Email Account Breach at Charles J. Hilton & Associates P.C. and Nevada Health Centers

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has made an announcement that the protected health information (PHI) of around 36,000 patients was possibly accessed by unauthorized people after a cyberattack on a firm that offers UPMC legal services related to billing.

In June 2020, Charles J. Hilton & Associates P.C. (CJH) detected suspicious activity in the email account of its staff and began an inquiry. On July 21, 2020, CJH established that hackers obtained access to the email accounts of some of its staff between April 1, 2020 and June 25, 2020.

Computer forensics experts carried out a comprehensive investigation into the breach to find out which information the hackers accessed or acquired. UPMC stated it received a notice concerning the breach last December 2020 validating that attackers obtained the patient data. CJH is presently delivering notification letters to all patients likely impacted by the incident. UPMC mentioned that no system was affected not even its electronic medical record system. The sole information affected was patient data furnished to CJH to deliver its agreed-upon billing-associated legal services.

CJH explained the breached accounts comprised names, birth dates, financial or bank account numbers, State Identification Card Numbers Social Security Numbers, driver’s license numbers, electronic signatures, Medicare or Medicaid identification numbers, healthcare record numbers, patient control numbers, patient account numbers, trip numbers, visit numbers individual health insurance or subscriber numbers, group medical insurance or subscriber numbers, medical benefits and entitlement details, disability access and accommodation, and data connected to occupational-health, drug tests, symptoms, diagnosis treatment, medicines, invoicing or claims, and/or disability.

CJH is giving free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services membership to persons impacted by the breach.

Nevada Health Centers Notifies Patients Concerning Email Account Breach

Nevada Health Centers reported that the PHI of some of its patients was possibly compromised. From November 20 to December 7, 2020, an unauthorized person remotely signed into an employee’s email account containing patient data.

The individual who signed into the account seemed to be from abroad, as one of the login attempts used an IP address from South Africa. The attack seems to be meant to get Nevada Health Centers’ financial data instead of patient health information, though it is likely that patient data was seen or acquired during the attack. Nevada Health Centers stated that there’s no proof found that PHI was accessed or stolen.

The breached email account was found to include patient names along with at least one of these types of data: Address, telephone number, birth date, gender, race, ethnicity, insurance details, appointment data, medical record number, provider name, and service location(s). The number of patients affected by the breach is presently uncertain.

Multinational Law Enforcement Campaign Takes Down the Emotet Botnet

Europol reported that the infamous Emotet Botnet was taken down in connection with a multinational law enforcement operation. Law enforcement institutions in the United States, Canada, and Europe took charge of the Emotet infrastructure, which is composed of hundreds of servers worldwide.

The Emotet botnet was a much talked about malware botnets in the last ten years and the Emotet Trojan was perhaps the most threatening malware variant to appear in recent years. The operators running the Emotet was a very experienced cybercrime provider and played a major role in the cybercrime world. The Emotet botnet is used in approximately 30% of all malware attacks.

The Emotet Trojan was initially discovered in 2014 and was, in the beginning, a banking Trojan, however, the malware turned into a far more damaging threat and utilized for a lot of cybercriminal operations. The Emotet Trojan worked as a backdoor into computer networks and access was offered for sale to other cybercriminal groups for carrying out data theft, malware syndication, and extortion. Emotet was employed to transmit Qakbot And Trickbot, which subsequently were utilized to send ransomware variants including Conti Ryuk, Prolock And Egregor.

When a device was affected by the Emotet Trojan it is going to be added to the botnet and utilized to contaminate other systems. Emotet can pass on laterally throughout systems and hijacked email accounts to transmit duplicates of itself to contacts. The Emotet group brought phishing to the subsequent level and their efforts were remarkably successful. A big selection of baits was employed to raise the likelihood of opening the email messages and installing the malware. Emotet likewise hijacked message posts and placed itself into email chats to raise the likelihood of opening up malicious attachments.

The law enforcement campaign was planned for approximately 2 years and was a joint effort between regulators in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States, with the campaign organized by Europol and Eurojust.

The facilities utilized to manage the botnet was distributed over hundreds of servers, all of which carried out diverse functions and were employed to take care of infected computer systems, circulate copies of the Emotet Trojan, exfiltrate information, and give services to other cybercrime organizations. The Emotet gang had furthermore built resiliency into its structure to averting any takedown efforts.

To eliminate the infrastructure and avert any initiatives at restoration, the operation was organized and law enforcement bureaus took command of servers concurrently from within. The servers are currently under the command of law enforcement and a module that removes the malware is by now being circulated. Europol affirms the malware is going to be deleted from infected systems on March 25, 2021.

Aside from drastically stopping the operation, many members of the Emotet group in Ukraine assumed to be operating the botnet were detained and other apprehensions will soon follow.

Email Security Breaches at Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Einstein Health Network

Roper St. Francis Healthcare has advised 189,761 patients regarding an unauthorized person who accessed some of their protected health information (PHI) located in employee email accounts. The provider discovered the email security breach at the end of October 2020. The investigation showed the compromise of three email accounts between October 14 and October 29, 2020.

An analysis of the email accounts was carried out to ascertain if there was potential access to information. It was impossible to make certain if the unauthorized individual viewed or exfiltrated patient data, though the attacker possibly got access to names, birth dates, patient account numbers, medical record numbers, and limited treatment and clinical data, including locations and dates of service, providers’ names, and billing details. The email accounts likewise included the health insurance data and Social Security numbers of selected patients.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare provided free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to the persons whose Social Security number was likely compromised. Steps were undertaken to strengthen email security and workers were furnished with more training on email safety.

Einstein Healthcare Network Provides Supplemental Details Concerning the August 2020 Email Security BreachBreach

Einstein Healthcare Network in Pennsylvania is informing patients concerning a phishing attack that was uncovered last summer of 2020. The healthcare company manages medical centers in Elkins Park, East Norriton, and Philadelphia. Strange email account activity was noticed on August 10, 2020. Upon investigation of the occurrence, it was confirmed that an unauthorized individual accessed a number of employee email accounts from August 5, 2020 to August 17, 2020.

The network performed an evaluation of the compromised email accounts to find out whether they stored any patient information. The evaluation showed that the email messages and attachments had these types of patient information: Names, patient account numbers, medical record numbers, dates of birth, diagnoses, prescription drugs, types of treatment, provider names, and treatment locations. The types of data in the accounts were different from one patient to another. The Social Security numbers and medical insurance details of certain patients were likewise included.

It was impossible to ascertain if the unauthorized person had read or exfiltrated patient records while accessing the email accounts. Einstein Healthcare Network delivered a set of breach notification letters to persons possibly impacted by the incident beginning on October 9, 2020. The provider reported the breach to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights as well. The OCR breach portal detailed the breach as affecting 1,821 patients.

Based on Einstein Healthcare Network’s substitute breach notice, the investigation ended on November 16, 2020. More letters had been sent by mail between January 21, 2021 and February 8, 2021.

Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services Reports an Email Incident

The Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) located in New York found out the compromise of the email accounts of selected employees. Hackers accessed the email accounts from July 6 to October 4, 2020.

Upon investigation of the incident, CASES learned that the hackers exfiltrated email messages from the accounts including patient information. For the majority of patients, the stolen data included names, birth dates, medical record/client ID number, and certain clinical data associated with the care given by CASES. The hackers also stole the Social Security number, driver’s license number, and/or medical insurance details of a number of clients. CASES offered the affected people free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

The company likewise took steps to enhance email security and gave the employees additional security awareness training.

Excellus Health Plan Pays $5.1 Million Penalty to Settle HIPAA Violation Case

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has reported that health insurance provider Excellus Health Plan has consented to pay a $5.1 million fine to resolve its HIPAA violation case arising from a data breach that impacted 9.3 million people in 2015.

Excellus Health Plan discovered the breach in 2015. The large-scale data breaches associated with health insurance providers Anthem Inc. (78.8 million breached records) and Premera Blue Cross (10.6 million breached records) were discovered that year. The three companies have already resolved the breach investigations and paid OCR sizeable financial penalties.

Excellus Health Plan, dba Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Univera Healthcare operates in Western and Upstate New York. In August 2015, the health insurance provider uncovered hackers had acquired access to its computer programs. The breach investigation showed that the hackers first accessed its systems around December 23, 2013 up to May 11, 2015. Excellus reported the breach to OCR on September 9, 2015.

The hackers infected its systems with malware, conducted reconnaissance, and accessed the healthcare information of about 7 million members of Excellus Health Plan and roughly 2.5 million members of Lifetime Healthcare, a non-BlueCross subsidiary. The hackers accessed information such as names, contact details, birth dates, health plan ID numbers, Social Security numbers, claims information, financial account data, and clinical treatment details.

OCR began investigating the Excellus breach in June 2016 to find out if Excellus Health Plan complied with the HIPAA Security, Privacy, and Breach Notification Guidelines. The investigation discovered five requirements of the HIPAA Rules that Excellus likely failed to comply.

OCR confirmed the health plan did not perform a correct and comprehensive company-wide risk analysis to determine risks and vulnerabilities to the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of its members’ electronic protected health information (ePHI). There were not enough measures enforced to minimize risks and vulnerabilities to ePHI to a good and acceptable level, nor technical policies and procedures that made it possible for authorized individuals and applications to access systems that contain ePHI. Because of these problems, unauthorized people acquired access to the PHI of 9,358,891 members. Excellus only discovered the breach after over 18 months. OCR discovered the lack of policies and procedures necessitating routine checks of data system activity.

Excellus Health Plan agreed to pay the financial penalty to end the further investigation and official proceedings without admission of liability. Aside from paying the financial charges, Excellus followed a corrective action plan that addresses all aspects of potential noncompliance determined by OCR in the course of the investigation. Excellus will be under OCR’s monitoring for 2 years to make sure continued HIPAA compliance.

Hacking is still the biggest threat to the security and privacy of PHI. In this instance, the health plan failed to stop hackers from accessing its health record system and did not detect them for over a year which compromised the privacy of millions of people. Hackers are innovative and persistent, so health care organizations should step up to safeguard the privacy of health data from hackers.

This is OCR’s second HIPAA enforcement action in 2021. The first was the $200,000 settlement with Banner Health to take care of potential HIPAA Right of Access violations.

Ransomware Attacks at Lake Region Healthcare and the University of Vermont Health Network

Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minnesota is looking into a ransomware attack that was earliest noticed on December 22, 2020. The ransomware attack affected several systems of the healthcare provider resulting in some interruption of regular operations at its facilities in Fergus Falls, Ashby, Battle Lake, and Barnesville. Before the attack happened, the provider had developed and implemented emergency procedures. So, it was able to provide patient care while still investigating the attack and remediating disruption.

Third-party cybersecurity specialists helped with the investigation to find out the extent of the ransomware attack. Even as the investigation is in progress, Lake Region healthcare was able to recover nearly all the systems affected by the ransomware attack and had services running as before, thanks to its alternative systems.

Although data theft is common before deploying the ransomware, there is no evidence that indicates data theft with this attack. The provider continued to offer patient care, however, patients were advised to get in touch with the hospital to affirm their consultations. Other announcements will be given as the investigation moves along and all systems are available online again.

University of Vermont Health Network Ransomware Attack Slows Down EHR Rollout

A ransomware attack on the University of Vermont Health Network in Burlington, VT on October 28, 2020 resulted in a serious disruption.

Though after many weeks the majority of systems are already back online, the attack is still affecting some areas. For instance, a few applications are not yet back online. Some departments experiencing delays include the radiology department. After the attack, the University of Vermont Health Network stated that it was losing revenue in the amount of approximately $1.5 million each day.

Because of the attack, there was also a delay in the intended organization-wide rollout of the subsequent stage of its new Epic EHR system. Supposedly, the new EHR system will replace a patchwork of programs in and between hospitals belonging to the network that are presently not completely incorporated.

In 2020, various healthcare organizations across the world, including the University of Vermont Health Network, encountered great challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic and had further burdened by ransomware attacks. UVM president and CEO John Brumsted, M.D. said that the health network has postponed for 4 to 8 months the implementation of the new EHR system at a number of its inpatient and outpatient centers.

2020’s Largest Healthcare Data Breaches

2020 was a really bad year when it comes to healthcare industry data breaches. There were 616 data breaches involving 500 or more health records documented by the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. Those breaches had 28,756,445 healthcare records compromised, or impermissibly disclosed that makes 2020 the third worst year when it comes to the quantity of breached healthcare records.

2020’s Biggest Healthcare Data Breaches

In case a breach occurs at a business associate of a HIPAA-covered entity, the covered entity typically reports the incident and not the business associate. In 2020, the cloud service provider Blackbaud Inc. had suffered a huge data breach. Hackers obtained access to its network systems and stole its customer’s fundraising databases prior to deploying ransomware. Blackbaud got a ransom demand as well as a threat that if the ransom is not paid, the stolen records would be published to the public. Blackbaud opted to pay the ransom to avert exposing client data. Blackbaud was guarantees that the stolen files were completely disposed of and was not exposed.

The actual number of people affected individuals by the Blackbaud ransomware attack may never be reported correctly, nevertheless over 6 dozen healthcare companies have confirmed being affected thus far and above 8 million healthcare records were possibly exposed. That breach clearly is on top of the listing of the largest 2020’s healthcare data breaches and is one of the biggest healthcare data breaches in history.

Below is the list of the reported data breaches in 2020 involving 500,000 healthcare records. In some instances, the actual data breach took place prior to 2020, but was just uncovered and reported in 2020.

  1. Trinity Health – 3,320,726 people impacted
    Trinity Health was the most severely affected healthcare organization of the Blackbaud ransomware attack. The hackers likely got the philanthropy data bank of the Catholic health system based in Livonia, Michigan which comprised patient and donor records from 2000 to 2020.
  2. MEDNAX Services, Inc. – 1,290,670 people impacted
    MEDNAX Services Inc based in Sunrise, Florida experienced a security breach of its Office 365 account in June 2020 because staff members responded to phishing email messages. The substantial breach involved patient and guarantor data including driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, and health insurance and financial data.
  3. Inova Health System – 1,045,270 people impacted
    Inova Health System based in Virginia was also impacted by the Blackbaud ransomware attack. Inova’s fundraising data bank that comprised patient and donor records was possibly compromised.
  4. Magellan Health Inc. 1,013,956 persons affected
    Magellan Health based in Arizona experienced a ransomware attack in April 2020 that lead to the potential compromise of the protected health information (PHI) of patients. The ransomware attack actually started with a spear phishing email. A number of of its affiliated entities were likewise impacted by the breach as well.
  5. Dental Care Alliance – 1,004,304 persons impacted
    Dental Care Alliance, LLC in Sarasota, Florida reported a security breach of its networks in December. The nature of the breach is still uncertain as the investigation is still ongoing. The breach impacted a lot of its affiliated dental practices.
  6. Luxottica of America Inc. – 829,454 persons impacted
    Luxottica of America Inc. is a vision care company that is popular throughout the United States for the eyewear brands Oakley, Ray-Ban, and Persol. It experienced a cyberattack in August 2020 and hackers gained access to its online appointment scheduling system that stored the PHI its eye care partners’ of patients.
  7. Northern Light Health – 657,392 persons impacted
    Northern Light Health in Maine was also affected by the Blackbaud ransomware attack. The hackers likely acquired access to its fundraising repository that comprised patient and donor records.
  8. Health Share of Oregon – 654,362 Individuals
    In May 2020, Health Share of Oregon submitted a report of the theft of a laptop from its vendor of non-emergent medical transport. The stolen laptop lacked encryption, which likely permitted the crook to obtain access to patients’ contact details, Social Security numbers, and Health Share ID numbers.
  9. Florida Orthopaedic Institute – 640,000 people affected
    Florida Orthopaedic Institute encountered a ransomware attack in April that resulted in the encryption of patient data kept on its servers. Prior to the use of ransomware, the attackers could have viewed or acquired patient records.
  10. Elkhart Emergency Physicians – 550,000 persons affected
    Elkhart Emergency Physicians submitted a breach report in May 2020 regarding the incorrect disposal of patient documents by Central Files Inc., a third-party storage supplier. Elkhart Emergency Physicians was the worst impacted entity, nonetheless a number of other clients of the provider were likewise impacted by the breach. The documents were thrown out without shredding after the permanent closing of the storage center.

Data Breaches at Agency for Community Treatment Services, Proliance Surgeons and Leon Medical Centers

Agency for Community Treatment Services, Inc. (ACTS) in Tampa, FL is notifying a number of patients regarding the potential compromise of their protected health information (PHI) because of a cyberattack in October 21, 2020.

The security breach was uncovered on October 23 when deployment of the ransomware (|occurred}. The hackers obtained access to sections of the ACTS server and data system and performed file encryption to avert access. Systems had to be taken down to avert unauthorized access. To know the extent of the breach, third-party computer forensic professionals looked into the occurrence.

Even though it’s likely that there was unauthorized data access, the investigators didn’t get any particular information to suggest the access or exfiltration of patient information. ACTS stated that this was a result of the attackers making substantial efforts to cover up their malicious actions. The attackers could thus have viewed or taken data kept on the breached systems.

The evaluation of the breached systems showed that they comprised patient names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and health files with information like diagnoses, treatment details, and health insurance information connected to the services given to patients from 2000 and 2013.

ACTS could recover the encrypted data from backup copies and didn’t pay the ransom demand. It took action after the breach to fortify security and avert more attacks. Considering that patient information might have been exposed, ACTS is offering all affected people free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

Proliance Surgeons Reports Company Website Breach

The company website of Proliance Surgeons based in Seattle, WA encountered a breach causing the likely theft of payment card data. The practice mentioned in a December 23, 2020 breach notice that attackers got access to the webpage between November 13, 2019 and June 24, 2020. In that period, the attackers likely accessed and acquired cardholder names, card numbers, zip codes and expiration dates. No other PHI was compromised. The breach just impacted persons who paid for services on the web, not persons who paid personally or over the telephone.

The cause of the breach has been identified and addressed and a new website with a different payment platform has been implemented, which has superior security protections. Proliance has coordinated with the major payment card providers to prevent unauthorized charges on the affected cards. Individuals affected by the breach have been advised to check their statements carefully and to report any unauthorized charges to their card provider.

Conti Ransomware at Leon Medical Centers Attacked

Leon Medical Centers, a group of 8 medical facilities in Hialeah And Miami in Florida, suffered a Conti ransomware attack. The attackers stole the PHI of patients prior to ransomware deployment and given a ransom demand with a warning to expose the stolen data of patients.

The attackers said the stolen data included patient names, addresses, diagnoses, treatment details, medical insurance data, patient photos and Social Security numbers. They claim to have gotten the PHI of about 1 million patients, even though Leon Medical Centers refuted that claim and explained the number of stolen information was highly overstated.

The attack took place before December 22, 2020 and Leon Medical Centers is still checking out the incident. At this point, it is uncertain specifically what information was taken and how many patients were affected.

NIST Issues Final Guidance on Safeguarding the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) Ecosystem

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a final guidance for healthcare delivery businesses on safeguarding the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) ecosystem.

PACS is a medical imaging solution that is utilized to safely hold and electronically send medical pictures, for example, CT scans, X-rays And MRIs and connected clinical reports, and is common in healthcare. These systems do away with the requirement to save, send out, and get medical images manually, and aid healthcare delivery companies by enabling the secure and inexpensive storage of images offsite online. PACS enables easy retrieval of medical images making use of PACS application anywhere.

By design, PACS cannot function on its own. In healthcare delivery businesses, PACS is normally incorporated into highly complicated settings and interfaces with numerous interconnected systems. The sophistication of those settings means that protecting the PACS ecosystem will be a serious process and it is very easy for cybersecurity threats to be brought in that can readily damage the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information (PHI), the PACS ecosystem, and any devices linked to PACS.

In September 2019, a ProPublica document discovered 187 unsecured servers that were employed to hold and get medical photos. Those servers saved the medical images and PHI of over 5 million people in the U.S.A. In many cases, the images are accessible by utilizing a regular web browser and read employing a free software program.

This 2020, the analyst group at CyberAngel inspected around 4.3 billion IP addresses across the world and discovered 2,140 unprotected servers in 67 countries. Those servers consist of about 45 million medical photos. The images included as many as 200 lines of metadata that enclosed personally identifiable information and PHI. In the CyberAngel “Full Body Exposure” report, those images may be viewed on the web via a typical web browser. In several cases, there were login pages but they authorized blank username and password fields.

NIST published draft guidance on safeguarding the PACS ecosystem soon after the release of the ProPublica report to aid healthcare delivery companies discover cybersecurity problems linked with PACS and employ better security controls as well as reducing the impact and access to PACS and other elements.

The final version of the guidance consists of a detailed set of cybersecurity specifications and best practices to undertake to better the PACS ecosystem safety, with the guidance dealing with access control, asset management, user recognition and verification, data security, security uninterrupted checking, and response planning, and restoration.

The final practice guide included responses from the people and other stakeholders and put in remote storage functions into the PACS design. This effort provides a more thorough security alternative that showcases real-world HDO networking conditions.

HIPAA covered entities and their business associates can use this practice guide to use existing cybersecurity criteria and best practices to lessen their cybersecurity risk, at the same time retaining the overall efficiency and functionality of PACS.

NIST Cybersecurity Special Publication 1800-24, Securing Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS): Cybersecurity for the Healthcare Sector is accessible on this page.

NIST/NCCoE created the guidance in cooperation with DigiCert, Cisco, Forescout, Clearwater Compliance, Hyland, Microsoft, Philips, Symantec, Tempered Networks, TDI Technologies, Tripwire, Virtua Labs, and Zingbox.

Seasonal Worker Sentenced to 42-Months Imprisonment for Theft of Data from Healthcare.Gov Database

A seasonal worker at a tech firm based in Virginia was sentenced to 42 months in prison for accessing patient files, stealing personally identifiable information (PII), and employed the PII for financial gain. The tech company provides support to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) by managing contact centers that offered assistance with Medicare enrollment and other services.

While Colbi Trent Defiore, age 27, of Carriere, MS worked at a call center located in Bogalusa, LA, he accessed the protected health information (PHI) of about 8,000 people saved in the HHS healthcare.gov database without valid work reason, stole the information, and utilized it for criminal activity, such as opening credit lines in the names of other individuals.

Defiore was employed by the organization three times in 2014, 2017, and 2018. He was discovered to have viewed data without authorization the last time he was employed at the company. The firm already took steps to ensure personally identifiable information (PII) was secured and had trained all workers on how to handle that data securely.

In November 2018, Defiore carried out bulk lookups of the database, which were not allowed, and duplicated that information to a virtual clipboard. The data was then copied into his work email account and was routed to his email account. The stolen information was then used to fraudulently sign up for no less than 6 credit cards and loan products and to get lines of credit for personal monetary gain.

The tech organization identified the unauthorized access and reported the incident to the authorities. The firm supplied law enforcement with video and audio recordings of Defiore while having a phone call with a customer on November 6, 2018. The recordings revealed Defiore performing a bulk lookup of the database utilizing first and last names not related to the call he was on. A data loss prevention application additionally identified suspicious activity connected to PII data.

It was found that Defiore has remotely used his company email account outside of his work period on several occasions to get the data. Prosecutors discussed that the data center of the company was based in Virginia, therefore when Defiore transmitted the PII to his work email account, the data crossed state lines and that makes this a federal crime.

Based on court records, Defiore’s employer had enforced security measures to stop customer service staff like Defiore from remotely accessing work email accounts. A single sign-on, multi-factor authentication program was implemented for remote access, which may be accessed from a computer or mobile app. A software token was needed to confirm a user to complete the remote login process.

Defiore utilized the multifactor authentication on a mobile phone by means of a Virtual Private Network in October 2018 and acquired the software token that would enable him to remotely gain his work email account on his personal cellular phone or PC. The investigation uncovered an IP address linked to Defiore was employed to remotely access his company email account.

Because of Defiore’s actions, his employer suffered $587,000 in losses that included breach notification expenses and providing identity theft protection services to the persons whose PII was exposed.

Defiore pleaded guilty to one count of deliberately accessing a protected computer with no permission for the intent of commercial advantage and private financial profit. Besides the 42-month in jail, Defiore must go through 3-years of monitored release and needs to pay a $100 special assessment cost. A hearing was slated for January 12, 2021 to decide the sum of restitution Defiore should pay.

Mercy Health and Montefiore Medical Center Reported Insider Data Breaches

Mercy Health And Montefiore Medical Center have reported insider data breaches recently. In the two occurrences, an employee viewed patient information although there was no legit work -associated reason to do so.

Mercy Health Detects Unauthorized Access of PHI by Former Worker

Mercy Health in Cincinnati, OH began informing some patients concerning the access of their protected health information (PHI) by personnel for reasons apart from delivering patient care.

Mercy Health identified the insider breach on October 7, 2020. The investigation discovered the employee had viewed patient data on a number of instances when it wasn’t needed for giving care to patients. The reason behind the unauthorized access was not disclosed with the public.

Patients affected by the breach were instructed to keep track of their credit reports and billing/accounts transactions and to report any unauthorized transactions. As a preventative measure against identity theft and fraud, Mercy Health provided the impacted patients with free membership to IDX identity theft protection services for one year.

For most of the affected patients, the data accessed was restricted to name, address, demographic details, birth date, medical record number, clinical details, radiological photos and/or treatment data. The ex-employee also accessed the medical insurance ID numbers of a few patients.

Since that time, Mercy Health upgraded processes to avert identical incidents later on and the personnel were re-trained on compliance with the guidelines and procedures of Mercy Health.

When this was penned, the breach is not yet appearing on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights breach site thus the number of impacted patients is still uncertain.

Montefiore Medical Center Ex-Employee Viewed Patient Information for Billing Fraud

Montefiore Medical Center located in New York City has uncovered that a past employee acquired access to patient data and used it for a billing scam. The employee accessed patient names, medical record numbers, and surgery schedules and utilized them to make invoices for untouched surgical items, in association with a vendor.

Montefiore Medical Center learned about the scam after it paid for the invoices and started an investigation that showed the unauthorized access of the ex-worker. Around 4,000 patients’ information was accessed with no authorization between January 2018 and July 2020.

The ex-employee didn’t view Social Security numbers, medical records, and financial data. The investigators found no proof that indicates that patients or their insurance agencies were conned. The fraud report was submitted to the police and the investigation is in progress.

Montefiore Medical Center stated the former worker died at the time of the investigation and the supplier has been barred from going into all Montefiore campuses.

Montefiore Medical Center took steps to avoid comparable occurrences later on. The paper documents involved in the fraud aren’t used any longer and the way of processing invoices for medical merchandise is being evaluated.

Criminal background verifications are now performed before an appointment and all staff get instruction on privacy policies and are advised that the medical center doesn’t tolerate employees who access health records except when there is a legitimate work-associated reason for doing this.