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Healthcare Breaches Soar Along With Coronavirus News

Published: June 16, 2020 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the epic battle the healthcare community is facing as the pandemic fight continues. Trying to make sense of it all, including the incredible surge in the number of healthcare-related data breaches, is next to impossible. This year is set to break all kinds of hacking records due to coronavirus-themed attacks, and the medical community is far from immune.

The Department of Health and Human Services keeps tabs on the numbers and types of hacks out there. So far this year, it reports hacking/IT incidents are the most common type of breach. The end of March saw 72 of these incidents reported, with 43 involving email phishing scams alone. These affected nearly 1.25 million individuals. With hackers happy to take advantage of a world in crisis, an already beleaguered healthcare community keeps getting hit online.

A major contributing factor to soaring breaches are the number of employees now working from home. Cybersecurity mistakes are being made by remote workers and hackers are waiting to pick up the pieces. Using a personal device for work has always been risky as security protocols at home rarely match those at work. Using unsecured devices for work involving PHI (protected health information), especially those without a VPN (virtual private network), can be a recipe for a security disaster. When you combine the overload of coronavirus patients at hospitals creating an “all hands on deck” environment, saving lives is the priority and PHI is bound to be compromised in such a hectic setting.

A look at the hacker side of the pandemic isn’t difficult to imagine. For example, tired and overworked healthcare employees are a sure target for email phishing. Bad actors hope to dupe the exhausted workers whose top priority is saving lives and not email phishing. Also adding to the rise in hacking efforts during this time is the availability of “hacking kits” that can be purchased online for under $100. With the high rate of return on investment available with hacking kits, is it any wonder the healthcare community is such a target?

Keeping a keen eye out for hacking tricks during this pandemic era isn’t easy, but it can be done. Taking your eye off the ball is easier working from home instead of in an office environment, especially when the new definition of “Casual Friday’s” is now up to those working in their pajamas. Make sure your focus remains on work and the security that goes with it any time you’re working from anywhere other than the office. Keep your eyes peeled for phishing attempts in your email. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean they will stop coming. Secure your home network by making sure your routers and WiFi access points are updated with their latest versions and patches. Turn on that computer firewall and keep it at the most secure setting possible and keep your antivirus software updated on all devices. When logging into the office network, be sure to use an organization-sanctioned VPN that is properly set up. If you have questions about doing any of this, ask your manager or IT department reps.

Hackers aren’t taking a break, but they hope those working from home do take a break from using cybersecurity smarts–so don’t help them.

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