Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

1/7/2013
01:07 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Healthcare Settlement Highlights Risk Analysis, Encryption Importance

HIPAA breach settlement proves size doesn’t matter when failing to safeguard sensitive patient information.

 7 Big Data Solutions Try To Reshape Healthcare
7 Big Data Solutions Try To Reshape Healthcare
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced the first HIPAA breach settlement involving fewer than 500 patients. The Hospice of North Idaho (HONI) agreed to pay $50,000 after an investigation found the organization had violated the HIPAA security rule. HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) began its investigation after HONI reported an unencrypted laptop containing electronic personal health information on 441 people was stolen in June 2010.

During the course of its investigation, OCR found HONI failed to conduct a risk analysis to protect personal health information throughout the organization, according to an HHS statement. In addition, the hospice didn't have "in place policies or procedures to address mobile device security, as required by the HIPAA security rule," the statement said. However, since the 2010 theft, the organization "has taken extensive additional steps to improve their HIPAA privacy and security compliance program."

OCR director Leon Rodriguez said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare that since the settlement was the first of its kind, he hopes it draws attention to OCR's overall monetary enforcement program, which "effectively delivers the message to the healthcare industry that we take privacy and security seriously," he said. "We're willing to work with providers and provide technical assistance to provide clear guidance and work with them on how to best provide education. But, at the same time, enforcement is now a reality throughout the industry."

[ To see how patient engagement can help transform medical care, check out 5 Healthcare Tools To Boost Patient Involvement. ]

Rodriguez added the settlement doesn't reflect a newfound focus on small breach reports on behalf of OCR. "Generally, we identify monetary enforcement cases by looking at situations we become aware of after a long-standing pattern of systematic non-compliance that correlates with the risk of the breach, not necessarily the breach itself," he said. "That's what brings out attention to a provider; it's more of what we see in terms of behavior of the provider once we look."

In regard to HONI, Rodriguez said two main issues came to light throughout the investigation. For starters, he said, the organization had failed to encrypt the device. "Lack of encryption is what's called an addressable requirement; it's a requirement but one that can be satisfied by applying a credible alternative ... [A provider] can do just as well with strong security or password protection."

The second issue, he added, was failure to conduct a risk analysis. According to Rodriquez, all organizations need to look at business processes and places where personal health information is stored, and take steps to mitigate risks of a breach. An inadequate risk analysis is a "global issue" among organizations, he said. Additionally OCR has found that, although there are alternatives to encryption, like HONI many organizations will either encrypt or "not do anything at all," he said. "In my semi-educated hypothesis about that, a lot of providers find at the end of the day that encryption is the safest and most cost-effective thing they can do to protect the information," he said.

A new educational initiative launched by HHS in December highlights other practical ways to protect patient data. The initiative, called "Mobile Devices: Know the Risks. Take the Steps. Protect and Secure Health Information," involves a set of tools providers and organizations can access online. Videos, fact sheets and posters that promote best practices to safeguard information are available for download.

Tech spending is looking up, but IT must focus more on customers and less on internal systems. Also in the new, all-digital Outlook 2013 issue of InformationWeek: Five painless rules for encryption. (Free registration required.)

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
jaysimmons
50%
50%
jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 6:01:16 AM
re: Healthcare Settlement Highlights Risk Analysis, Encryption Importance
I never like to see health organizations fined by the HHS, although in some cases it's warranted. Hopefully these fines will be enough to have other organizations seriously reconsider their encryption/security policies and take steps to improve the security compliance.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
4 Security Tips as the July 15 Tax-Day Extension Draws Near
Shane Buckley, President & Chief Operating Officer, Gigamon,  7/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15105
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Django Two-Factor Authentication before 1.12, stores the user's password in clear text in the user session (base64-encoded). The password is stored in the session when the user submits their username and password, and is removed once they complete authentication by entering a two-factor authenticati...
CVE-2020-11061
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
In Bareos Director less than or equal to 16.2.10, 17.2.9, 18.2.8, and 19.2.7, a heap overflow allows a malicious client to corrupt the director's memory via oversized digest strings sent during initialization of a verify job. Disabling verify jobs mitigates the problem. This issue is also patched in...
CVE-2020-4042
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Bareos before version 19.2.8 and earlier allows a malicious client to communicate with the director without knowledge of the shared secret if the director allows client initiated connection and connects to the client itself. The malicious client can replay the Bareos director's cram-md5 challenge to...
CVE-2020-11081
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
osquery before version 4.4.0 enables a priviledge escalation vulnerability. If a Window system is configured with a PATH that contains a user-writable directory then a local user may write a zlib1.dll DLL, which osquery will attempt to load. Since osquery runs with elevated privileges this enables l...
CVE-2020-6114
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
An exploitable SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Admin Reports functionality of Glacies IceHRM v26.6.0.OS (Commit bb274de1751ffb9d09482fd2538f9950a94c510a) . A specially crafted HTTP request can cause SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerabi...