Risk
9/20/2012
08:59 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Medical Data Breach Highlights Need For Encryption

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary could have avoided a $1.5 million fine with an adequate risk analysis and relatively inexpensive encryption measures, say IT experts.

Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps
Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The recent data breach at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates once again screams the message: Encryption, encryption, encryption!

The provider has agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), after allegations were made that Mass. Eye and Ear failed to comply with certain requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards that govern the security of individually identifiable health information.

Mass. Eye and Ear declined to comment on the breach other than to release a statement that mentioned the hospital's proactive self-reporting of a doctor's unencrypted laptop being stolen while he was traveling abroad in 2010. The statement went on to say: "Given the lack of patient harm discovered in this investigation, Mass. Eye and Ear was disappointed with the size of the fine, especially since the independent specialty hospital's annual revenue is very small compared to other much larger institutions that have received smaller fines."

[ For another point of view on PHRs, see Why Personal Health Records Have Flopped. ]

HHS' Office for Civil Rights released a resolution agreement for the incident. During an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare, Mahmood Sher-Jan, vice president of product management at data breach response specialist ID Experts, said the incident was "a clear pattern of disregard" on behalf of MEEI, as well as a failure to comply with "a number of key elements of the HIPAA security rule."

"…In one of the first items [in the agreement], they mention the issue is more than portable devices," Sher-Jan said. "They concluded the entity didn't perform a risk analysis on an ongoing basis, and this goes all the way back to when the security rule was put into place back in 2005. Consequently, I think portable devices were impacted… [T]hey didn't have good policies and procedures around their own home devices, but also portable devices coming in and out that weren't owned by the entity…."

Chad Boeckmann, president at security program company Secure Digital Solutions, agreed with Sher-Jan and said in an interview that failure to conduct a risk analysis was "the big thing that was highlighted" in the agreement. "For quite some time, they weren't maintaining these requirements or being proactive. It's about maintaining due diligence," he said.

Boeckmann added the organization could have invested in encryption technology, which most likely would have cost them a "tenth of the cost of their fine." The technology would have helped MEEI meet HITECH requirements, he said, "as well as [help with] an organizational assessment to see their compliance with HIPAA and HITECH requirements, and manage the remediation to that degree."

InformationWeek Healthcare brought together eight top IT execs to discuss BYOD, Meaningful Use, accountable care, and other contentious issues. Also in the new, all-digital CIO Roundtable issue: Why use IT systems to help cut medical costs if physicians ignore the cost of the care they provide? (Free with registration.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
jaysimmons
50%
50%
jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/23/2012 | 2:17:47 AM
re: Medical Data Breach Highlights Need For Encryption
Why people continue to keep patient data on unencrypted machines is beyond me. I assume that we just need more education around how easily this can happen and better policies within organizations to help mitigate the risk. It seems like such an easy solution to such an epidemic problem.
Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-3946
Published: 2014-04-24
Cisco IOS before 15.3(2)S allows remote attackers to bypass interface ACL restrictions in opportunistic circumstances by sending IPv6 packets in an unspecified scenario in which expected packet drops do not occur for "a small percentage" of the packets, aka Bug ID CSCty73682.

CVE-2012-5723
Published: 2014-04-24
Cisco ASR 1000 devices with software before 3.8S, when BDI routing is enabled, allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (device reload) via crafted (1) broadcast or (2) multicast ICMP packets with fragmentation, aka Bug ID CSCub55948.

CVE-2013-6738
Published: 2014-04-24
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in IBM SmartCloud Analytics Log Analysis 1.1 and 1.2 before 1.2.0.0-CSI-SCALA-IF0003 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via an invalid query parameter in a response from an OAuth authorization endpoint.

CVE-2014-0188
Published: 2014-04-24
The openshift-origin-broker in Red Hat OpenShift Enterprise 2.0.5, 1.2.7, and earlier does not properly handle authentication requests from the remote-user auth plugin, which allows remote attackers to bypass authentication and impersonate arbitrary users via the X-Remote-User header in a request to...

CVE-2014-2391
Published: 2014-04-24
The password recovery service in Open-Xchange AppSuite before 7.2.2-rev20, 7.4.1 before 7.4.1-rev11, and 7.4.2 before 7.4.2-rev13 makes an improper decision about the sensitivity of a string representing a previously used but currently invalid password, which allows remote attackers to obtain potent...

Best of the Web