Athens Orthopedic Clinic Pays $1.5 Million to Settle HHS Charges of Systemic Noncompliance with HIPAA Rules
From HHS, a settlement notice involving one of thedarkoverlord’s victims. Athens Orthopedic Clinic is still facing a lawsuit from patients that made it all the way up to the Georgia Supreme Court on the issue of whether they had demonstrated enough harm to survive a motion to dismiss. Note: This blogger is the journalist referenced in HHS’s notice below and this site covered the Athens Orthopedic attack and incident response extensively in 2016 and thereafter (coverage linked from here).
Athens Orthopedic Clinic PA (“Athens Orthopedic”) has agreed to pay $1,500,000 to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to adopt a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules. Athens Orthopedic is located in Georgia and provides orthopedic services to approximately 138,000 patients annually.
On June 26, 2016, a journalist notified Athens Orthopedic that a database of their patient records may have been posted online for sale. On June 28, 2016, a hacker contacted Athens Orthopedic and demanded money in return for a complete copy of the database it stole. Athens Orthopedic subsequently determined that the hacker used a vendor’s credentials on June 14, 2016, to access their electronic medical record system and exfiltrate patient health data. The hacker continued to access protected health information (PHI) for over a month until July 16, 2016.
On July 29, 2016, Athens Orthopedic filed a breach report informing OCR that 208,557 individuals were affected by this breach, and that the PHI disclosed included patients’ names, dates of birth, social security numbers, medical procedures, test results, and health insurance information.
OCR’s investigation discovered longstanding, systemic noncompliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules by Athens Orthopedic including failures to conduct a risk analysis, implement risk management and audit controls, maintain HIPAA policies and procedures, secure business associate agreements with multiple business associates, and provide HIPAA Privacy Rule training to workforce members.
“Hacking is the number one source of large health care data breaches. Health care providers that fail to follow the HIPAA Security Rule make their patients’ health data a tempting target for hackers,” said OCR Director Roger Severino.
In addition to the monetary settlement, Athens Orthopedic has agreed to a robust corrective action plan that includes two years of monitoring. The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/athens-orthopedic-ra-cap.pdf – PDF*.
* People using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in this file. For assistance, contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights at (800) 368-1019, TDD toll-free: (800) 537-7697, or by emailing [email protected].
Of special note, and as I previously reported in covering this incident, it seemed that thedarkoverlord accessed AOC using credentials hacked from Quest Records. In the Corrective Action Plan, HHS noted that AOC had no business associate agreement in place with Quest, among others. In a statement to DataBreaches.net, Quest had claimed that they had notified their clients after discovering they had been hacked, but they did not answer my question as to when they notified AOC and whether it was before June 14 when the stolen credentials were used or not.
Later today, one of the members or associates of thedarkoverlord is scheduled to plead guilty for his role in five TDO attacks, one of which appeared to be Athens Orthopedic.