NY Hospital Security Breach Shows Vulnerabilities in Healthcare Cybersecurity

NY Hospital Security Breach Shows Vulnerabilities in Healthcare Cybersecurity

SUNY Upstate Hospital announced a former employee inappropriately accessed more than 1,200 patient records.

So far this year, 359 healthcare breaches at hospitals, health insurers and other organizations related to healthcare have been reported to the federal government. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 176.4 million health records were breached between 2010 and 2017. 

Included in this year's breaches is SUNY Upstate University Hospital - which announced 1,216 patient records were inappropriately accessed by an employee between Nov. 3, 2017 and Oct. 23, 2017 without having a legitimate reason to do so. 

The hospital recorded the breach to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, which investigates violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, a federal law that safeguards medical information. 

Upstate could face federal fines ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation if an investigation shows it was negligent. 

The breach included patient names, ages, diagnoses and services received. The hospital does not believe that any of the information accessed by the employee, who has not been charged with a crime, was misused in any way. Social Security numbers, insurance identification numbers, credit card information and other types of personal data often used by identity thieves were were not compromised. 

Patient data breaches have been rising as the cost of a medical record goes up on the black market. These days, a data thief could pay anywhere between $500 to $800. This information can be used to submit fraudulent insurance claims, obtain medical devices, get prescription drugs and blackmail people. 

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are not making it anymore difficult for thieves to get this information, however. Organizations are not taking the time to lay out proper procedures and put policies and controls in place to protect medical records.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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