PHI Exposed in Email Security Incidents at Discovery Practice Management and Peoples Community Health Clinic

Discovery Practice Management Alerts Folks Regarding June 2020 Email Incident

Administrative support services provider Discovery Practice Management to Cliffside Malibu and Authentic Recovery Center facilities based in California has issued notices that unauthorized persons obtained access to the email system it provides for those companies.

Suspicious email activity was noticed in the email environment on July 31, 2020. An investigation into the incident was started which disclosed there were unauthorized logins to personnel email accounts at the two facilities between June 22, 2020 and June 26, 2020.

The accounts were quickly secured and a third-party cybersecurity company was employed to look into the breach yet it wasn’t possible to verify whether or not protected health information (PHI) in the accounts was viewed or copied.

PHI probably exposed included names, dates of birth, addresses, patient account numbers, medical record numbers, health insurance data, financial account/payment card details, driver’s license number, Social Security numbers, and clinical data, for instance, diagnosis, treatment details, and doctor prescribed medicine data.

The company mentioned in its breach notification letter to the California Attorney General that it coordinated with both practices to affirm the contact data for the 13,611 people whose details were possibly compromised. That procedure was done on June 2, 2021. Individuals affected by the breach have now been advised and have been provided a complimentary one-year membership to credit monitoring and identity theft protection support.

Discovery Practice Management believes the attack was not carried out to steal patient records, rather it is assumed to have been intended to redirect invoice payments. Steps have already been taken to boost email security and improved training has been given to the facilities’ employees to recognize and stay clear of suspicious email messages.

Email Account Breach at the Peoples Community Health Center

Peoples Community Health Center based in Waterloo, IA learned that an unauthorized person had accessed the email account of an employee. The provider discovered the suspicious email activity on March 22, 2021 and had third-party cybersecurity professionals investigate the incident to find out the nature and extent of the breach.

The investigation established that an unauthorized individual had accessed only one email account from March 18, 2021 to March 22, 2021. An analysis of the account’s emails and file attachments was done on May 24, 2021. It was determined that these types of data were possibly exposed:

Names, dates of birth, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, state ID numbers, medical diagnoses, medical treatment data, medical insurance details, payment card numbers and/or payment card CVV/expiration date.

Impacted persons are being informed via mail and steps were taken to avoid the same breaches later on, which include going over and improving policies and guidelines and giving the employees more training.

No Private Cause of Action Under HIPAA, although Probable Cause of Action for 14th Amendment Violation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has made a decision that there is no private cause of action in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to deal with improper disclosures of protected health information (PHI); nevertheless, the ruling indicates there is possibly a cause of action with the 14th amendment in case of violation of an individual’s privacy.

The case, Payne v. Taslimi, referred to Jahal Taslimi as the defendant and Christopher N. Payne as the plaintiff. Taslimi is a prison doctor while Payne was an inmate at the Deep Meadow Correctional Center. Payne filed a case against Taslimi alleging improper disclosure of his confidential health data. Payne claimed Taslimi went to his bed and said that he had not taken his HIV medication using a voice that is loud enough for other people to hear. Payne alleged staff members, other inmates, and civilians had heard the doctor.

In the legal action, Payne stated his health records were private and Taslimi had violated his HIPAA rights at Deep Meadow Correctional Center, as per the 14th Amendment privacy conditions. The district court sacked Payne’s allegations, however, Payne filed an appeal.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court decision and stated there was no private cause of action with HIPAA. The court additionally confirmed the district court’s decision to disregard the claim of a breach of the 14th Amendment.

In the judgment, the Court of Appeals stated that a breach of the 14th Amendment depended on whether or not Payne g0t “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in relation to the information about his HIV prescription drugs. Considering that Payne was a prisoner at Deep Meadow Correctional Center, the court decided that Payne didn’t have enough reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to his diagnosis and treatment program, particularly since the data was concerning a communicable disorder.

The court decided that the test in this kind of scenario is whether there is a compelling government interest that is more important than the plaintiff’s privacy interest. The judgment indicates there could be a cause of action as per the 14th Amendment where there was a disclosure of private medical data and no prodding government interest.

Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center Pays $5,000 to Settle a HIPAA Right of Access Case

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and The Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center, Inc. (DELC) reached a settlement of a probable HIPAA Right of Access violation. This is the 8th financial penalty issued by OCR in 2021 for settling violations of HIPAA Rules. It is additionally the 19th settlement related to OCR’s HIPAA Right of Access enforcement project, which commenced at the end of 2019.

Healthcare provider DELC, which is located in West Virginia, specializes in the therapy of endocrine illnesses. Last August 2019, OCR received a complaint concerning DELC’s supposed failure to act promptly on a request by the complainant for a copy of protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires healthcare companies to give a person his/her copy of PHI in a particular file format within 30 days of getting a request.

In this case, the complainant asked for her minor child’s PHI copy and DELC did not provide that information in the expected 30 days. On October 30, 2019, OCR gave DELC advice while investigating its potential noncompliance with the HIPAA Right of Access (45 C.F.R. § 164.524) connected with the alleged refusal to give a patient’s mom the records she requested.

OCR stated that the failure to give the required records constitutes a violation of the HIPAA Right of Access. According to OCR’s inquiry, DELC later provided a copy of the documents asked for by the child’s mom in May 2021, approximately two years after obtaining the preliminary request.

Apart from the financial penalties of $5,000, DELC has agreed to carry out a corrective action plan that involves assessing and upgrading guidelines and processes for delivering a person’s PHI copy and giving privacy training to its workforce about personal PHI access. OCR is going to keep an eye on DELC for 2 years to ensure it complies with the Right of Access terms of the HIPAA Privacy Rules.

A HIPAA-covered entity must never wait until a federal investigation is underway before providing parent access to his/her kid’s healthcare data, explained Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese. The covered entities have the responsibility to give their patients immediate access to their medical records.

Houston Hospital Workers’ Legal Action Due to Vaccine Requirement Dismissed by Federal Judge

A lot of U.S. employers have enforced a policy that necessitates their employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated, such as a few leading healthcare centers and hospitals. These guidelines are in keeping with the guidance given by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, which established that U.S. businesses are within their rights to call for their personnel to get vaccinated, with selected exemptions like on medical or faith-based grounds.

Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas launched its vaccine requirement to make certain patients were safe against COVID-19 and had a June 7, 2021 due date for workers to get vaccinated. Though the many workers at Houston Methodist Hospital have consented to get a COVID-19 vaccination, On June 7, a small group of employees had a walkout because of the vaccine conditions. On June 8, the hospital decided to suspend 178 personnel with no pay due to their noncompliance to be vaccinated.

Legal action was taken by 117 of those employees, with lead plaintiff, Jennifer Bridges, professing that if she is laid off for declining the vaccine it would be tantamount to wrongful work termination. Bridges says that the vaccines, which were given by the FDA emergency use authorizations, are experimental and unsafe. three of the vaccines included by the emergency use authorizations have undergone clinical studies and a post-market study and were confirmed to be harmless.

On June 12, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes from the Southern District of Texas made a ruling that supported the hospital’s vaccination demand. Judge Hughes explained the choice to necessitate the workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was in keeping with the hospital’s public policy and denied the plaintiffs’ allegations that the vaccines were experimental and unsafe.

The hospital’s staff are not participating in a human trial, explained Judge Hughes in his judgment. Methodist is seeking to do their work of protecting lives while not giving [patients] the Covid-19 virus. It is a decision made to hold workers, patients and their family members safer.

The judge stated in the ruling that under Texas laws, companies are within their rights to call for workers to be immunized. There are regulations to safeguard employees against wrongful firing, nevertheless, in situations like this, staff members would only be shielded against termination for declining to do an action that bears criminal penalties.

The employees and doctors made their choices for the benefit of patients, who are continually at the core of all they do. Houston Methodist Hospital Chief Executive, Dr. Marc Bloom mentioned that all hospital personnel has now satisfied the prerequisites of the vaccine policy.

The hospital affirmed that 24,947 personnel received complete vaccination, 285 staff were not vaccinated because of clinical or religious exceptions, and 332 workers were issued deferrals because of pregnancy or some other reasons.

When the suspension time ends on June 21, 2021, termination measures will be enforced for all workers who still were not immunized. The legal professionals representing the plaintiffs have plans to plead the judgment.

Ransomware Attacks Impact UF Health and Sturdy Memorial Hospital

Sturdy Memorial Hospital based in Attleboro, MA is informing 57,379 patients concerning a computer security breach that transpired on February 9, 2021 during which patient data was thieved. As per the breach notice released by the hospital, an unauthorized individual obtained access to its systems nevertheless the hospital secured its networks eventually that day.

The unauthorized person required a ransom payment to avert the disclosure/selling of information stolen during the cyberattack. The hospital had taken the decision to pay the ransom demand and got promises that all stolen data will be completely deleted and will not be further exposed. It is uncertain if this was merely an information theft occurrence or whether ransomware was employed with the attack.

Third-party computer forensics professionals were involved in checking out the breach, and an assessment was carried out to find out what patient information was exposed. The analysis was concluded on April 21, 2021 and all affected people began getting notification letters on May 28, 2021.

Sturdy Memorial Hospital mentioned that aside from its own patients, a number of patient data from other healthcare company partners – South Shore Medical Center Harbor Medical Associates, and providers connected with South Shore Physician Hospital Organization – was at the same time compromised.

The exposed patient data differed from person to person and might have contained at least one of these data elements: Name, birth date, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, Social Security number, other government ID number, bank name,
routing number, financial account number, credit card number and security code, Medicare Health Insurance Claim numbers, health background information, treatment or diagnosis data, procedure or diagnosis codes, prescription details, provider name, Medicare/Medicaid number, medical record number, medical insurance details, and treatment cost data. Sturdy Memorial Hospital reported that the attack didn’t affect its electronic health record system.

Free credit monitoring and identity protection services are being made available to persons who had their driver’s license number or Social Security number exposed in the attack. Extra safeguards and technical protective measures were already put in place at Sturdy Memorial Hospital to better safeguard and check its IT systems.

Villages and Leesburg Hospitals Affected by UF Health Ransomware Attack

University of Florida Health (UF Health) was compelled to undertake downtime measures subsequent to a ransomware attack on May 31, 2021. Workers employed pen and paper to log patient data since computer systems and email weren’t available because of the attack.

The attack impacted The Villages and Leesburg Hospitals. UF Health Central Florida discovered the attack on the night of May 31 upon noticing abnormal activity on its computer systems. The attack doesn’t seem to have affected the Jacksonville And Gainesville campuses.

The attack is being inspected and attempts are ongoing to make sure that systems and data files are safe. All UF Health hospitals still offer healthcare services and patient protection was not impacted. It is at this time uncertain if the attackers took patient information before using ransomware to encrypt data files.

SolarWinds Orion Hackers Attacking U.S. Businesses Utilizing New Spear Phishing Campaign

Microsoft has uncovered a massive spear phishing campaign carried out by the Russian Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group associated with the SolarWinds Orion supply chain attack.

As of January 2021, Microsoft has monitored the APT group as Nobelium and also its spear-phishing campaign. The APT group is doing trial and error different delivery tactics, which include taking advantage of the Google Firebase system to present a malicious ISO file by using HTML email attachments that give various malware payloads.

Nobelium increased the campaign on May 25, 2021 when it commenced utilizing the Constant Contact mass-mailing service to send emails to targets in a broad selection of industry verticals. The newest campaign attacked approximately 3,000 personal accounts all through 150 businesses, many of which were in the U.S. Each and every target had its own exclusive infrastructure and tooling, which has permitted the group to keep under the radar.

The attackers accessed the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Constant Contact account and sent spear-phishing messages masked as a USAID Special notification. The emails include a reply-to address on the usaid.gov domain and were delivered from the in.constantcontact.com website.

The messages mentioned that Donald Trump has released new information on election fraudulence, with the email messages having a button to click to check out the docs. In case the recipient clicks the URL in the message, they are sent to the legit Constant Contact service, and then forwarded to a website address manipulated by Nobelium that sends a malicious ISO file. The ISO file serves as a bait file and includes a .lnk shortcut that runs a Cobalt Strike Beacon loader, and also a malicious DLL file, a Cobalt Strike Beacon loader and backdoor, which Microsoft referred to as NativeZone.

When the payloads are used, Nobelium obtains persistent access to compromised systems and could later complete more targets for instance lateral movement, information exfiltration, and the sending of more malware.

A prior campaign in May additionally employed the mix of HTML and ISO files, which slipped a .NET first-stage implant, TrojanDownloader:MSIL/BoomBox, and utilized it for reconnaissance and to obtain added malicious payloads through Dropbox.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are looking into the phishing campaign. Constant Contact gave a statement affirming the breach of the account login information of one of its customers. It explained that the breach was a singled out case, and the impacted accounts had been momentarily deactivated while cooperating with customers and authorities.

Microsoft has given notice that the strategies, techniques, and processes utilized by Nobelium have had a great rate of development. It is predicted that extra activity may be performed by the group employing a changing set of techniques.

Microsoft has publicized Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) and has advised various mitigations that may cut down the effect of this threat, such as the usage of antivirus applications, employing network protection to stop applications or users from interacting with malicious domains, and using multi-factor authentication to avert using breached credentials.

Clinical Laboratory Pays $25,000 to Settle HIPAA Security Rule Violations

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stated that it has gotten to a settlement with Peachstate Health Management, LLC, doing business as AEON Clinical Laboratories due to a number of HIPAA Security Rule violations.

Peachstate is a CLIA-accredited laboratory that delivers a selection of services such as clinical and genetic testing solutions via AEON Global Health Corporation (AGHC), its publicly traded parent firm.

OCR started a compliance audit on August 31, 2016 right after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) filed a report about a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI) involving its business associate, Authentidate Holding Corporation (AHC), on January 7, 2015. The VA had hired AHC to handle the VA’s Telehealth Services Program. The purpose of the OCR investigation was to evaluate whether or not the breach was caused by the inability to follow the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.

All through the breach investigation, OCR discovered that on January 27, 2016, AHC had signed a reverse merger with Peachstate and had obtained Peachstate. OCR afterward performed a compliance evaluation of Peachstate’s clinical laboratories to examine Privacy and Security Rule compliance. In the course of that investigation, OCR discovered a number of probable violations of the HIPAA Security Rule.

Peachstate was determined not to have performed an appropriate and complete review to determine risks to the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI), as mandated by 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(A) and was not able to lower risks and vulnerabilities to a sensible and ideal level by taking on proper security actions, as demanded by 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(B).

Hardware, software, and step-by-step systems had not been used to report and check activity in information systems comprising or employing ePHI, violating 45 C.F. R. § 164.312(b). Policies and procedures hadn’t been enforced to log actions, activities, and checks required by 45 C.F. R. § 164.312(b), which violates 45 C.F.R. § 164.316(b) of the HIPAA Security Rule.

Peachstate consented to negotiate the case and make a $25,000 penalty payment and will carry out a comprehensive corrective action plan to deal with all aspects of non-compliance found by OCR while doing the investigation. Peachstate is going to be under close supervision by OCR for 3 years to make certain of compliance.

Clinical laboratories, similar to other covered health care companies, need to abide by the HIPAA Security Rule. Not implementing the essential Security Rule standards makes HIPAA governed entities interesting targets for malicious activity, and unnecessarily risks to patients’ ePHI. This settlement deal shows OCR’s determination to making certain that covered entities adhere to rules that secure the privacy and security of PHI.

Shut Down of DarkSide RaaS and Suspension of Ransomware Attacks on Healthcare Companies

The DarkSide ransomware gang has informed its affiliates regarding the shut down of its ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) activity. The statement was made after the public infrastructure of the gang was taken off the internet in what seems to be a police campaign.

On May 13, the DarkSide data leak website was off the internet as well as much of the public infrastructure of the gang, which include the payment server employed to get the victims’ ransom payments and deliver breach data content. The ransomware gang likewise said its cryptocurrency wallets were emptied and the money was moved to an unidentified account.

Intel 471 acquired a copy of a note from the gang, which mentioned to its affiliates why its public infrastructure was gone, why its servers were inaccessible via SSH, and why its hosting panels were blocked. The gang claimed its hosting company didn’t give any more details except that the inaccessibility of the servers was requested by law enforcement.

The gang mentioned that it is going to release the decryptors for all firms that were attacked yet didn’t pay the ransom; nevertheless, the gang is releasing the decryptors to the affiliates who carried out the ransomware attacks, not to the victim firms. It will be the individual affiliates’ decision if they will give the decryptors to their victims or try to get payment.

Because of the pressure from the U.S. and the lost servers, the affiliate program is shut down, stated the gang.

On the day when that the group’s infrastructure was taken offline, President Biden conducted a press meeting concerning the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack stating that the government’s efforts to restrict disruption and promising to take action will be counted against the DarkSide ransomware gang.

“We do not think the Russian government had anything to do with this attack, stated President Biden. There is no strong evidence that criminals from Russia did the attack. Biden said that the United States directly communicated with Moscow regarding the command for responsible nations to take action against the ransomware networks. President Biden additionally affirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has a new task force focused on prosecuting ransomware hackers.

Before the shutdown, the hacking community had begun to avoid the DarkSide group. A top-tier dark web forum utilized by the DarkSide gang to promote its RaaS operations removed the DarkSide account as well as two threads concerning its ransomware operations, as per the Gemini Advisory. Gemini Advisory furthermore remarks to have heard from a number of reputable sources that the group has no more appearance on the dark web. Another top-tier dark web forum frequently employed by ransomware gangs has likewise enforced sanctions on ransomware activities and has blocked them completely from the forum, saying ransomware has turned out to be too toxic.

Intel 471 reports that aside from the DarkSide operations, a number of other ransomware operations also shut down their activities, though it is uncertain if the shutdown will last. Perhaps the ransomware gangs are just want to be inconspicuous and will operate again using another name. The Babuk ransomware operators said that they gave their source code to another gang and won’t do ransomware attacks anymore. They stated their ransomware will be run by another group with a different name.

The REvil ransomware gang also said that it won’t promote its ransomware operations on dark web forums anymore. It wants to make its activities private. REvil and Avaddon have decided to cease their affiliates that attack organizations in specific fields. The two ransomware gangs gave statements about the new rules for affiliates prohibiting them from executing attacks on the federal government, charities, healthcare, and educational organizations in any nation. They furthermore necessitate their affiliates to get approval from the group prior to making any attack. If an affiliate attacks a restricted target, the victim will get the decryptor for free and the affiliate will be completely expelled from the RaaS program.

Intel 471 likewise states that BitMix, a cryptocurrency mixing service utilized by REvil and Avaddon to illegally transfer the cryptocurrency acquired from ransomware attacks was shut down as well.

Ransomware Attack on Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County and Entrust Medical Billing

Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County, a New York medical group practice, has made an announcement about the potential theft of protected health information (PHI) of a number of patients during a cyberattack recently.

The security event was noticed on March 5, 2021 after discovering suspicious activity within its systems. A probe into the occurrence verified the unauthorized access of certain persons in its network on or about March 1, 2021. The attackers obtained access to a number of systems and encrypted files and made a ransom demand to get the keys for unlocking the encrypted files.

The hackers professed they had ripped off sensitive information before encrypting the files, even though it wasn’t possible to identify which files were compromised. An assessment of the systems, which the attackers accessed showed they comprised files with PHI including names, addresses, email addresses, contact phone numbers, dates of birth, payment data, emergency contact details, diagnoses, treatment data, medical record numbers, health insurance details, and Social Security numbers.

People likely impacted by the breach were alerted via mail and were given a one-year complimentary membership to credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Thus far, there are no reports of actual or attempted improper use of any patient data.

The attack resulted in the potential compromise of the PHI of 331,376 persons.

PHI of 5,426 Persons Exposed in Entrust Medical Billing Ransomware Attack

Entrust Medical Billing, a medical billing firm located in Canton, OH, has encountered a ransomware attack that caused the probable exposure of the PHI of 5,426 people.

Third-party cybersecurity experts were hired to investigate and find out the scope of the breach. On or about March 1, 2021, the investigation established that the hackers had exfiltrated a number of the files that contain PHI like names, birth dates, addresses, health diagnosis/clinical data/treatment type or location, healthcare procedure details, medical insurance data, and patient account number.

Though the investigation affirmed the data theft, there is no proof identified that shows attempted or actual misuse of the stolen information. Impacted persons have already been advised and those who had their Social Security numbers exposed got offers of free credit monitoring services. The company likewise enforced new technical safety measures and amplified its monitoring campaigns throughout its network environment.

Lawmakers Demand the Breach of the Contact Tracing Data of 72,000 Pennsylvanians Investigated

Lawmakers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania want a data breach to be investigated. The case relates to the contact tracing information of 72,000 Pennsylvanians including sensitive data that was shared through unauthorized avenues without the required security protections.

Insight Global is a firm based in Atlanta that has been helping the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do COVID-19 contact tracing throughout the pandemic. A number of people working at Insight Global were found to have made and shared unauthorized copies of files with each other during the conduct of their contact tracing responsibilities. Files and spreadsheets were shared by means of non-secure ways for example personal Google accounts, which supposed|suggested} sensitive data were transmitted to servers outside the control of the state or Insight Global.

Insight Global made an announcement about the breach on April 29, 2021 and stated in its substitute breach notice that the information associated with contract tracing of persons between September 2020 and April 21, 2021. An investigation into the breach was begun and third-party security specialists have been helping to find out the magnitude of the security problems and their effect. To date, no evidence has been discovered that suggests the misuse of any personal data or PHI. The investigation into the security concerns is ongoing.

Insight Global reports that the exposed information included names of people possibly exposed to COVID-19, positive/negative test status, whether there were symptoms or not, data on the names of household members, and telephone numbers, email addresses, and other information needed for particular social support services.

Insight Global mentioned it learned of the security problem on April 21, 2021 and took quick steps to fix the issues, and those steps were done by April 23. Insight Global has been working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health concerning the identification of the security problems and will be notifying affected persons via mail as soon as the address details have been confirmed. Insight Global stated there was no exposure of Social Security numbers or financial data and, as a safety precaution, affected people are given complimentary credit monitoring and identity protection services.

Target 11’s investigators found out that employees were using free versions of Google Sheets to record contact tracing information and were sending those spreadsheets and other files to colleagues through their individual email accounts. The free versions of Google services are not HIPAA compliant, therefore they must not be used.

Insight Global had security practices implemented to make sure that contact tracing data may be logged and shared securely. It is presently uncertain whether this was just a case of isolated employees circumventing security standards and making unauthorized records and spreadsheets to make their work less difficult. Nevertheless, regardless of the cause, sensitive information has been compromised.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has made the decision not to renew its agreement with Insight Global regarding the security breach. The deal will expire on July 31, 2021. A Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson mentioned the company’s dismay regarding Insight Global workers that acted to compromise this type of data and truly apologize to all impacted persons.

State Representative Jason Ortitay (R- Allegheny, Washington) states that after learning about the breach, it was raised to the state Governor’s office on April 1, 2021. Republican lawmakers are currently calling for an investigation into the security breach by the federal law enforcement agencies, state Attorney General’s office, House Government Oversight Committee.