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Insiders Behind Most Breaches Of Patient Health Data

Most healthcare organizations say they've been hit by breaches of patient data in the past year
More than 70 percent of healthcare organizations have suffered one or more breaches exposing patient health information in the past 12 months -- most of which originated from insiders, not cybercriminals.

A new report published today by Veriphyr, which offers identity and access intelligence services, found that employees peeking at other employees' medical records was the most common source of a breach (35 percent), followed by snooping into friends' and relatives' records (27 percent), loss or theft of physical records (25 percent), and loss/theft of equipment housing patient data (20 percent).

"Medical employees looking at fellow medical employees' information is the No. 1 type of breach," which was surprising, says Alan Norquist, CEO and founder of Veriphyr. "And their No. 1 concern was about employees looking at other employees' records."

It took anywhere from one to three days (30 percent) to two to four weeks (17 percent) for the healthcare organizations surveyed to detect a breach; 25 percent of them said they resolved it within two to four weeks, 18 percent in one week, and 16 percent in one to three days. Nearly 80 percent were concerned that their existing tools don't detect these breaches in a timely way. And more than half said they don't have tools for monitoring unauthorized or inappropriate access to their patient data.

But even more interesting was that 80 percent said their senior management provides support for their security compliance efforts, and 65 percent said their upper-level management takes action based on their recommendations "in a timely manner."

That's unusual, Norquist says, because security pros are often frustrated that the recommendations they make to management aren't acted upon. "In healthcare, there seems to be alignment" when it comes to privacy, he says, which is good news.

Meanwhile, cybercriminals aren't attacking these organizations as much as their employees are by snooping: Some are even being recruited by cybercriminals to steal or leak information so it can be sold and monetized on the black market, according to Norquist.

"The move to electronic records is a huge shift ... and they need the right monitoring tools," he says.

A full copy of the "Survey of Patient Privacy Breaches" report is available here.

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