Failure to Encrypt Mobile Devices Leads to $3 Million HIPAA Settlement


The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has agreed to pay $3 million
to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS), and take substantial corrective action to settle
potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules. URMC includes healthcare components
such as the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Strong Memorial Hospital.
URMC is one of the largest health systems in New York State with over 26,000

URMC filed breach reports with OCR in 2013 and 2017 following its discovery
that protected health information (PHI) had been impermissibly disclosed
through the loss of an unencrypted flash drive and theft of an unencrypted
laptop, respectively. OCR’s investigation revealed that URMC failed to conduct
an enterprise-wide risk analysis; implement security measures sufficient to
reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level;
utilize device and media controls; and employ a mechanism to encrypt and
decrypt electronic protected health information (ePHI) when it was reasonable
and appropriate to do so. Of note, in 2010, OCR investigated URMC concerning a
similar breach involving a lost unencrypted flash drive and provided technical
assistance to URMC. Despite the previous OCR investigation, and URMC’s own
identification of a lack of encryption as a high risk to ePHI, URMC permitted
the continued use of unencrypted mobile devices.

“Because theft and loss are constant threats, failing to encrypt mobile
devices needlessly puts patient health information at risk,” said Roger
Severino, OCR Director. “When covered entities are warned of their
deficiencies, but fail to fix the problem, they will be held fully responsible
for their neglect.”

In addition to the monetary settlement, URMC will undertake a corrective action plan that includes two years of monitoring their compliance with the HIPAA Rules. The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found at

Source:  OCR

Note:  There are a number of reports on this site concerning breaches or incidents at URMC, including the 2013 incident. You can find them all linked from here,

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