Black Book market research in its findings said that data breaches to be faced by health care industry will triple with over 1,500 healthcare providers are vulnerable to data breaches of 500 or more records, representing a 300% increase over 2020.
The largest healthcare data breach of 2020 was a ransomware attack on the cloud service provider Blackbaud Inc. The actual number of records exposed and obtained by the hackers has not been made public, but more than 100 of Blackbaud’s healthcare clients were affected and more than 10 million records are known to have been compromised.
The breach does not appear on the OCR breach portal, as each entity affected has reported the breach separately. Furthermore the report stated that 90% of health system and hospital employees who are now working remotely due to the outbreak of COVID-19 were not given any updated security guidelines or training on accessing sensitive patient data.
What the Hackers did?
Prior to deploying ransomware, the hackers stole the fundraising and donor databases of many of its clients which included information such as names, contact information, dates of birth, and some clinical information. Victims included Trinity Health (3.3 million records), Inova Health System (1 million records), and Northern Light Health Foundation (657,392 records).
25% year-over-year increase in healthcare data breaches and have doubled since 2014. 1.76 data breaches of 500 or more healthcare records were reported each day in 2020. One breach involved more than 10 million records and 63 saw more than 100K records breached. Hacking/IT incidents accounted for 67% of data breaches and 92% of breached records.
Main Causes of 2020 Healthcare Data Breaches
Hacking and other IT incidents dominated the healthcare data breach reports in 2020. 429 hacking/IT-related data breaches were reported in 2020, which account for 66.82% of all reported breaches and 91.99% of all breached records.
These incidents include exploitation of vulnerabilities and phishing, malware, and ransomware attacks, with the latter having increased considerably in recent months.
A recent report from Check Point revealed there was a 71% increase in ransomware attacks on healthcare providers in October, and a further 45% increase in healthcare cyberattacks in the last two months of 2020. Some of the year’s largest and most damaging breaches to affect the healthcare industry in 2020 involved ransomware. In many cases, systems were taken out of action for weeks and patient services were affected. Ryuk, Sodinokibi (REvil), Conti, and Egregor ransomware have been the main culprits. The healthcare industry has been heavily targeted throughout the pandemic.
According to Emsisoft, at least 560 healthcare facilities in the United States were affected by ransomware attacks in 2020, across 80 separate incidents.
Unauthorized access/disclosure incidents accounted for 22.27% of the year’s breaches and 2.69% of breached records.
Incidents include the accessing of healthcare records my malicious insiders, snooping on medical records by healthcare workers, accidental disclosures of PHI to unauthorised individuals, and human error that exposes patient data.
Location of Breached Protected Health Information
The increased use of encryption and cloud services for storing data have helped to reduce the number of loss/theft incidents.
Phishing attacks are still a leading cause of data breaches in .
Email account breaches were reported at a rate of more than 1 every two days in 2020, also include breaches through network servers. Network servers often store large amounts of patient data and are a prime target for hackers and ransomware gangs.
A significant percentage of breaches in 2020 involved paper/film copies of protected health information which were obtained by unauthorized individuals, lost, or disposed of in an insecure manner.
Entities Suffered the Most Data Breaches in 2020
The pie chart below shows the breakdown of HIPAA covered entities affected by data breaches of 500 or more records in 2020. Healthcare providers suffered the most breaches with 497 reported incidents.
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