12/29/2017
01:45 PM

21st Century Oncology Faces $2.3M HIPAA Settlement Cost after Breach

Company to pay US Department of Health and Human Services over potential HIPAA violations after patient medical data was stolen by cyberthieves.



21st Century Oncology and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights reached a $2.3 million settlement agreement, following a breach of the company's network SQL database and theft of the medical data and Social Security numbers of millions of patients.

The breach at the company, which provides cancer care and radiation oncology services, is believed to have occurred as early as October 3, 2015, when attackers gained access to a remote desktop protocol from an exchange server within the company's network. The attackers were then able to access 2.2 million patient medical records and Social Security numbers, according to the Health and Human Services (HHS) department.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notified 21st Century Oncology of the breach in 2015, after an FBI informant had illegally obtained the patient data from an unauthorized third party.

An investigation by the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) determined that 21st Century Oncology did the following:

  • Failed to conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the electronic protected health information.
  • Failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level.
  • Failed to implement procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports.
  • Failed to have a written business associate agreement before disclosing protected health information to third-party vendors.

As part of the company's settlement agreement, which is designed to address potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy and Security Rules, 21st Century Oncology will develop a comprehensive correction action plan that will include risk analysis and risk management, workforce education on policies and procedures, and an internal monitoring plan, HHS announced. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, received approval of the HHS OCR settlement from the bankruptcy court on December 11.

Read more about the settlement here.

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