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Health Data Breach Tally Spikes in Recent Weeks

Will Hacking Incidents, Other Breaches Continue to Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic?

“I believe hacking will continue to dominate reported breaches,” says Tom Walsh, president of consulting firm tw-Security.

“From a criminal perspective, hacking has a high ‘return on investment.’ There are many easy-to-use hacking tools available. Hackers used to need a high skill set for being successful at hacking. These hacking tools are a game changer for a novice hacker.”

And as healthcare providers across the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents involving phishing and other hacks – as well as mishaps and privacy breaches – will grow, Walsh predicts.

“The higher number of telecommuters means security and privacy mistakes will be made in the home environment,” he says. “Protected health information will be exported to unsecured USB drives; workstations will be shared by family members making confidential information readily available to those without a business need to know; home networks may not be secured, etc.”

Meanwhile, employees curious about who has the COVID-19 virus will snoop in electronic health records, he predicts. “Given the current crisis, there is a good chance that no one is closely examining the audit logs. These breaches may be detected later.”

Mistakes also will be made in the emergency department, he says. “The staff is exhausted. Some healthcare professionals have volunteered to help work in the ED,” he says. “They could be retired or worked in other healthcare departments or areas and may not know the standard procedures. Plus, things are rapidly changing as EDs prepare for the influx of patients and have set up makeshift tent hospitals. How is that addressed in department/hospital policy?”

Meanwhile, hackers are also stepping up their activities, Walsh notes. “They are using fake news sources, stories and maps … to dupe stressed people to make a mistake and open a door for them to get inside the network/system/application.”


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