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Learning Center Experience
By Dr. Satyendra Kaith, Adjunct Faculty, School of Business and Information Technology
In October 2014, the National Cyber Security
Alliance and numerous other champions celebrated the 11th year of National
Cyber Security Awareness Month(NCSAM). However, if recent news regarding the
massive wave of breaches suffered by Hollywood celebrities and retailing icons like
Home Depot and Target is not alarming enough, consider the real danger that
your own health data could be stolen by hackers. Let us consider some hard statistical
to an unclassified Private Industry Notification issued by Federal Bureau of
Investigation, “Cyber actors will likely increase cyber intrusions against
health care systems—to include medical devices—due to mandatory transition from
paper to electronic health records (EHR), lax cybersecurity standards, and a
higher financial payout for medical records in the black market.” The open
source reports included in this notification warn that the health care industry
is not even technically prepared to combat against cybercriminals’ basic
intrusion tactics, techniques, and procedures, much less against more advanced
persistent threats. These reports validate fears that compared to financial and
retail domains, the health care industry is even more vulnerable to cyber intrusions (Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2014).
For instance, the most
notable among these reports is a SANS Institute report raising red flags on the
security strategies and practices in health care, which are ill-equipped to
handle new cyber threats, such as hacking of patient medical records, billing
and payment organizations, and intellectual property. Further data analysis in
the report reveals multiple health care systems that were compromised, such as radiology
imaging software, digital video systems, faxes, printers, and security
application systems that include virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls,
and routers. When such health care systems are compromised, malicious traffic finds
its way to easily infect VPNs and firewalls. Interestingly, the biggest root
cause of vulnerability was the misconception of health care IT professionals that
their current security systems and compliance strategies were adequate, clearly
contradicting the data revealed in the SANS report.
A recent article in MarketWatch (Levin, 2014)
notes that nearly half of identity thefts involve medical data. The article
refers to a research finding by the Ponemon Institute revealing that since
2010, there has been a 100% increase in criminal attacks on health care
organizations. The institute’s Fourth Annual Benchmark Study on Patient
Privacy and Data Security outlines key security threats to patient
information that are causing health care organizations a huge headache (ID Experts, 2014).
The key threats include the Affordable Care Act, criminal attacks,
employee negligence, unsecured mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, laptops, and
tablets), and third parties. The institute’s chairperson and founder, Dr. Larry
Ponemon, is concerned about the latest trend involving criminal attacks on
hospitals, which have increased a staggering 100%. Dr. Ponemon claims that the
combination of insider-outsider threats presents a multilevel challenge. He
warns that health care organizations lack the resources to address this
Today’s rapidly changing IT network is more distributed and more virtual
than ever, leading to more data stored on remote endpoints, such as laptops and
smartphones, and increasingly accessed through collaborative cloud-based
applications. No wonder more sophisticated malware is targeting these
applications as ways to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. Furthermore,
mounting budget pressures are forcing organizations to look increasingly at
more distributed, heterogeneous, and virtual computing alternatives in order to
meet business objectives in a cost-effective manner.
In order to address these challenges, parties must collaborate
and seamlessly share information to address IT risk and systems management
requirements. Security experts recommend an integrated, end-to-end solution
that combines best-of-breed endpoint security and operations functions,
centralizes policy and event management, and scales across thousands of
endpoints to address endpoint management and security challenges (Lumension Security, 2014).
According to a 2014 security
forecast by Kroll Cyber Security, the data supply chain and the threat of
malicious insiders will pose continuing challenges to hospitals this year.
While organizations may have their own security in order, the same may not be
true for the business associates who handle their data. “What we’re seeing in
many cases is that as that data leaves the hospital it ends up in the hands of
third parties that may not have the same stringent requirements as the hospital
or health insurance plan. That is going to be a significant issue for the next
few years,” said Tim Ryan, managing director and cyber investigations practice
leader for Kroll (Due Diligence an IT Priority for
It is encouraging to learn that NCSAM has grown
exponentially in the last 11 years, reaching consumers, small and medium-sized
businesses, corporations, educational institutions, and young people across the
nation. For more information on NCSAM events, ways to get involved, the
NCSAM champion program, and additional resources, visit www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam.
In an encouraging development,
the Privacy and Security Committee of Healthcare Information and Management
Systems Society (HIMSS) is continuing with its ongoing guidance efforts for
implementation of strategic initiatives that promote the privacy and security
of health care information and management systems. The Privacy and Security
Committee guides implementation of strategic initiatives focused on promoting
the privacy and security of health care information and management systems for
meeting requirements of confidentiality, integrity, availability, and
accountability based on sound risk management practices, using recognized
standards and protocols. This committee also provides oversight for several
volunteer task forces and work groups.
Transforming health care through technology requires
continual joint efforts from the public and private sectors. I encourage
readers of this article to find their niche and start contributing their ideas
to HIMSS (www.himss.org) and to the
national health care agenda for minimizing cybercrimes, especially in health care.
Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2014, April 8). FBI Cyber
Division Bulletin: Health Care Systems and Medical Devices at Risk for
Increased Cyber Intrusions. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from FBI:
Due diligence an IT priority for 2014. (2014). Healthcare
Risk Management Review .
ID Experts. (2014, March 12). Criminal Attacks on
Healthcare Organizations Increase 100 Percent. Traverse City, Michigan: ID
Experts. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from ID Experts: http://www2.idexpertscorp.com/press/criminal-attacks-on-healthcare-organizations-increase-100-percent/
Levin, A. (2014, March 18). Nearly half of identity thefts
involve medical data. MarketWatch .
Lumension Security. (2014). Lumension® Endpoint
Management and Security Suite. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from
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