By Ilia Sotnikov, vice president of product management, Netwrix.
On February 21, UConn Health reported that personally identifiable information (PII) from 326,000 patients was compromised. A malicious third party illegally gained access to several employee email accounts that contained patient names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, and limited medical information, such as billing and appointment information.
What is most important about this data breach is that the hackers were not necessarily looking for patient medical records — they seem to have been looking for any personal information they could steal. That vividly illustrates the importance of having stringent policies to protect PII, supported by employee training on best security practices. Specifically, there are three lessons to learn from this event if you want to mitigate your risk of suffering a similar breach.
Lesson #1. Classify your sensitive data
The 2018 Netwrix IT Risks Report shows that healthcare organizations generally lack proper data governance practices and rarely check what data they store and how sensitive it is. The majority of respondents classify data based on its sensitivity (61 percent) and clear up unnecessary data (67 percent) only once a year or even less often.
It’s estimated that by 2020, each person will generate 1.7 MB of data every second. However, not all of that data needs special protection. Therefore, an effective strategy is to develop a data classification policy to discover all the data you have and classify it according to your organization’s needs. That way, you can prioritize your security efforts on the data that deserves it the most. At the same time, you can eliminate duplicate and unneeded files, which will reduce your attack surface area and lower your storage and backup costs.
Health IT’s most pressing issues may be so prevalent that they can’t be contained to a single post, as is obvious here, the second installment in the series detailing some of the biggest IT issues. There are differing opinions as to what the most important issues are, but there are many clear and overwhelming problems for the sector. Data, security, interoperability and compliance are some of the more obvious, according to the following experts, but those are not all, as you likely know and we’ll continue to see.
Here, we continue to offer the perspective of some of healthcare’s insiders who offer their opinions on health IT’s greatest problems and where we should be spending a good deal, if not most, of our focus. If you’d like to read the first installment in the series, go here: Health IT’s Most Pressing Issues. Also, feel free to let us know if you agree with the following, or add what you think are some of the sector’s biggest boondoggles.
Michael Fimin, CEO and co-founder, Netwrix
The largest concern of any healthcare organization is protecting patient personal data. Every year healthcare entities of all sizes become victims of data leaks, fresh examples are both Anthem and Premera Blue Cross, and lose thousands of dollars mainly because of employee misbehave or human error. Being not an easy one to prevent, human factor sets IT pros a number of challenges to cope with:
1. Insider threat. Unfortunately, privilege abuse is a primary root cause for many data breaches. No matter if an employee is breaking bad or his credentials were stolen, sensitive data is put at risk. The only way to prevent insider threats is to have visibility into the IT infrastructure and be able to track any changes made to both security configurations and data. Monitor user activity and establish rigorous control over accounts with extended privileges. Regularly review all access rights to ensure that permissions are granted adequately to employees’ business needs.
2. Security of devices. In 2014 healthcare organizations suffered from physical theft or loss of electronic devices more than any other industry, said the Verizon 2014 DBIR. Without proper identity and authentication management personal data stored on these devices can be easily accessed by adversaries, leading to financial and reputational losses. If your employees’ laptop or tablets end up in the wrong hands, encryption, two-factor authentication and ability to manage the device remotely will protect your data, or at least will make hacker’s job much harder.
3. Employees’ negligence. Deliberate or accidental mistakes pose more danger to data integrity than you might think. A simple email with confidential data sent to the wrong address may lead to a huge data leak. Make sure that your employees are familiar with the company’s security policy and are aware of what they should do to maintain security each person in the company should clearly understand that integrity of information assets is their personal responsibility.
Dr. Barry Chaiken, chief medical information officer, Infor Healthcare providers organizations invested billions of dollars purchasing and implementing electronic medical records with this investment driven by the economic incentives provided by the HITECH Act. Now that these systems are installed an up and running, organizations struggle to obtain real value from these investments. These systems were implemented with speed in mind rather than clinical transformation that improved quality and reduced costs. Now, organizations must embrace clinical transformation and change management to redo workflows and processes to effectively impact care. Organizations cannot justify their investment in EMRs unless they rework their EMR implementations to obtain true value from their deployment.”