients before using or disclosing their health information for reasons other than the payment for healthcare, provision of healthcare, or for healthcare operations. With this being said, companies not bound by HIPAA Rules do not have the same restrictions in place.

A number of states are considering introducing or have already introduced laws covering health and other sensitive data collected by entities that are not covered by HIPAA in the absence of a federal law that provides such protections. While Congress is assessing privacy protections for consumers, patchwork of state laws are currently the main providers of protection. As a result of this, privacy protections can vary greatly depending on where the consumer lives.

The bill, The Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance Privacy (DATA Privacy) Act, calls for data privacy protections similar to that in place for GDPR to be introduced to limit the collection of personal data, to protect data that is collected, and to prevent personal data from being used to discriminate against individuals.

If the Data Privacy Act is passed, it will see consumers being given more of a say about the types of information that are collected, how this information is used, and with who the information is shared with.

The Data Privacy Act will also call for companies to provide consumers with an option of opting in or out of the collection and sharing of sensitive data, such as genetic information, location data and biometric data.

Consumers have a right to be told what information will be collected, how  the company plans to use the information, and with whom the information will be shared. The company must also create a process that allows consumers to check the accuracy of their data, to request a copy of any information that has been collected, and to be provided with the option of transferring or deleting their data without any negative effects.

Restrictions will also be implemented in terms of the data that can be collected. It will only be permitted for companies to collect data if there is a legitimate business reason for doing so. Additionally, individuals whose data is collected must not be exposed to unreasonable privacy risks. The bill also aims to protect consumers from discriminatory targeted advertising practices based on information they give such as sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religious belief, or political affiliation.

It would also be necessary for any company that collects the personal data of more than 3,000 individuals in a calendar year to provide consumers with a notice of their privacy policies that clearly explains how their data will be used.

Furthermore, any business with annual revenues in excess of $25 million will also be required to appoint a Privacy Officer. His/her responsibilities will include tasks such as training staff on data privacy.

The FTC and state attorneys general will be given the authority to enforce compliance with the new Act and financial penalties will be issued to companies who are found not to be in compliance.

The intention of the Data Privacy Act is to improve privacy protections for consumers without placing any unnecessary burden on small businesses.

In a statement released in relation to the new ACT, Senator Cortez Masto said “My legislation takes a proactive approach to protecting consumer data by ensuring Americans have a voice in how their consumer data is used. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues and will continue this fight to strengthen consumer privacy and data security.”

Definition of Personal Information that Requires Breach Notifications Expanded by New Jersey

A bill that expands the types of personal information that require notifications to be sent to consumers in the event of a data breach occurring has been unanimously passed by the New Jersey Assembly.

Up to now it has been required by New Jersey breach notification laws that businesses and public entities must send notifications to consumers if there has been a breach of their Social Security number, driver’s license number, or bank account number or credit/debit card information if they are accompanied with a password or code that enables access to the account.

The amendment to the New Jersey data breach notification requirements of the Consumer Fraud Act will see an expansion of the definition of personal information to include usernames and email addresses along with a password or answers to security questions that would allow accounts to be accessed.

This bill (A-3245) was sponsored by Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) and was recently passed by the Senate by a 37-0 vote and by the Assembly by a 76-0 vote. A bill which was almost identical (S-52) was passed by the Senate and Assembly in 2018, however it was not signed by the state governor at the time, Chris Christie. It is expected that current state governor Phil Murphy will sign the bill.

The bill closes a gap in current laws which would enable businesses to avoid notifying consumers of breaches of their online information. If online accounts are accessed or compromised, criminals can gain access to a variety of sensitive information that can be used for identity theft and fraud. Consumers have the right to be made aware if an online account can be accessed by someone else as a result of a data breach so they can take steps to secure their accounts.

Once the new bill is passed, breach notifications can be mailed to consumers or electronic notices can be provided. A substitute breach notice can be issued if more than 500,000 individuals have been affected or if the cost of providing notices would cost in excess $250,000. In such events, breach victims should be emailed promptly, and a notice should be posted in a prominent position on the company’s website.

However, a business or public entity that furnishes an email account is prohibited from issuing email notifications to breached accounts and must use a different means to deliver notices. An example of such a method could be providing a notice that is clearly visible when the user logs into their account from an IP address or location that has previously been used by the user to access their account.

A fine of up to $10,000 can be placed on any business or public entity found to have willfully violated state data breach notification laws and up to $20,000 for any subsequent offenses after the first. Furthermore, for individuals who have suffered ascertainable losses as a result of a data breach, there is now also a private right of action available.

Facebook’s Health Data Sharing Practices Investigated by New York State Departments

Sensitive health data is collected by Facebook from third party apps, even if the user has not logged in via Facebook or doesn’t even own a Facebook account according to a recent analysis of Facebook’s data collection practices.

Private information such as heart rate data, blood pressure measurements, menstrual cycle data, and other health metrics are handed over to Facebook, often without the user’s knowing or any specific disclosure that data provided by users or collected directly by apps are shared with the social media platform.

The Wall Street Journal recently conducted an investigation which tested various health-related apps. Although it was known that some of those apps send data to Facebook about when they are used, just how much data sharing that was occurring was not well understood. It was revealed by the report that 11 popular smartphone apps have been handing over sensitive data to Facebook without any apparent consent obtained from users.

On one particular app, Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker, dates of a user’s last period are shared with Facebook and the predicted date when the user is ovulating. Similarly, the Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor App in the Apple iOS store was discovered to send users’ heart rate information to Facebook right after it is recorded. Neither of these apps or any others that were found to be sharing sensitive data with Facebook appeared to offer users a way of opting out of having their data shared.

The WSJ report notes that while the data sent by these apps may be anonymous, Facebook have a method of matching the information with a particular Facebook user and use the data to target specific ads.

The WSJ made contact with Facebook in relation to the report and received a reply confirming that some of the apps cited in the report appeared to be violating its business terms and that the social media platform does not authorize app developers to share “health, financial information or other categories of sensitive information,” and that the responsibility lies with the app developers to be clear to their users about the information that is being shared. A Facebook spokesperson also spoke to Reuters, saying “we also take steps to detect and remove data that should not be shared with us.”

Investigation of Facebook Instructed by New York Governor

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued a press release on Friday, February 22, 2019, stating that he has instructed the Department of Financial Services and the Department of State to investigate how Facebook is acquiring health data and other sensitive information from developers of smartphone apps and the alleged breaches of Facebook’s own business terms and privacy violations.

Cuomo also said that if WSJ’s findings are correct, it amounts to “an outrageous abuse of privacy.”

Cuomo is determined to ensure companies are held responsible for upholding the law and ensuring the sensitive data of smartphone users is kept private and confidential. Personal data should not be shared with other companies without the clear consent of users.