Application Security

7/24/2018
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7 Ways to Better Secure Electronic Health Records

Healthcare data is prime targets for hackers. What can healthcare organizations do to better protect all of that sensitive information?
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January was not a particularly bad month for electronic health record (EHR) breaches. Still, in just those 31 days, nearly a half-million records were exposed to unauthorized viewers.

According to the HIPAA Journal, the top four breaches in January were all the result of hacking or an IT incident, exposing more than 387,000 records. While these numbers pale in comparison to the tens of millions of records involved in recent credit bureau and social media hacks, the sensitive nature of the records amplify the damage done.

What's more, the number of records lost to hacking or IT incident has steadily increased year over year since 2009 (though authors of the "January 2018 Healthcare Data Breach Report" note that at least some of that increase could be due to a lack of reporting in earlier years). 

The reports points to several reasons why healthcare breaches continue to occur. First, they're valuable records that have currency with criminals and nation-state actors. Next, healthcare organizations come in a dazzling array of sizes, with an equivalent array of IT security skill levels at their service. Finally, almost every step along the records trail involves a human, and humans are infamously fallible. So what's a conscientious organization to do?

In this article, we look at seven ways to better secure this sensitive healthcare data. This is far from an exhaustive list, but each one is something that an organization can reasonably do to reduce its risk. Of note, many of these points can be applied to any organization with sensitive data to protect.

Have you found other steps worth taking to protect sensitive data? What have you tried and found effective? Let us know in the comments section, below.

(Image: pandpstock001)

 

 

 

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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tdsan
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tdsan,
User Rank: Strategist
7/26/2018 | 3:06:35 PM
Re: The BEST way to secure electronic health records
I agree with the first person who commented on the article (patch fanatic) but there is something flawing with out thinking because the hacks are still occuring, even though the numbers are down, it is still happening. I do think there are a few things that we need to follow that most organizations don't do:

→ Training needs to be put at the forftont, we need to evaluate the talent we have on staff on a consistent basis

→ Firewalls, routers, switches and other network gear needs to be follow the NSA security guidelines and framework - https://www.vmguru.com/2017/04/sizing-your-vmware-infrastructure/ (we need to add to this guideline and continue to test so we can push the envelope (or at least get close)

→ We really need to remove IPv4 from the mix of solutions and move to an IPv6 (pure) environment

→ We need to have a moc setup where we pay someone to hack the environment and we test the people there by putting them into a scenario

→ Application programming methodologies need to be reviewed by qualified hackers who have a deveopment background

→ We need to employ machine learning in the mix of products where the technology is always checking to see who is accessing what and reporting or even thwarting it

→ We need to automate the pentesting process but tailor it to our needs, get it to the point that the vulnerabilities can be mitigating by a autonomic programming change

→ We need to prioritize the threats or vulnerabilities, schedule weekend schedule patch and system updates to ensure the systems meet a certain severity level (sev1-5) and if the sev level is reviewed by outside vendor (reputable)

→ Implement next generation firewalls, endpoint monitoring, NMS, HIDS, NIDS, Zone/Layering and application integration without our existing security tools

→ We need a protocol monitoring device that identifies and baselines relationships between systems and applications, if there is an outside presence, then the system needs to tell us

→ Move pertinent data to zone 0, do not install DB on Web applications (separation of duties) and only allow data to write after a cleansing or holding area (similar to ACH) to ensure the data has not been compromised

→ If multiple records have been extracted by an outside source (Database), there needs to be a warning and action to go along with this potential threat, or at least after 10 records, then something needs to stop the data extraction (notification or autonomic stoppage)

→ If we are not doing business with a specific country, then block those countries that are not in our purvey using ACLs, NGFW with Country blocking capability

→ DNS needs to be configured with DNSSEC using specific keys that are stored in a safe place and only allow queries (recursive) to be done by systems that are internal, anything from the outside trying to access and perform lookups internally with outside IP addresses need to be thwarted

There are other things but this all I can think of right now.

Todd
paul.dittrich
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paul.dittrich,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2018 | 3:36:35 PM
The BEST way to secure electronic health records
My #1 suggestion:

Be an absolutely merciless fanatic about patching and updating your software.  All of it.  Every day.  On every device you own.

The suggestions in the column are certainly valid but some of them require external experts and/or a higher level of technical skill than simply updating existing software.  IMO, keeping all software 100% up-to-date is the single most important security measure for just about every organization.
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