Health Care Data Breaches: 5 Tips for Protecting Sensitive Information

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Defend Against External Threats

Millions of patient records are processed and stored across health care networks each year. And unfortunately, this data -- in transit or at rest -- is a high-value target for attackers. In order to mitigate external security threats, health care organizations must identify any areas of potential weakness. For instance, do you know if your systems are connected to external command and control applications? Do you know the types of reconnaissance and exploitation attempts that are being directed at your servers in the cloud? You can't protect against attacks you can't see, so continuous security monitoring can be helpful here. It can provide host-level intrusion detection based on behavior changes (rather than on specific attack signatures) and when deployed across your entire infrastructure, it can identify security gaps so you can take action and reduce your attack surface. Also, it's important for health care organizations to remember to secure their physical infrastructure. While cloud services are often mentioned in connection with health care data breaches, the majority of breaches are a result of outsiders taking advantage of an unattended mobile phone or laptop.

After high-profile data breaches at Anthem and Premera and a continual string of breaches at several smaller health care organizations, cybersecurity experts around the globe are dubbing 2015 the year of the health care data breach.

Why are all of these breaches happening? Simply put, the sensitive nature of personal health information makes this data a goldmine for attackers. Not only is the data itself appealing to obtain, but because of health care's extensive partner network — made up of providers, administrators, insurance companies, billing partners and more — health care data is often vulnerable at many points throughout the business process. According to a report from the Shared Assessments Program and Protiviti, third-party risk programs in the health care industry lack maturity and put confidential patient data at risk.

Additionally, with more and more health care organizations taking advantage of the accessibility and scalability of the cloud, the lack of focus on third-party security only creates more risk. Case in point: In September 2015, insurance claim data and other highly sensitive patient information was inadvertently posted on Amazon Web Services after an error was made by claims administration software provider Systema Software. So, what steps can health care organizations take to ensure their partner networks are not putting them at risk? In this slideshow, Brian Ahern, CEO of Threat Stack, provides five tips health care organizations can use to improve their security posture and better protect sensitive patient information.

 

Related Topics : Unisys, Stimulus Package, Security Breaches, Symantec, Electronic Surveillance

 
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