Healthcare Cyber-Attacks on the Rise

Cyber attacks - think before you click

Healthcare cyber-attacks are on the rise and data breaches can cost a practice a fortune. It is no secret that patient data is valuable on the black market. Cyber criminals will try many different methods to gain access to this data.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stated in their Cybersecurity Newsletter that there has been a 42% increase in cyber-attacks for the first half of 2022 compared to 2021, and a 69% increase in cyber-attacks targeting the health care sector. The number of data breaches occurring in the health care sector also continue to rise. Breaches of unsecured protected health information (PHI), including ePHI, reported to the OCR affecting 500 or more individuals increased from 663 in 2020 to 714 in 2021. Seventy-four percent (74%) of the breaches reported to OCR in 2021 involved hacking/IT incidents. In the health care sector, hacking is now the greatest threat to the privacy and security of PHI. A timely response to a cybersecurity incident is one of the best ways to prevent, mitigate, and recover from cyberattacks.

If you haven’t done so already, we recommend completing the Security Incident Procedures and Breach Notification Plan. You should add those responsible for your Security Response Team. Educate your team on identifying security incidents and how to respond to them. The quicker you can identify a threat, the sooner you can mitigate the issue.

Another area to ensure that you have in place is your inventory list to ensure you can locate which devices may be affected. In your Contingency Plan, there is a list of devices and software applications that you can use to determine which devices/applications that will need to be brought online in which order. Your IT department/vendor will assist with this process.

If it has been determined that a breach of patient data has occurred, this must be reported to the OCR. Remember to follow your state law if it is more stringent.

As with all requirements under HIPAA, you must document your process. If it is not documented, it does not exist. If there are other areas that you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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About Suze Shaffer

Suze Shaffer is the owner and president of Aris Medical Solutions. She specializes in HIPAA compliance, risk management, and cyber security. She believes that by educating her clients in understanding why and what needs to be done to protect their practice they have a better outcome.

Suze has been instrumental in helping clients nationwide with risk management, implementing privacy and security rule policies and procedures, and ultimately protecting patient data. She includes state and federal regulatory requirements to ensure clients are protected in all areas.

She has spoken at numerous conferences and functions. She continues to educate organizations how to minimize the risks of data breaches. HIPAA compliance is not an option, it is mandatory for every organization that comes in contact with protected health information to have reasonable and appropriate security measures in place. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t realize they are not compliant until they suffer a data breach or they are faced with an audit or investigation.

Did you know that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the agency that investigates data breaches? Have you seen the heavy fines that have been imposed for non-compliance?

All 50 states now have their own set of privacy laws and the State's Attorney General may also investigate privacy violations!

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