data security

Data breach at UNC

March 31st, 2017

University of North Carolina Health Care recently suffered data breach. It is notifying patients of a potential data breach at two UNC Health Care obstetric clinics. The incident involved PHI of 1,300 prenatal patients. The data was transmitted to local county health departments inadvertently.

Data breach involved patients who completed Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Forms at their clinical visits between April 2014 and February 2017 at the Women’s Clinic at N.C. Women’s Hospital and UNC Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Rex.

“If you completed a Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Form, it may have included information about you, such as demographic information (like your name and address), your race and ethnicity, your Social Security number, information about your physical and mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, your HIV status, smoking, drug and alcohol use, and medical diagnosis information related to your pregnancy and any prior pregnancies,” UNC Health Care said in the notification letter.

UNC Health Care after the incident set up a call center. It has also changed/modified its process for submitting patient pregnancy forms. The new provision will ensure eligible patients forms for Medicaid are sent to county health departments. Staff is trained to handle new procedure.

UNC has also asked all county health departments to delete the electronic health information on non-Medicaid patients from their systems.

As per the statement:

“UNC Health Care is committed to providing its patients with superior health care services and takes very seriously its obligation to protect the privacy of patients’ medical information. While UNC Health Care does not believe that any of the patients will be at financial risk as a result of the release any of this information to county health departments, UNC Health Care included in the letters a number of options available to patients for monitoring and reviewing their credit reports and has offered fraud resolution services for any patient who suffers from identity theft as a result of this incident, free of charge.”

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Data breach due to computer virus

March 29th, 2017

Lane Community College (LCC) health clinic recently announced data breach when one of its technician  found a computer virus in the system. The incident has affected PHI of some patients.

As per the reports, virus was transmitting the names, addresses, phone numbers, diagnoses, and Social Security numbers to unidentified third party almost for a year. Facility has notified potentially impacted patients.

“We have no evidence that any of the information was transmitted (from LCC), but there’s the possibility,” LCC Vice President of College Services Brian Kelly said in a statement to the Register-Guard.

Facility conducted internal investigation. It checked 20 other computers at the health clinic. It concluded that only computer was infected with virus. The incident has affected 2,500 individuals.

LCC has advised patients to monitor their bank accounts. Suspicious activity or any threat should be reported to the police. The college health clinic also asked patients to report data breach to their banks, credit bureaus, and credit card companies.

July 2016 HIPPA Journal mentioned that, “Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations are now a fact of life.”

OCR breach portal do not include all the data breaches that are happening around. But the current breach reports gives us the idea of pattern –

48 data breaches were reported as unauthorized access

43 data breaches were attributed to hacking or network server incidents

37 breaches were caused by the loss or theft of devices used to store ePHI or the loss/theft of physical records

4 breaches were due to the improper disposal of records

Stolen records or exposed data includes pattern as below:

60% were due to hacking (2,703,961 records)

78% were due to loss/theft (1,342,125 records)

6% were the result of unauthorized access or disclosure (342,748 records)

63% were the result of improper disposal (118,594 records)

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Data breach at JobLink

March 25th, 2017

America’s JobLink (AJL) recently suffered data breach due to hacking incident. It works with state governments to help job seekers with necessary information across the United States. As per the reports, hacker viewed the personal information of job seekers across 10 states.

Affected information includes the names, Social Security numbers and birthdates of job seekers in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont. The incident has affected 4.8 million accounts.

After creating a new account hacker exploited a vulnerability  to access data. Company is working with law enforcement. It has also contracted a forensic firm to determine the extent of breach.

“The firm has verified that the method of the hacker’s attack has been remediated and is no longer a threat to the AJLA-TS system,” AJL mentioned.

Lisa Baergen, director of marketing at NuData Security said that whenever personally identifiable information (PII)  is involved, the stolen data can be cross-referenced with data from other breaches to present an even greater threat.

“As a society, we’ve reached the point where every organization entrusted with PII should be constantly testing and hardening its external and internal defenses, and embracing more proactive, effective levels of defense such as consumer behavior analytics solutions, which can constantly validate legitimate users — even when the stolen but accurate credentials are presented,” Baergen said. “That would be the best way to help prevent the sorts of deceitful transactions and identify theft that otherwise may lie ahead for these unfortunate JobLink victims.”

The recent surveys can be summarised as below. It shows the vulnerabilities present in the organizations:

  • Sixty nine percent of respondents mentioned that some of their organization’s existing security solutions are outdated
  • Ponemon Institute survey which was sponsored by Citrix mentioned that just 32 percent of respondents are confident that their employees’ devices are not providing criminals with access to their corporate networks and data
  • Forty eight percent of respondents said their organization has security policies
  • Thirty seven percent of respondents said their organization is highly effective in protecting sensitive data

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Data breaches due to unauthorized access

March 23rd, 2017

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health System recently announced data breach which affected over 2,700 patients. The incident occurred due to unauthorized access over a three-year period between January 3, 2014 and January 10, 2017.

Facility conducted investigation which found out that employees of community physician groups, and an employee of a contracted vendor had access to patient records without proper explanation. Concerned employees are terminated.

“As part of the health system’s partnership with community physicians, access is provided to their practices so they can view the medical records of their patients who are referred to the VCU Health System for care and treatment. Access also is provided to certain contracted vendors who provide medical equipment to patients for continuity of care at discharge from the hospital.”

Affected information included patient names, addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, health care providers, visit dates and Social Security numbers.

Facility is providing one year of free credit monitoring.

Second incident involves Tarleton Medical who announced data breach recently. Incident involves unauthorized access of a data server containing PHI from patient medical records.

Affected information included patient names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and healthcare claims information.

Facility did not mention number of individuals affected. As per the OCR reporting tool, incident affected 3,929 individuals.

“We have taken steps to enhance the security of TM patient information to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future,” the healthcare organization explained in its notification letter.

Tarleton Medical contacted FBI. It is also offering patients free access to a credit monitoring service for one year.

As per the statement, it advised patients to follow below guidelines:

You can follow the recommendations on the following page to protect your personal information. You can also contact ID Experts with any questions Please note that the deadline to enroll is three months following the date of this letter. To receive the aforementioned services, you must be over the age of 18, have established credit in the U.S., have a Social Security number in your name, and have a U.S. residential address associated with your credit file. Your services start on the date that you enroll in the services and can be used at any time thereafter for 12 months following  enrollment.

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Verifone suffers data breach

March 17th, 2017

Payment solutions provider Verifone recently announced data breach which affected its internal network.

Verifone CIO and senior vice president Steve Horan sent an email to employees and contractors. They need to change the password within 24 hours. Also, they will be blocked from installing software on a computer till investigation completes. It came to know about the breach from Visa and MasterCard.

Verifone spokesman Andy Payment mentioned that breach didn’t affect payment services network. “We believe today that due to our immediate response, the potential for misuse of information is limited,” he said.

The attack has been traced to Russian hacking group.

As per the statement, “According to the forensic information to date, the cyber attempt was limited to controllers at approximately two dozen gas stations, and occurred over a short time-frame. We believe that no other merchants were targeted and the integrity of our networks and merchants’ payment terminals remain secure and fully operational.”

“The fact that Verifone asked employees and contractors to change their passwords and restricted their control over their desktops and laptops suggests that the attackers followed the usual path to gain access to critical systems such as payment terminals: exploit different vulnerabilities to take control over the devices and the accounts of people already inside the company,” Balabit product manager Peter Gyongyosi told eSecurity Planet by email.

“This once again underscores the importance of a multi-layer, defense-in-depth approach to security,” Gyongyosi added. “Keeping endpoint devices completely secure, especially in a large enterprise, is an impossible task and organizations must prepare for situations where an attacker would gain access to internal accounts. Fine-grained access control and detailed monitoring of activities — especially those related to critical systems — and advanced analytics such as behavior analysis can help security teams gain an edge over the attackers.”

Fortune 1000 Security Performance is declining. Verifone is a member of the Fortune 1000.

“It is possible Fortune 1000 companies exhibit a higher frequency of system compromises due to having a large attack surface,” the report states. “Fortune 1000 companies tend to have a high number of employees, which often corresponds to more networked devices and more IP addresses owned. Criminals also may have more motivation to target these prominent companies as they manage PII, PCI and intellectual property.”

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CIA hacking docs on WikiLeaks

March 15th, 2017

WikiLeaks published the 1st part of documents which it claims are retrieved from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The initial upload consists of  8,761 documents and files.

“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal, including malware, viruses, Trojans, weaponized “zero-day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation,” the organization stated in a press release. “This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”

The source of the document is not clear. WikiLeaks mentioned that the documents were already in circulation among the group of hackers.

“The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons,” WikiLeaks stated.

The ways of surveillance includes:

  • Accessing Samsung smart TVs even when the units are turned off
  • Installing software in vehicle control systems in cars and trucks
  • Use of smartphones to access the camera, microphone, user location, audio and texts
  • Efforts are done to bypass encryption of WhatsApp

CIA spokesman Jonathan said “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”

Skyport Systems EVP Rick Hanson told “Donald Trump previously praised WikiLeaks during his campaign,” he said. “When an organization like WikiLeaks is lauded in any forum there is reason to be concerned.”

“We are losing the cybersecurity war to other nation states and [are] at a deficit in our ability to protect ourselves,” Carbon Black nation security strategist Eric O’Neill said by email. “Now with the release of one of our offensive playbooks, our ability to attack is compromised. All of these tools will now proliferate among those for whom breaching security is a business or profession, leading to additional attacks.”

Contrast Security CTO Jeff Williams mentioned that answer isn’t to focus on “cyber arms control,” which he said will never work. “We need a massive increased focus on writing secure code and defending against attacks,” he said.

“As a nation, we are simply incapable of reliably writing code that isn’t susceptible to these attacks,” Williams continued. “But it’s not impossible. It’s not even that difficult. But we have to change the incentives in the software market, which currently don’t encourage writing secure code.”

Access Now senior legislative manager Nathan White said “Today, our digital security has been compromised because the CIA has been stockpiling vulnerabilities rather than working with companies to patch them,” he said. “The United States is supposed to have a process that helps secure our digital devices and services — the ‘Vulnerabilities Equities Process.'”

“Many of these vulnerabilities could have been responsibly disclosed and patched,” White added. “This leak proves the inherent digital risk of stockpiling vulnerabilities rather than patching them.”

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Unauthorized employee access at Vanderbilt University

March 6th, 2017

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) recently suffered data breach when it came to know about the unauthorized employee access to patient medical records. As per the reports, concerned employee were working as patient transporters. Patients’ electronic medical records was accessed without necessary permissions.

As per the statement, “The breach prompted the medical center to change the way the patient transport staff gets information so that it no longer gives them access to electronic medical records. Staff in that department were also retrained about appropriate access to information. VUMC is in the process of migrating from its current electronic health record system to a new software system designed by Epic Systems.”

Facilty conducted an audit of electronic medical records (EHR) which was accessed by the employee.  As per the reports, two employees were involved in the breach who viewed adult and pediatric patient information, including patients’ names, dates of birth, and medical record numbers for internal use. One of them got access to patient Social Security numbers in a few instances.

VUMC mentioned that there is no information whether data was downloaded, transferred, or misused in any way. Affected patients received notification letter Facility has offered fraud or identity theft services. As per the report from The Tennessean, incident affected 3,247 medical records.

“We are committed to providing our patients the highest quality care and protecting the confidentiality of their personal information. To our knowledge, the information the employees viewed was not printed, forwarded or downloaded.  So far, we have no reason to believe that our patients’ personal information has been used or disclosed in other ways,” said VUMC Chief Communications Officer John Howser. “While we are not aware of any risk of financial harm to these patients, we are contacting each of them by letter to recommend that they vigilantly review account statements and their credit status.”

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Data breach due to hacking

March 2nd, 2017

Emory Healthcare’s Orthopaedics & Spine Center and Brain Health Center (EHC) at Emory Clinic recently suffered data breach, which impacted almost 80,000 patients. Facility came to know about the incident on Jan 3, 2017. It involved third party database called Waits & Delays. As per the statement, the affected database was used for patients’ appointment information.

Affected information included patient names, dates of birth, contact information, internal medication record numbers, dates of service, and physician names. The above information was removed from the server by an unauthorized individual. The person demanded payment from EHC to restore the data.

As per the reports, individuals who scheduled an appointment at the Orthopaedics & Spine Center within Emory Clinic between March 25, 2015 and January 3, 2017, and any patients with an appointment at Emory Clinic Brain Health Center between December 6, 2016 and January 3, 2016 are potentially affected.

As per the OCR data breach reporting tool, incident affected 79,930 individuals.  Facility mentioned that no Social Security numbers, financial information, diagnoses, or any other information from patient EHRs were accessed during the incident.

Another instance of unauthorized access by an independent security research center was also noticed. It resulted due to efforts of finding gaps in application security to alert companies of areas needing improvement by security company.

Facility launched an internal investigation after the incident. It also notified law enforcement. Potentially affected individuals are also notified. EHC is performing analysis on its current security measures. Internal and external systems which contained patient information will be changed as per the reports.

EHC mentioned that it has no information or indication of accessed data misuse.

“Please refer to the notice you will receive in the mail regarding steps that you can take to protect yourself. In general, we recommend, as a precautionary measure, that you remain vigilant to protect against potential fraud and/or identity theft by, among other things, reviewing your account statements and monitoring credit reports closely. If you detect any suspicious activity on an account, you should promptly notify the financial institution or company with which the account is maintained. You should also promptly report any fraudulent activity or any suspected incidents of identity theft to proper law enforcement authorities, including the police and your state’s attorney general.”

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Healthcare companies to increase security spending

February 26th, 2017

As per the recent survey of more than 1,100 senior security executives worldwide, here are the results-

  • Seventy six percent of global healthcare organizations plan to increase security budget
  • Eight one percent of U.S. healthcare organizations mentioned that they will increase the security budget

As per the survey conducted by Thales Data Threat, sixty percent healthcare are deploying to cloud, big data, and IoT or container environments without proper security measures.  Ninety percent believes that they can face data breach.

“For healthcare data to remain safe from cyber exploitation, encryption strategies need to move beyond laptops and desktops to reflect a world of Internet-connected heart-rate monitors, implantable defibrillators and insulin pumps,” Thales e-Security vice president of strategy Peter Galvin said in a statement. “Adhering to the security status quo will create vulnerabilities that lead to breaches, and further erode customer trust.”

As per the Redspin’s Breach Report there is increase in data breach incidents in 2016.

“Healthcare providers have become the primary targets of malicious hackers, and their attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and disruptive to operations,” Dan Berger, vice president at CynergisTek, said in a statement (Redspin is now part of the CynergisTek portfolio).

“The dramatic increase in hacking attacks in 2016, coupled with the large number of patient records copmromised in those incidents, points to a pressing need for providers to take a much more proactive and comprehensive approach to protecting their information assets in 2017 and beyond,” Berger added.

Accenture conducted survey which concluded that 26 percent of U.S. consumers faced data breach. Fifty percent faced medical identity theft.

“Health systems need to recognize that many patients will suffer personal financial loss from cyber attacks of their medical information,” Reza Chapman, managing director of cyber security in Accenture’s health practice, said in a statement. “Not only do health organizations need to stay vigilant in safeguarding personal information, they need to build a foundation of digital trust with patients to help weather the storm of a breach.

Fifty percent found the breach by themselves by looking at their credit card statement. Twenty five percent changed their healthcare providers after the breach. Twenty one percent changed insurance plan. And nineteen percent took help of legal counsel.

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Alertsec helps you comply with HIPAA, PCI and SOX requirements. The implemented encryption is powered by CheckPoint and has the highest security certifications: FIPS 140-2, Common Criteria EAL4 and BITS.

Unauthorized EHR access at medical centre

February 22nd, 2017

Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center recently announced data breach, which has potentially affected 600 patient medical record. During routine review of employee access to the hospital’s electronic health records, St. Joseph’s came to know about the incident.

“Dignity Health and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center are committed to furthering the healing ministry of Jesus, and to providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to the communities we serve.”

As per the reports, sections of patient medical records were viewed without authorization by a part time hospital employee. Facility has sent advisory letters to impacted patients.

St. Joseph’s mentioned that the records did not contain Social Security numbers, billing, and credit card information. It also added that there is “no reason to believe these patients need to take any action to protect themselves against identity theft.”

“Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is deeply committed to protecting its patients,” the statement explained. “Any person who accesses medical records without a job-related reason is in violation of St. Joseph’s policy and appropriate action has been taken in response to this event.”

The individuals who were patients at St. Joseph’s between Oct. 1, and Nov. 22, 2016 are notified. Potentially affected information included patient medical records, demographic information (e.g. names and dates of birth), and clinical data, such as doctor’s orders and diagnostic information.

“St. Joseph’s regrets any inconvenience caused by this incident. Letters have been mailed to patients whose medical records may have been viewed and the hospital has established a call center to answer any questions they may have. “

An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital patient’s record. EHRs are advantageous as they are  are real-time as well as patient-centric. It also contains broader view of patient’s record and care.

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