Heavy fines demonstrate the importance of a network security audit…

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When we discuss IT security, we generally think of a company that maintains our computer network. That is partially true, but that is just the beginning. There is a difference between maintaining your network and securing it. There are a lot of companies that are eager to maintain your network because you pay them a monthly fee to do so. Maintaining a network is making sure updates are done, anti-virus / anti-malware are current, upgrading any technology that is outdated or about to be unsupported. A network security company tests to see if there are any open vulnerabilities that could affect or infect your network. There is a huge difference between the two.
For example, a misconfigured settings of a Windows operating system permitted access to files containing PHI without requiring a username or password. Then two years later a second breach occurred when a server was misconfigured following an IT’s response to troubleshooting an issue, this time it exposed patient information over the internet. These two breaches cost Cottage Health a $3M fine. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation found that they had not conducted an accurate and thorough assessment and failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level based on the size of their organization. Even though they had an IT company maintaining their ePHI system, they failed to obtain a signed business associate agreement.
https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/compliance-enforcement/agreements/cottage/index.html
Another breach that happened in 2014 has just been settled by the OCR. Touchstone Medical Imaging has been ordered to also pay $3M. The OCR and the FBI informed Touchstone in 2014 that one it’s FTP servers allowed uncontrolled access to ePHI. The uncontrolled access permitted search engines to index the patients personal information, which remained visible after the server was taken offline.
https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2019/05/06/tennessee-diagnostic-medical-imaging-services-company-pays-3000000-settle-breach.html
The lesson here is, what you do today can affect your business in the years to come. Make sure you are doing what is reasonable and appropriate to safeguard your patient information. One more keep point, these are just the federal fines. All 50 states now have their own set of privacy laws to protect personal identifiable information that doesn’t have anything to do with health information. Since we work in healthcare, we must adhere to state and federal privacy laws. No longer can you ignore the elephant (HIPAA) in the room, HIPAA is here to stay and you need to choose wisely who you work with to secure your data.

If you haven’t conducted an audit this year, now is a good time to schedule one to ensure your data is secure. If you would like more information on network security audits, contact us at 877.659.2467 or complete the contact us form.

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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