OCR Cybersecurity Newsletter: Defending Against Common Cyber-Attacks

From OCR’s newsletter today:

Throughout 2020 and 2021, hackers have targeted the health care industry seeking unauthorized access to valuable electronic protected health information (ePHI).  The number of breaches of unsecured ePHI reported to the U.S Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) affecting 500 or more individuals due to hacking or IT incidents increased 45% from 2019 to 2020.[i]. Further, the number of breaches due to hacking or IT incidents accounted for 66% of all breaches affecting 500 or more individuals reported to OCR in 2020.[ii]

Although some attacks may be sophisticated and exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities (i.e., zero-day attack), most cyber-attacks could be prevented or substantially mitigated if HIPAA covered entities and business associates (“regulated entities”) implemented HIPAA Security Rule requirements to address the most common types of attacks, such as phishing emails,[iii] exploitation of known vulnerabilities, and weak authentication protocols.  If an attack is successful, the attacker often will encrypt a regulated entity’s ePHI to hold it for ransom, or exfiltrate the data for future purposes including identify theft or blackmail.  Cyber-attacks are especially critical in the health care sector as attacks on ePHI can disrupt the provision of health care services to patients.  This newsletter explores preventative steps regulated entities can take to protect against some of the more common, and often successful, cyber-attack techniques.

Access the full March 17 newsletter at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/guidance/cybersecurity-newsletter-first-quarter-2022/index.html

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