Some Health Employees Willing to Sell Confidential Data, Survey Finds

March 1, 2018
Nearly one in five health employees (18 percent) said they would be willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties, according to a new survey from consulting and services company Accenture.

Nearly one in five health employees (18 percent) said they would be willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties, according to a new survey from consulting and services company Accenture.

The survey, of 912 employees of provider and payer organizations in the U.S. and Canada, found that the 18 percent of respondents willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties would do so for as little as between $500 and $1,000.  In addition, respondents from provider organizations were significantly more likely than those in payer organizations to say they would sell confidential data (21 percent vs. 12 percent). This includes selling login credentials, installing tracking software and downloading data to a portable drive, among other actions.

The survey also found that health employees’ willingness to sell confidential data is more than just hypothetical: roughly one-quarter (24 percent) of the respondents said they know of someone in their organization who has sold their credentials or access to an unauthorized outsider. These actions contribute to the vast impact of cybercrime that health organizations spent an estimated $12.5 million each, on average, addressing in 2017.

According to data from the Ponemon Institute, the cost per leaked record in the healthcare sector has once again risen, from $369 in 2016 to $380 in 2017.

“Health organizations are in the throes of a cyber war that is being undermined by their own workforce,” John Schoew, who leads Accenture’s health and public service security practice in North America, said in a statement. “With sensitive data a part of the job for millions of health workers, organizations must foster a cyber culture that addresses these deeply rooted issues so that employees become part of the fight, not a weak link.”

While nearly all (99 percent) of the respondents said they feel responsible for the security of data, their behavior suggests that organizations cannot rely solely on employees to safeguard data, as evidenced by the 21 percent who said they keep their user name and password written down next to their computer. Ironically, nearly all (97 percent) of the respondents said they understand their organization’s explanation of data security and privacy.

What’s more, while nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) respondents said that their organization provides security training—with such training mostly mandatory—the findings suggest that training is not an absolute deterrent. Of those who receive security training, 17 percent said they still write down their user name and passwords, and 19 percent said they would be willing to sell confidential data.

Surprisingly, those numbers increase for those who receive frequent training: of the employees who receive quarterly training, 24 percent said they write down their user names and passwords and 28 percent said they are willing to sell confidential data. This suggests that it’s the quality, not the frequency or quantity, of training that matters, Accenture officials noted.

“Employees have a key role in the healthcare industry’s battle with cyber criminals,” Schoew added. “As payers and providers invest in digital to transform productivity, cut costs and improve quality, they need a multi-pronged approach to data security that involves consistent and relevant training, multiple security techniques to protect data and continuous monitoring for anomalous behavior.”

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