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Cyber Exposures Loom Large for Healthcare Providers


Cyber Exposures Loom Large for Healthcare ProvidersCybersecurity Must Become Top Priority for Healthcare Industry

According to a recent report by research center Ponemon Institute, criminal intrusions into health care systems have risen 100% in the past four years. Moreover, the FBI warned this past April that the health sector, amid mandatory transition to electronic health records, lacked the protections necessary to stem the rising threat of cyber crime. In fact, last month, the FBI sent another alert emphasizing the rise of “malicious actors” who prey on health care and medical device fields.

Demand for health records is high. The FBI estimates one record goes for $50 on the black market, much more than the few dollars often required for credit card numbers. Ponemon says breaches cost the healthcare industry up to $5.6 billion a year.

Yet the industry is struggling to keep hackers at bay, with criminals stealing patient records to file fake insurance claims, obtain prescription medication, or sell Social Security numbers. Just two week ago, federal officials disclosed that an intruder managed to install malicious software on HealthCare.gov, the government’s health insurance marketplace.

“It’s a war we’re in,” said John Halamka, the chief information officer of Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-chair of the Health IT Standards Committee, a federal group that advises the government, to the Boston Globe. “Hackers innovate and find new ways to get in and those who store data innovate and find new ways to keep them out. We’re leapfrogging back and forth.”

Part of the problem is that the healthcare is industry is focused on providing care, not operational security. In a survey conducted by BitSight Technologies, a Cambridge-based security ratings firm, it found that hospitals and other healthcare providers respond to data breaches more slowly than any other industry. It’s not as a high a priority for them as it should be, especially in light of the extent of data breaches occurring and the regulatory, notification and financial impact for healthcare providers. This industry, in fact, faces tougher notification requirements than many retailers. It must report data breaches that affect 500 or more individuals and adhere to a federal law that aims to protect patient privacy.

What’s more, it’s anticipated that cyber threats could only get worse with the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges and the rise of digitalized records.

The industry is scrambling to catch up to the threats that have now become the new normal. In addition to implementing technical security measures, it is taking steps to train staff. For example, The Health Information Trust Alliance, an organization that pushes information security in healthcare, partnered with Southern Methodist University in Dallas this year to create the first graduate program dedicated to addressing risk in health care organizations. The training is essential, the organization said, because “gaps in talent are proving more troubling than technical gaps.”

Putting cyber security as an organizational priority, training staff and implementing strong protocols is key to helping to mitigate the risks healthcare providers face. Part of this risk management strategy also includes having a broad Cyber Liability insurance program in place to respond in the event of a breach where patient data has been compromised. Axis Insurance Services provides Cyber insurance products to medical facilities and can help to implement a program that best fits an organization. For more information about how we can help you cover expenses in the event of a cyber attack, please give our professional staff a call at (877) 787-5258.

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Blogged on: September 18, 2014 by Mike Smith
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