Risk
3/5/2012
02:52 PM
50%
50%

5 Steps To Assess Health Data Breach Risks

New report delves into the threats healthcare providers face for potential patient data breaches, and provides steps and tools to help assess those risks.

Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
Health Data Security: Tips And Tools
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

A new report outlines the financial costs of breaches of protected health data--and offers a five-step method for healthcare providers of any size to assess their risk.

In the last two years, the protected health information (PHI) of 18 million Americans was breached electronically, according to "The Financial Impact of Breached Protected Health Information—A Business Case for Enhanced PHI Security," a collaborative research effort by more than 70 healthcare providers, payers, legal firms, security products, services firms, and other organizations. During that time, about 66% of healthcare data breaches have involved lost or stolen devices, such as mobile devices and laptop computers. Still, the biggest threats,"are not hackers….but professional, well financed and often state supported" cybercriminals, said Larry Clinton, president of Internet Security Alliance, a cybersecurity trade association that participated in the research project.

The overwhelming theme of the report's findings was that the healthcare system is founded on patients' trust that their medical information is private and secure. Unfortunately, although electronic health records are a "game changer" for improving access to patient information for better-coordinated, quality care, they also expose millions of patient records to cybercriminals, said Joe Bhatia, president and CEO of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), another research participant, during a teleconference discussing the report.

[ Apathy, not security concerns, stop people from taking advantage of EHRs, says Paul Cerrato. See Why Personal Health Records Have Flopped. ]

"Now [trust] will be severely tested as more healthcare providers adopt e-health records," making PHI increasingly vulnerable to loss, theft, disclosure, he said. Breaches of healthcare data are not only expensive to affected healthcare providers financially due to potential regulatory fines, lawsuits and settlements, but also have great repercussions clinically, operationally and on organizations' reputations.

For patients, the breaches also are potentially damaging for a number of reasons, ranging from possibly destroying individuals' trust in their providers; unauthorized access and distribution of highly personal information; safety risks in care if health data is altered; to identity theft.

The research aims to provide healthcare business leaders with a clearer understanding of what's at risk when healthcare data is breached, and also provide tools to help health IT leaders--CIOs, chief security officers, and compliance teams--to assess their organizations' potential risks and the impact of health data privacy and security violations.

To help healthcare leaders better assess their risks, the researchers created a five-step methodology that includes an estimator tool. The free tool, included with the report, predicts overall potential data breach costs, and appropriate level of investment needed to improve privacy and security vulnerabilities to reduce the chance of a breach incident.

Protecting health data isn't a technology issue, but also involves people, policies, and procedures, said Lynda Martel, director of privacy compliance communication at DriveSavers Data Recovery, a security services firm.

The five steps are: conduct a risk assessment; determine a security readiness score; assess the relevance of a cost; determine a breach's impact; and calculate the total cost of a breach.

The methodology can be used by healthcare providers of any size, including large hospitals to small physician practices, said the researchers. The healthcare providers would take into consideration the number of patient records, where the records are stored, how they're shared, who has access to data, and other factors.

"When it comes to cybersecurity, we all have a role," said White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt during the teleconference discussing the report.

Among those that have a responsibility to protect health data include clinicians at the point care; payers; clinical support organizations like labs and pharmacies; business associates including pharmacy benefit managers and other administrators; IT services firms such as software services, cloud computing and outsourcing firms; and other players, including law firms and consulting firms.

The cost "on the street" of a stolen medical record is $50, versus about $1 for a stolen social security records, said Catherine Allen, CEO of the Santa Fe Group, a consulting firm that contributed to the report. "This is very valuable data," she said. And while HIPAA fines from the federal government can range up to $1 million annually for an organization that has a breach, lawsuit settlements involving patients affected by those violations "are in the $20 million range," said Jim Pyles, an attorney and principal of law firm Power Pyles Sutter & Versville, during the teleconference.

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: You are infected!  @malwareunicorn to the rescue...  
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.