Criminals taking a bigger bite of health breaches

The percentage of health care data breaches due to criminal acts has risen from 20 to 50 percent since 2010

The percentage of health care data breaches due to criminals has risen from 20 to 50 percent since 2010, but health care organizations are failing on defense, according to a new study.

On average, the percentage of health care organizations hit by a data breach has stayed steady, in the high 80s and low 90s, according to Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder at Ponemon Institute, which conducted the study, but the number of breaches due to accidentally lost devices has dropped.

Most recently, ransomware and denial-of-service attacks have become top security concerns. These kinds of attacks have the potential to shut down the operations of a health care organization, putting lives at risk.

Ransomware typically encrypts all data, making patient records inaccessible to doctors and nurses.

RELATED: Healthcare breaches need a cure for human errors

Denial-of-service attacks shut down the tools and systems used to access those records.

"A lot of these tools now are Internet-facing or are actually in the cloud," Ponemon explained.

"I think we're actually in a situation where the bad guys are winning at this point," said Rick Kam, president and co-founder at ID Experts, which sponsored the report.

One reason is finger pointing, he said. Health care providers point to third-party business associates, such as drug companies and claims processors, while the business associates point the finger back at the health care providers.

"Neither the business associates nor the health care entities are doing their job," he said. "There's a small increase in security budgets, but that incremental spending is not keeping up with the threat."

Another contributing factor, he added, is that the majority of the health care organizations are regional and local hospitals, which are not flush with cash.

Health care organizations understand that they are targets.

More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, said that they are at greater risk than other industries for a data breach.

And there has been some improvements.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they have policies and procedures that are in place to effectively prevent or quickly detect unauthorized patient data access, up from 58 percent in 2015.

And 57 percent said they have the expert personnel to be able to identify and resolve data breaches, up from 53 percent in 2015.

In addition, 71 percent have an incident response plan process in place, with involvement from information technology, information security and compliance, a slight increase from 69 percent in last year’s study.

However, slightly more than half of health care organizations, 52 percent, said that security budgets have stayed the same since last year, and 10 percent said their budgets decreased.

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