We aren’t even a full month into 2022 and it’s already looking like increasing HIPAA enforcement might be a New Year’s Resolution for the state of New York. Starting the year off strong, New York Attorney General Letitia James just announced a $600k settlement with vision benefits provider EyeMed as a result of a healthcare data breach that compromised the Protected Health Information (PHI) of over 2 million individuals.
It all started back in June of 2020 when cybercriminals got ahold of an EyeMed email account after the provider failed to implement any multi-factor authentication and sufficient password management processes. In just a week of the hackers having access to the EyeMed email account, they were able to obtain emails and attachments from up to six years prior. The following month, the same attacker used the email account to send out 2,000 phishing emails, looking to acquire the login credentials of other EyeMed users. This lack of proper safeguards and security protocols enabled millions of individuals’ names, social security numbers, addresses, medical diagnoses’ and other sensitive data to be compromised.
This latest settlement adds on to the continued rise in cyber attacks and government enforcement seen over past years, further proving just how important having a strong cybersecurity and HIPAA program are for healthcare providers. So if your New Year’s Resolution is to avoid a cyberattack yourself, we recommend ensuring that you have the following in place:
- A complete Security Risk Analysis to identify any vulnerabilities
- Technical safeguards such as encryption, multi-factor authentication, and staff security training on how to identify a phishing email
- Access Authorization Policies and Procedures
- Incident Response Plan
While data breaches and cyberattacks aren’t always totally avoidable, checking off the list items above is a great way to reduce your chances. But in the case that you’ve already experienced a data breach in 2021, it’s important to note that the annual minor breach reporting deadline (classified by HIPAA as incidents impacting fewer than 500 individuals) is rapidly approaching on March 1, 2022. And as for any major incidents affecting 500+ individuals – the reporting requirement is within 60 days of discovery (or less depending on your state).
So some final words of advice? Have the necessary compliance and security programs in place to protect your practice from falling victim to an attack like EyeMed. And in the chance that you do experience a breach, follow the breach reporting requirements to reduce the fines and penalties that could come as a result.