Health data hacking explodes in 2021

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In 2021, healthcare organizations saw cybercrime triple from the previous three years, according to a new POLITICO report.

That added up to 50 million patients with exposed health data, he reported, based on analysis of more than six years of data reported to the HHS Office of Civil Rights.

“Unfortunately, the industry is a pretty easy choice, and they get there because they get paid,” CynergisTek CEO Mac McMillan told the news site. “His [not] going to slow down until we get more serious about stopping it, or blocking it, or being more efficient. From the cybercriminals point of view, they succeed, they get paid, why would they stop? »

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A number of forces have led to the surge in hacking – a greater reliance on digital data due to Covid, remote working which exposes more personal data from private, unsecured devices connected to networks, the increasing value of health and financial data found in healthcare databases, and more crime reporting as the industry becomes more vigilant.

Unfortunately, the importance of data sharing in modern healthcare settings makes the challenge both tougher and more difficult, especially as patients and providers must rely on it to deliver care in a meaningful way. efficient and profitable.

“Because the data is starting to move more freely, that’s kind of the cost of doing business,” Aaron Maguregui, senior attorney at Foley & Lardner, told POLITICO.

Just this week, and shortly after White House warnings of possible Russian cyberattacks, the issue was addressed in a new bill, specifically targeting cybercrime against the healthcare sector, introduced by US senators. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

Their Healthcare Cybersecurity Act would direct the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collaborate on how to improve cybersecurity measures in hospitals and other healthcare centers. health, according to a statement released by Cassidy.

“Health centers save lives and hold a lot of sensitive personal information. This makes it a prime target for cyber attacks,” Dr. Cassidy said, noting that “this bill protects patient data and public health by strengthening our resilience to cyber warfare.”

The issue is even more critical because of the threats arising from the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

“Given the threat of Russian cyberattacks, we must take proactive steps to improve the cybersecurity of our healthcare and public health entities,” Rosen said. “Hospitals and health centers are part of our critical infrastructure and are increasingly the target of malicious cyberattacks, which can lead to data breaches, increased cost of care and negative health outcomes for patients. This bipartisan bill will help strengthen cybersecurity protections and protect lives.

The bill includes a number of measures to address cyber threats, including requiring CISA and HHS to enter into an agreement to strengthen cybersecurity, provide cybersecurity training to medical professionals, launch a study to assess a closer look at the risks and an assessment of various cybersecurity. labor shortages.

The issue raises risks for patients whose data has been exposed – and also exposes healthcare software vendors to potential liability claims. In January, EHR provider QRS was sued over a data breach that occurred in its patient portal system in August by Kentucky resident Matthew Tincher. The breach potentially compromised his health information and that of nearly 320,000 other people.

QRS is a provider of practice management systems and Paradigm EHRs.

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