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.