Patients need to be notified sooner of ransomware dumps

In the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the use of dedicated leak sites where ransomware threat actors post the names of victims and dump some of their data to pressure them to pay demanded ransom.

In the U.S., HIPAA gives covered entities no more than 60 days from discovery of a reportable breach to notify HHS and individuals, but the regulation also says notification must be made “without unreasonable delay.”

But what constitutes “reasonable delay?” Is it reasonable to delay notification because you’re not yet sure which patients may have had their ePHI accessed or exfiltrated? Is it reasonable to leave everyone at risk when you know data with at least some ePHI have been dumped, even though you are not yet sure whose data got dumped and how many other patients’ may have had their data accessed or exfiltrated?

Do we need to revise HIPAA to mandate a faster publicly issued warning for publicly dumped PHI or somehow promote a “best practice” of an earlier warning alert system? examined a number of dedicated leak sites for listings involved medical/health entities in the U.S. and compiled descriptions of 30 incidents disclosed on such sites so far this.  For each incident, noted whether there is any indication that the incident has been reported to HHS or if there is any notice posted on the entity’s web site, or a media notice of any kind to alert patients that their ePHI has either been stolen and dumped or may have been stolen and dumped.

You can find the recap of the 30 incidents with comments in the attached file.

Download: Notifying Patients of Ransomware Incidents “…..WITHOUT UNDUE DELAY”  (pdf)

Update: subsequently discovered that the breach attributed to Kristin J. Tarbet by Maze threat actors may have been reported in the news under a related entity’s name, Amara Medical Aesthetics. Neither name appears on HHS’s public breach tool at this time, however.

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