Report: Healthcare Data Breaches Continue at Alarming Pace in Second Half of 2016

Oct. 18, 2016
Healthcare data breaches are continuing at an alarming pace, with the second half of 2016 shaping up to have more breach incidents per month, so far, than in the first half of the year.

Healthcare data breaches are continuing at an alarming pace, with the second half of 2016 shaping up to have more breach incidents per month, so far, than in the first half of the year.

According to the Protenus Breach Barometer report, while the first six months of 2016 averaged 25.3 breaches per month, the second half thus far has had an average of 39.3 incidents per month, an over-55 percent increase. “While the number of months in this total is small, this trend over the last quarter provides some cause for alarm,” the report authors stated.  There were 152 incidents involving protected health information (PHI) or medical health information in the first half of 2016, and so far, in the second half, there have been 118 incidents.

The Protenus Breach Barometer is a monthly snapshot of reported or disclosed breaches impacting the healthcare industry, with data compiled and provided by DataBreaches.net.

In September, there were 246,876 patients records breached with 37 separate breach incidents, either reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or first disclosed in media or other sources. The total includes breaches of some Olympic athletes’ records after the World Anti-Doping Agency’s breach by a Russian hacking group.

While the total number of patient records breached in September seems small in comparison to the 20 million records breached during this past summer, there have been more incidents involving PHI or medical health information in the third quarter of 2016 compared to the first and second quarters. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 63 incidents and there were 89 incidents in the second quarter. In the third quarter, which was July through September, there were 118 incidents.

According to the breach report, 41 percent (15 incidents) of breaches in September were insider incidents, seven of which were accidental while the majority (8 incidents) were insider wrongdoing. For the 13 insider incidents for which Protenus has numbers, 50,695 records were involved.

Further, 32 percent (12 incidents) of breaches involved hacking, including ransomware and other malware. Five of these specifically mentioned ransomware.

For the 10 hacking incidents for which Protenus has numbers, 154,814 records were involved. “While insider threats represented a greater proportion of incidents than hacking, it's important to note that hacking accounted for substantially more of the breached records than insider events,” the breach report authors wrote.

Of concern to healthcare providers, almost 92 percent of the healthcare data breaches that occurred in September involved healthcare providers, while only two incidents were reported by health plans and one incident reported by a business associate.

And, interestingly, paper records were involved in 19 percent of incidents, with several incidents resulting from insider wrongdoing and/or theft.

Of the incidents reported in September, according to Protenus, it took an average of 151 days from the time the breach occurred to when HHS was notified, which is considerably less than the 558 average number days it took from breach to reporting for August breaches. “These alarming time lapses from breach to discovery stress the importance for organizations to be proactive in monitoring their patient data for outliers in accesses to their patient’s sensitive medical data,” the report authors wrote.

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