January 7, 2019 By David Bisson 2 min read

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released voluntary healthcare cybersecurity practices to help medical organizations strengthen their security posture.

On December 28, HHS released “Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP): Managing Threats and Protecting Patients” in response to a mandate to develop healthcare cybersecurity standards laid out by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. More than 150 cybersecurity and healthcare experts from the private and public sectors worked together for two years to fulfill this directive.

The publication is broken down into three sections. The first examines cybersecurity threats confronting the healthcare industry. The second portion identifies weaknesses that render healthcare organizations vulnerable to threats, and the third and final segment outlines strategies that medical entities can use to defend against digital threats.

Healthcare Data Breaches on the Rise

Healthcare data breaches are on the rise. In a study published by the JAMA Network, researchers analyzed all the data security incidents reported to the Office of Civil Rights at HHS between January 2010 and December 2017. They found a total of 2,149 breaches affecting 176.4 million patient records. The annual number of data breaches increased each year during the analyzed time period except 2015, starting with 199 in 2010 and growing to 344 in 2017.

Of the incidents that exposed patients’ personal health information (PHI), 53 percent originated inside the organization. That’s consistent with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) quarterly statistics for Q3 2018. OAIC received 45 data breach notifications from healthcare organizations during the quarter, 56 percent of which resulted from human error.

Healthcare Cybersecurity Best Practices

Security professionals can begin enforcing healthcare cybersecurity best practices by producing creative employee awareness content that specifically appeals to the company’s workforce. Healthcare organizations should also adopt a security immune system strategy that, among other things, uses artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to mitigate risk across the network.

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